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Reflecting the Light of the World, John 12:27-36

29th Mar 2019

27 “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34 The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” (NRSV)

 reflecting light of world


I grew up in the countryside, in the depths of rural Shropshire, where there were no street lights. I can remember how on some nights it seemed to be pitch black outside, that beyond the house there was an uninviting inky void. On other nights if there was a full moon it was quite easy to walk down the lane without the fear of falling into a ditch. As you stepped out into the night, in a little while your eyes would grow accustomed to the dark, and simple grey shapes would emerge out of the darkness. The older country people would remember ‘moons’, nights when the moon was at its most bright and travel around the countryside was much easier. Such evenings became the social highlights of the month, and the moon was seen as an essential aid that would get them home safely. Needless to say, this old custom is quite alien to us today. In our modern urban environments, we hardly ever encounter pitch blackness and we take the presence and availability of light for granted. If we need extra light, we reach for our phones for instant illumination. However, in the time of Jesus, light was a much more precious thing, and the distinction between night and day very real. When darkness fell people would depend on the flickering flame of a lamp or the light of the fire, and this restricted what they could do. Their lives were ruled by the light of the day and the dark of the night.

Jesus speaks about the darkness of the night to people who had a great appreciation for the light of the day. They knew how important it was to work when the light was there, and before the inevitable darkness would arrive. So, when Jesus implies that he is the light, a light that is with them for a little longer, there is an urgency in his words. The image he gives is of the end of the day, as twilight comes and the night encroaches, with people rushing to complete their jobs. Soon the darkness will arrive and they will not see what they doing or know where they are going. Jesus is thinking of the darkness that will overcome him, albeit for a short time, when he will be lifted up on the cross on Good Friday.

Jesus says the darkness will come. This will be the life experience of all of us, at some point or other when times are dark and we may not know where we are going. It is the human condition to go through periods of darkness, for some people it may be more often and deeper than for others. It is also the experience of communities and nations, when faced with an uncertain future. Jesus says the answer is put our faith in him as the light, so that we might become the children of light. We take the light, reflected from Jesus, as a guide in whatever darkness we encounter. The old countryfolk in Shropshire who depended so much on the moon may not have realized that the moon was actually reflecting the light of the sun which had disappeared beyond the horizon. In the same way we need to reflect the light of Jesus to guide us and sustain us in every stage and experience of life, and particularly in the difficult times.

Revd Dr John Tomlinson, St John's Director of Studies