Wednesday, 22 February 2017

The darkness and the light

Jesus said, “No-one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known... Luke 8:16-17

God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:5

I remember, as a child, visiting a house with my parents where there was a wall-plaque just inside the front-door. It read: “God is the head of this house, the unseen guest at every meal, the silent listener to every conversation.”

I remember feeling slightly nervous. This was long before I read Orwell’s Nineteen eighty-four, but famous words from that novel seem appropriate: Big Brother is watching you. Did I glance uneasily over my shoulder...? Spooky!

Jesus said that “there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known.” When it comes to God, it seems, there is simply and literally no such thing as a “secret”. He knows our hearts, our minds, our every thought. 

Did Jesus say this to “put the frighteners” on us?

It certainly seems rather like that. But, taken in context, I think his words are intended, in fact, as words of challenge and even encouragement. How so?

Well, he has just told the parable of the sower, which, he says, people other than the twelve “will see, but not see, will hear, but not understand”. The truth of the gospel, in other words, will be hidden - at least for the time being. 

But that is going to change! Referring, presumably, to the church’s preaching after the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the message of the gospel will be blazoned forth to the whole world. 

In a nutshell, Jesus is talking about the contrast between darkness and light. He is saying that what at that time was still shrouded in darkness will one day be exposed to God’s glorious light. 

Light and darkness don’t mix: that’s the key point. Either the darkness will be so strong that it blots out the light, or the light so powerful that it chases away the darkness. In the Bible God is regularly described in terms of light - “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” says John (1 John 1:5). And sin and evil are described in terms of darkness: “people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).

So, says Jesus, be encouraged. Yes, this world is indeed full of darkness, but one day the light which you have received from me will overcome all darkness. Good will triumph, evil will be overcome.

I think this a word we need very much today as we look at the appalling things happening in so many parts of the world. It’s easy to get depressed, but that is a temptation we need to resist.

But - wait a minute! - there is a point where what I said earlier about Jesus “putting the frighteners” on us does sneak back in. As I said, I don’t think that was his main intention. But of course it’s easy to talk about the appalling things happening in our world - but what about the appalling things we see as we look into the murky depths of our own hearts? The sobering fact is that darkness is not only around us, but also within us.

So Jesus’s words certainly serve as a serious warning to us. What “dark secrets” do you and I have? There may be somebody reading this who is being unfaithful to their husband or wife. Somebody who has a pornography problem. Somebody who is involved in underhand financial dealings. Somebody who is harbouring jealousy or anger or hatred towards somebody else. Somebody who is, deep down, jealous, or who is lazy, or greedy, or vengeful, or angry, or arrogant, or hypocritical, or... (feel free to extend the list). 

When Jesus said that the light of God will ultimately put all darkness to flight, that included the darkness still within even those who claim him as Saviour and Lord.

So... the frighteners? All right, perhaps not. But a warning? 

Yes! Yes, why not? I suspect that all of us need to pray with the psalmist (Psalm 139)...

Search me, O God, and know my heart, try me and know my thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Amen.

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