I’ve been both moved and perplexed by John’s description of the Word , which is clearly identified as both God’s communication and God. The Word translates logos in Greek, which means word, speech, message, and even event. Logos serves as a title for Jesus in John’s Gospel.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and apart from him nothing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:1-3).
Every day as we are being bombarded by the bad news of the growing pandemic we must remember not to elevate the “crown” virus (corona is Latin for crown) above the One who is crowned Lord of all.
“In him was life, and the life was the Light of humanity.”
Up to this point in John’s Gospel this word is not capitalized, boldfaced or even named. Yet we are told that “in him” was life, not death—and that this “life was the light of people” (anthropos in Greek can be translated inclusively to include women and men).
What do you think this means for us today?
As we take stock of the rising death toll from this invisible virus, how do we contemplate the Word, who is God, Maker of heaven and earth, who brings life and light?
“Do any of you need to hear a Word from God that would bring life and light?” “Do you need wisdom for a difficult decision, or clarity regarding a question you now have?” I often ask people when leading a Bible study on this passage.
“Yes” is the obvious response. So where then do we go from here?
The next verse can be read as a declaration, an announcement or news flash, which should carry greater weight than any official declaration from heads of State, World Health Organization spokespersons, medical experts or anyone– since it comes from the Creator of the Universe.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:5).
The terms darkness (skotia) or dark (skotos) do not refer to literal darkness in John’s Gospel, but rather to life lived without the illumination of the Word of God, the light of the world, who is fully embodied in Jesus himself.
“So we have the prophetic word made more sure,” writes Peter, “to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts” (1 Peter 2:15).
But before we are introduced to Jesus by the human herald, John the Baptist, John’s Gospel tells us that this word shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
Some of our Bible translations read “the darkness did not “comprehend” rather than “overcome” it. In fact, the Greek verb katalambano means both “to understand, to realize, to grasp, to comprehend” and “to overcome, to gain control over” (Louw-Nida). I believe that the word was likely meant to convey this double meaning.
This is certainly the best of news, that this life-light-word is powerful– not overcome by the darkness. And it is perplexing and a kind of warning that the darkness did not understand it. This life-shining-light-word was not recognized by the world or received by “his own” (John 1:10-11)—which suggests we must pray for the eyes of heart to be opened and intentionally welcome the Word.
“But those who received him, who believed in his name, he gave authority to become children of God… born of God” (John 1:12-13).
As the darkness encroaches around us, visible in fear, anxiety, insomnia, denial, rising death tolls and myriads of destructive responses, let us receive this Living Word and choose to believe. Let us de-legitimize the reign of death by removing the crown off this virus, and putting it on Jesus.
This does not mean ignoring best practices for protecting ourselves and our communities. To the contrary—we must fight this fight both naturally and spiritually. But let us remember to fix our hope firmly on the Light of this world.
“Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life” (John 8:12).
So Jesus said to them, “For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes” (John 12:35).
“I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness” (John 12:46).
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