The Overcoming Light
In the first chapter of John’s Gospel, the opening verses are a beautiful depiction of Jesus and how His life is the Light of men. In John 1:5 we read about Jesus as the Light: “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” This statement is something we should all be grateful for. Notice that is in the present tense—“the light shineth.” It was present tense when it was written, and it is present tense today, because Jesus still shines in the darkness. In the phrase “the darkness comprehended it not,” other meanings of the Greek katalambano, translated here as “comprehended,” convey that the darkness could not “seize” or “overcome” the Light. On the contrary, it is the Light that overcomes darkness. Darkness cannot prevent the Light from shining at least to some degree, even if those in darkness refuse to see it.
An Army of Light
The Bible gives many examples of how the Light overcomes darkness. In 2 Kings 6:8-23 we read that the King of Syria tried to attack the nation of Israel. In opposition to the will of God, he tried various times to make war with Israel, but his plans were always thwarted. God was revealing to the prophet Elisha the Syrians’ strategies, so the Israelites were always one step ahead of their enemy. Eventually the Syrian king asked his officers, “Which one of you is a traitor?” He could not comprehend how his plans were being ruined.
Finally, once the king learned that Elisha was the one disclosing his plans, he sent his army to surround the prophet’s home. The circumstances looked so dark that Elisha’s servant thought they had no chance of survival. However, Elisha was not worried because he knew the darkness could not overcome the Light. He asked God to open his servant’s eyes, and suddenly the man could see why there was no need to fear. God had been protecting Israel all along, but in that instant Elisha’s servant literally saw light in the form of chariots of fire ready to defend them—an army of angels from Heaven that was bigger and better than any army a kingdom on earth could put together!
Sometimes we may find ourselves in the midst of a problem and feel that we are on our own. We may not see God working in the situation and it might seem that a good outcome is impossible. However, when we have the Light of the world with us, we are not alone. We cannot be outnumbered because no amount of darkness can overcome the Light. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.
Determining that we will not actively pursue evil objectives is not enough; we must determine to seek the Lord. Then we have the promise of victory in our lives.
Elisha prayed and God struck the entire Syrian army with blindness. That blindness was a symbolic portrayal of the darkness they were already in. The soldiers may have just been following the crowd and doing what they were told, yet they were fighting against the will of God and that is the definition of spiritual darkness. There is a lesson in that: when people thoughtlessly follow a leader who is going the wrong way, they end up in spiritual darkness. Determining that we will not actively pursue evil objectives is not enough; we must determine to seek the Lord. Then we have the promise of victory in our lives.
The prophet of God led the blinded Syrians all the way to Samaria, where they received their sight again and found out that they were in the capital city of their enemy. They had to slink back to Syria, defeated by the Light. The account ends by saying, “So the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel” (2 Kings 6:23). The Syrians finally gave up trying to attack God’s people! This shows us that God’s solution to a problem will settle the matter completely. The Light does not overcome darkness some of the time and fail other times; the Light avails until the problem is gone. When God’s Light overcomes sin in one’s life, it is gone. Any other means that people use to combat darkness can only be temporary, but God’s solution takes care of the problem entirely as long as the individual continues to walk in the Light.
Light in a Prison
Centuries later, there was another king named Herod who lived in spiritual darkness. Chapter 12 of Acts tells how King Herod killed James, the first Apostle to die for Christ. The unbelievers in Jerusalem were happy and rejoiced over his death, and the king was pleased that the people were happy. He decided he would kill more Apostles so he could gain even more favor with the people. He did not necessarily hate or dislike the Apostles, yet he was planning to take their innocent, holy lives simply because he wanted to be liked. His desire for popularity led him to be an agent of evil.
The next Apostle to be targeted by King Herod was Peter. The king had Peter arrested and thrown in prison. He was soon to go on trial and possibly face execution, but something stopped it—Acts 12:7 says, “A light shined in the prison . . . and his chains fell off from his hands.” The light shined, and Peter was set free!
We are commanded by God to take a stand against wickedness when we encounter it, and to choose instead to do nothing is evil in its own right.
Soon after that, King Herod was in Caesarea and gave a speech to visitors from Tyre and Sidon. His listeners loved what he had to say, and by the time he finished speaking, they were shouting that his was the voice of a god. Herod did not disagree, though he knew he was not a god. He allowed the people to continue to say so because he liked what he heard. God found him guilty for saying nothing, because in doing that Herod took some of God’s glory for himself. This is a good example of the fact that sometimes, to do nothing is to do evil. We are commanded by God to take a stand against wickedness when we encounter it, and to choose instead to do nothing is evil in its own right.
Immediately following Herod’s inaction, an angel of God struck him dead. It was also an angel who set Peter free from his prison cell, and while we do not know if it was the same angel, we know it was the same God who orchestrated the events. The powerful king who wanted Peter killed, died. And Peter lived. We read that after Herod’s death “the word of God grew and multiplied” (Acts 12:24). Thus, Herod died but the Word lived. Herod died but the Word grew. Herod died but the Word was multiplied. The “Word” is another name for Jesus, the Light, and once again, He overcame the darkness.
The Light Shines on Saul
There was somebody else who wanted to get rid of the Apostles, as well as every other Christian believer. Unlike Herod, this person was not motivated by a desire for popularity, but he actually hated Christians enough that he wanted them all gone. That was Saul of Tarsus, who was later called Paul. The Bible says that he wrought havoc in the church. He personally supported the murder of the first Christian martyr, and he began imprisoning as many Christians as he could. He went house to house, determined not to stop until all the believers had either been jailed, were in hiding, or had left Jerusalem. Even that was not good enough for him—next he obtained legal permission to seek out Christians in places outside of Judea. He wanted to remove Christians from the entire face of the earth.
That is darkness. However, the story does not end there. On his way to persecuting the Christians in Damascus, light shone from Heaven and knocked Saul to the ground. He could not comprehend it; he asked, “Who art thou, Lord?” Then Jesus answered that He was the One whom Saul had been persecuting (Acts 9:5). Saul’s encounter with the Light changed everything. Soon he was in Damascus preaching the Gospel! Eventually people would try to kill Saul because of his faith in Jesus, but the Lord spared him until he had finished his course. Light shone then, and the Light still shines.
Choose the Light
Today there are people in Syria who are trying to do the same thing that Saul once did—they want to wipe out Christian believers from existence. These enemies of the Church want to eradicate Christianity through killings, forced conversions, and driving believers out of their homelands, and they claim they are doing God’s work.
We do not have to fear or flee from the darkness because the darkness is not going to overcome the Light.
Not only in Syria, but all over the world Christians are challenged, to varying degrees, for their faith. The enemy of our souls is continually pursuing the demise of the saints, and he leads anyone he can to participate in that darkness. However, whether we speak of persecution in Syria, Iraq, North Korea, China, India, Saudi Arabia, Western Europe, or right here—Light shines in darkness! We do not have to fear or flee from the darkness because the darkness is not going to overcome the Light. Light overcomes the darkness!
Which side do we want to be on? Do we want to be on the side of darkness, which can perhaps benefit us for a little while but ends in failure, disappointment, defeat, and death? Or do we want to be with the Light that overcomes the darkness of sin? The light can regenerate souls that were once dead and make them alive in Christ. The Light overcomes the darkness of carnality, purifying our hearts and making us holy. Beyond that, God can fill us with His Spirit and empower us to carry His Light into darkness. What an exciting realization that Light is overcoming darkness still today and we can be a part of it!
If you are living in spiritual darkness today, you can change that by turning away from darkness and toward Jesus, the Light. God will help you as you determine to follow Him.