Darkness and light
The Easter story is a mix of the deepest darkness and brilliant light. As Jesus hung on the Cross, even the sky went black as a symbol of what was happening emotionally, socially, physically and spiritually. Then on the third day came the brilliant glory of Jesus resurrected. What joy when the disciples began to realise He really was alive!
It seems that all of our experience as humans is a mixture of darkness and light. The darkness might be the evil that people do – such as the awful destruction and fighting in Syria and many other parts of the Middle East and Africa – or ‘natural’ disasters or simply things going wrong, the normal ‘stuff’ that happens. Of course we prefer the light, the signs of humanity and goodness which can be seen even in very traumatic circumstances: people who risk their lives to rescue others, or people who staff refugee camps, often as volunteers, like a young friend who recently returned from Greece where he was himself blessed by helping Syrian refugees.
Light and dark, mixed together. That seems to be what life is like. Joni Mitchell sang a song called Shadows and Light, beginning “Every picture has its shadows, And it has some source of light…” It is as though there needs to be a shadow to show the light. It is as though we have to put up with some darkness to be able to appreciate the light. But that song soon becomes ‘dark’ and unsettling, emphasising the darkness in so many people.
Last Saturday Catherine and I enjoyed a long, hard walk up a mountain in Southern Snowdonia. From the ridge as we made the final ascent to the summit we could see Snowdon in one direction and Cadair Idris in the other, both majestic mountain ranges. We could see them clearly in glorious sunlight – there was not a cloud in the sky. But even this perfect scene had its shadows, in which the cold breeze made the temperature very chilly.
In this life, it seems, there is always a mix of dark and light. We know Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12) and we humans were created to reflect that light. Jesus said in Matthew 5:13 that we who respond to Him, His disciples, are the light of the world too. At present we see plenty of darkness mixed in among us. In Hebrews 2:5-8 the writer talks about mankind, created to be crowned with glory and to rule the creation, not yet fulfilling that calling. But in verse 9 the writer to the Hebrews talks about Jesus whom we do see now, at least with spiritual eyes, risen from the dead and crowned with glory. In verses 10 and 11 we read that Jesus is in a process of bringing us to glory, and if He had to suffer the darkness in fulfilling His calling then so must we.
So in this mixed up world, a mix of darkness and light, we can see with spiritual eyes that because Jesus was raised from the dead a new creation is happening (2 Cor 5:17) and we are in a process of being made new and alive (Rom 8:11) which will be completed when he returns (1 Thess 4:13-17).
Then there will be no more shadows (Rev 21:4). As an old hymn says (When the Mists Have Rolled Away by Annie H. Barker):
And the song of our redemption
Shall resound through endless day,
When the shadows have departed,
And the mists have rolled away.