Context is important. Consider the words, “Rise up and protest!” and how they would words affect a crowd who did not want a certain law passed, or a group of seniors in wheel chairs who didn’t like the dessert served in their retirement home, or a few teens who hate their math teacher, or a little child trying to tie his shoes.
Context is particularly important when reading the Bible. In the following verses, Jesus is talking to a crowd of people who do not know who He is. He is not talking to His disciples or even to the religious Pharisees . . .
So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. (John 12:34–36)
Chambers applies this warning to Christians. Sorry sir, but Jesus has other words about light and darkness for those who believe in Him. He shone His light in our hearts. We have been translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God. His light has changed our lives. We need to walk in the light and believe it, but we already are the “sons of light” and we know who Jesus is.
“For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.” (1 Thessalonians 5:5)
The Apostle Paul testified to King Agrippa — that he had been delivered from his people and the Gentiles . . . “to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” (Acts 26:17–18)
Darkness is not going to overtake Christians. That said, how does the Christian apply these words that Jesus said? For one thing, they describe how to talk to those who have little understanding about Jesus or spiritual matters. They have heard something about God’s law and something about Jesus. They have a bit of light in their life, only a small knowledge, but they need to be encouraged to pursue it.
For example, I met a woman from a religious background that shunned her because she had been divorced. She knew that I was writing a biblical column for the local newspaper and as we talked, I told her I had been divorced also. She was surprised and delighted, almost shedding tears. I’d already observed that she was a gracious lady and thankful for everything. I told her that the Bible (Romans 1) says that creation shows us who God is, and being thankful is an important part of learning more about Him. She was overwhelmed to recognize that her thankfulness is something God wants and that she was on a good path. Her divorce could not keep her from knowing God.
Walking in the light that God gives is like walking a dim path with a flashlight. Each step takes me forward and with it, the light also moves forward. God illuminates the next step in the path, then the next step. If I do not move into the light I have, I won’t get very far. However, the darkness does not remove my understanding of where I am going or that I believe in the Giver of light. He is there with me, in light or darkness, and promises that He will never leave me or forsake me. Psalm 139 says light and darkness are both alike to Him.
Without considering the context, my focus today could have turned to my spiritual condition and raised questions about whether or not I am walking in the light. Such inward thinking without the conviction of the Holy Spirit takes my eyes off Jesus. Instead of moving forward, I stand still in confusion and fear rather than letting Him show me if I’m off the path.
What delight (and light) to consider the context of Jesus’ words. He reveals to me a need some people have, and one way to help them consider the light God has given them. This results in both of us turning our eyes on Jesus and moving toward Him.