The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
I used to think Easter was all about God being so angry with us that Jesus had to die on a cross to pay the price for our sins. If we believe, then we can go to heaven; if not, we go to hell.
That’s not a narrative I can get behind anymore.
Back in college, my Old Testament professor blew my mind when she walked us through Genesis 15, where God makes a covenant with Abraham, promising to make a great nation out of him that was to be a light to the world and a blessing to others.
Basically, God was saying “stick with me, and everything will be OK with you, your descendants and the whole world by extension. Through you, the whole world will know that I AM God and God is good.”
To seal the covenant, God asks Abraham to bring “a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.” The idea was to kill and cut these animals in half, and the lesser party involved in the covenant would walk between then, effectively saying “if this is broken, let me become like these animals.”
When God was making this covenant with Abraham, then, the assumption was the latter would cross through the broken animals while the ruler looked on. The script was flipped, though, when a pillar of fire passed through instead. This was God saying “I will take on the punishment if (let’s be hones, WHEN) the covenant is broken.”
A pillar of fire in the night. The light shining in the darkness.
Here’s a good summary of what was going on:
“There is widespread evidence that in the biblical world animals were slaughtered in treaty contraction ceremonies. When the parties to the treaty walked between the rows of freshly killed animal flesh, they placed a curse upon themselves — May they too be cut limb from limb if they violate the treaty or covenant.
The smoking firepot and blazing torch that Abraham observes represent God himself walking between the animal carcasses — binding himself solemnly to his promise. Abraham doesn’t walk between the pieces, Yahweh does, making it a unilateral promise that God pledges to fulfill in the most solemn and binding way.
We know the end of the story, where God himself bears — in the broken body of his innocent Son — the penalty for man’s breaking of the covenant.”
When I think about why Jesus died, I always come back to that verse from John 1 quoted above. God created the world and saw that it was good; God called his created people to be a light into the world, but we fell prey to the darkness. And even when we snuffed out the light when it appeared directly in our midst – an ultimate act of darkness if ever there was one – GOD STILL LOVES US.
That’s the good news right there.
Not that Jesus stepped in to appease God’s wrath and give us an out from being sent to hell forever, but that God kept a promise to keep loving us despite the very darkness we continue to embrace.
Jesus took our place not because God was angry, but because God loves us that much.
All of us, no exceptions.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it.