Unquenchable Light

By Ken Asel

Reading from the Gospel of John, 12:27-36a

27 “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say — ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains for ever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”


Our passage begins in darkness. Jesus turns to Philip and Andrew: “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say — Father, save me from this hour? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” We are encountering a man torn between anxiety over suffering that clearly awaits him and determination to carry out his heavenly mission.

The cheering crowds and waving palms are now memories. Jesus is confronted by violent authorities. To fulfill what his Father has tasked him to complete, Jesus must first come face to face with the void, which seems to contain only darkness. But then our savior remembers, beyond this void, his Father still reigns.

One of the great treasures of Celtic Christianity was its realization that, more than original sin, God’s original blessing characterizes creation. There is a great difference between the elements of light on the first day of creation and the “lights” that were cast into the cosmos on the fourth day. The fourth day contained the building blocks God used to fashion a universe, lights that might some day go out. But on the first day there was a promise, an original light reflecting the great Light through Whom all things were made, a blessing for all time, the Light beyond the void that will never be extinguished.

The passage begins in bewilderment and grief, but finishes with triumph. Jesus’ words to these two friends has caused me to wonder if we are witnessing an echo of the Transfiguration, or of the Epiphany, in which the Lord not only reclaims once more, but invites Philip and Andrew, and maybe us, to participate in the uncreated light of God’s glorious redemption.

(The Reverend) J. Kenneth Asel, D.Min. is a retired priest from the Diocese of Wyoming. Devvie and he have been married more than 28 years and reside in the Texas Hill Country.

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