When a room is dark, you turn on the light and the darkness is gone. The darkness cannot chase away the light, it is simply gone, overcome by the light. At the same time, anything in the room that hates the light will hide away, like when you turn over a rock and all the bugs underneath crawl away out of the light.
John is showing both of these in this verse about Jesus. He is the light. He wins. Nothing can overcome the light. At the same time, people hate the light and don’t want it, they turn away.
“The light shines in the darkness…” This is what Jesus has done. He is the light. At the beginning of creation, God said, “Let there be light,” and the eternal Logos, God the Son, created the light that shone across the unformed creation.
“…and the darkness has not understood/overcome it.” Different Bibles translate this half of verse in different ways because John uses a word that can be translated in two ways. He does so deliberately because the light has these two impacts.
Some people hate the light, they turn away because they don’t want it. They don’t seem to understand Jesus, they may be polite about our faith – or they may be hostile – but they don’t want it.
But even those who hate the light more than anyone – even the devil and the hosts of hell – cannot overcome the light. They cannot stop it. The greatest darkness cannot defeat the light. Jesus wins.
Whatever darkness you face today, Jesus is greater.
So you can go into this day praying for those who don’t understand, that God would show them mercy and open their spiritual eyes to see the light; and you can go into this day confident that, even if the hosts of hell surround you, they cannot overcome.
“The light light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”