Then Jesus again spoke to them saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life” (8:12 NASB).
“While I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (9:5).
Charles Colson and several other Christian leaders once met with President Borja of Ecuador to discuss Prison Fellowship International’s ministry in Ecuadorian penitentiaries. They had no sooner been seated in luxurious chairs than the President interrupted the conversation with the story of his own imprisonment years before being elected to the presidency.
He had been involved in the struggle for democracy in Ecuador. The military cracked down, and he was arrested. Without trial, they threw him into a cold dungeon with no light and no window. For three days, he endured the solitary fear and darkness that can drive a person mad.
Just when the situation seemed unbearable, the huge steel door opened, and someone crept into the darkness. Borja heard the person working on something in the opposite corner. Then the figure crept out, closed the door, and disappeared.
Minutes later the room suddenly blazed with light. Someone, perhaps taking his life into his hands, had connected electricity to the broken light fixture. “From that moment,” explained? President Borja, “My imprisonment had meaning because at least I could see.”
Even more important than the light we see with our eyes is the light that Christ brings to our hearts, giving our lives understanding and meaning only He can give.
I would like to share with you on the subject, “The Light of the World.”
I. JESUS IS THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD V. 12A
John 8:12 is the continuation of John 7:39. This text comes in the context of the Feast of Tabernacles. During this feast, all Jewish males travel from every nation to Jerusalem to participate in the festivities. Jesus and His disciples have also come to Jerusalem to celebrate this important Jewish feast. Thereby, Jesus speaks to the people in the context of the Feast of Tabernacles.
“The person who has not seen the joy of the place of water-drawing has never in his life seen joy”; this extravagant claim stands just before the description of the lighting of four huge lamps in the temple’s court of women and of the exuberant celebration that took place under their light (Mishnah Sukkah 5:1-4). “Men of piety and good works” danced through the night, holding burning torches in their hands and singing songs and praises. The Levitical orchestras cut loose, and some sources attest that this went on every night of the Feast of Tabernacles, with the light from temple area shedding its glow all over Jerusalem (D. A, Carson, The Gospel According to John, 337).
In this context, Jesus declares to the people, “I am the light of the world.” Throughout history, nobody has made such bold, unapologetic, and emphatic statement besides Jesus. Herod the Great could not make such a statement; Caesar Augustus could not make such a proposition. Julius Caesar could not make such affirmation. Napoleon Bonaparte could not make such an assertion. Moses did not make such proclamation. Buddha could not make such a declaration. Krishna could not make such an announcement. Mohammed could not make such an utterance. The reason is obvious. These were great men and leaders in their own right, but all of them were mortals and finite. Death would not allow them to utter such a declaration. This is a statement of Deity; it is a declaration of Divinity and Immortality.
This is the second of the “I am” statements that are followed by a predicate. Of the incarnate Word, we have already learned that the life “was the light of men” (John 1:4). The light metaphor is steeped in Old Testament allusions. The glory of the very presence of God in the cloud that led the children of Israel to the Promised Land (Exodus 13:21-22) and protected them from those who would destroy them (Exodus 14:19-25). The Israelites were trained to sing, “The LORD is my light and my salvation” (Psalm 27:1). The word of God, the law of God is a light to guide the path of those who cherish instruction (Psalm 119:105; Proverbs 6:23); God’s light is shed in revelation (Ezekiel 1:4, 13, 26-28) and salvation (Habakkuk 3:3-4). Light is Yahweh in action (Psalm 44:3).
When Jesus declared, “I am the light of the world,” the people who heard Him understood the implications of His statement. They were not under any illusion that He meant something else. People who argue that Jesus did not say He was God have not read the “I am” statements of Jesus.
Let us set the record straight. All the Jewish feasts that were instituted in the Old Testament and carried through the New Testament were not ends in themselves. They were symbolic rituals pointing to future fulfillment. Now the brilliant candelabra were lit only at the beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles. So in effect Jesus is saying, “I am the Light of the world” of which the Feast of Tabernacles is a shadow or only symbolic. The reaction of the Pharisees in verse 13 shows that they understand the implications or ramifications of Jesus’ bold declaration.
II. THE LIGHT SHINES IN THE DARKNESS. V. 12B
Not only is Jesus the Light of the world but also anyone who follows Him does not walk in darkness. When Jesus says “anyone who follows Me,” He is not talking about those who follow Him out of curiosity. He is not talking about those who follow Him out of convenience. He is not talking about those who follow Him from a distance. He is not talking about those who follow Him with hidden agenda and ulterior motives. Jesus is talking about those who follow Him with total commitment. He is referring to genuine disciples who are loyal and dedicated to Him. Jesus says, such people “will not walk in the darkness.” On the contrary, they “will have the Light of life.”
A father took his son into an art shop to buy a picture of Christ for him. The boy was shown different pictures of Christ but he did not like any of them. “No, Daddy, these are not what I want.” The father thinking that his son didn’t want a picture of Jesus after all, asked, “What kind of Christ do you want?” Promptly, the boy replied, “I want a Christ who shines in the darkness.” The boy had seen a luminous picture of Christ, which shone in the darkness.
The boy had a good understanding of what Jesus is saying about Himself. The opposite of light is darkness. Light serves many significant purposes. Light enables us to see clearly even during the night. Light dispels the darkness even during the night. Light provides revelation, illumination, and clarity. Light is also a symbol of truth. Therefore, when a disciple walks in the Light, he does not become a victim of falsehood. Many people are peddling false teachings as truth today. We need the Light of Christ to discern the truth from error. The Apostle Paul states that sometimes the devil masquerades himself as an angel of light. It takes the spirit of discernment to detect his true identity.
Darkness also connotes ignorance, evil, sin, and all forms of wickedness. We greatly need Christ to shine in the night of sorrow, suffering, testing, and temptation. Only Christ can illumine life’s dark pathway. As we follow Him, our way grows increasingly bright. “But the path of the just is as the shining light that shines more and more unto the perfect day” (Proverbs 4:18).
The question that you need to answer honestly is this. Have you embraced “Jesus the Light of the world” in your life? Moreover, if you have embraced Him, are you following Him closely today?
In the physical realm when light appears darkness vanishes. When you walk in the light, you do not stumble or fall because you can see clearly. Nothing is so pure as light. Light is also as bright as it is pure. As the Light, Jesus came as “the brightness of the Father’s glory,” and His mission is to dispense brightness wherever sin’s darkness prevails. Jesus is the true Light, ready to lighten every person that comes into the world. Darkness obscures, but Light reveals. Many thieves and evil people operate at the cover of darkness because it will not expose them.
As “the Living Water” is for all who are thirsty, so the “the Light” is for those who are willing to walk in it, and if we walk in the light as He is in the light and He is the Light then, we walk no longer in the darkness of sin, but become reflectors of the Light.
Not only are the disciples or followers of Christ not going to walk in darkness but also they will have the light of life. There are two primary words for life in Koine Greek language. One form is (Bios); it is from this that the English term “biology” derives. This deals with physical life. The second form of life is (Zoe or Zoes), which refers to eternal life or life eternal. Jesus uses the second form of life (Zoe) in this text. Therefore, in essence Jesus is saying that only those who follow Him with undivided attention and complete commitment “will have the light of life.” However, those who rebel against Him, those who reject Him, those who follow someone else do not have the light of life. In other words, eternal life, abundant life, real life belongs to those who are genuine disciples of Christ, not casual observers.
John 9:5 comes at the heels of the disciples’ theological question that concerns the man who was born blind (congenital blindness). In spite of the religious leaders’ hypocrisy and opposition, Jesus healed the man of his blindness. The Light of the world gave sight to a man who had not seen light since his birth. I cannot imagine the jubilation of this man when he saw Jesus’ face for the first time. He had heard of Jesus but he had not seen Him before. In my sanctified imagination, I could see the joy of this man when he saw the face of his parents for the first time. The question you need to ponder is whether you have come to Jesus the Light of the world. Do you prefer darkness of sin to the Light of salvation and eternal life that Jesus alone can give you?
Jesus is the Light of God that has penetrated this world of darkness. When Jesus declares, “I am the Light of the world;” He was fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 9:2, which states, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. Those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.”
The good news is that the light Jesus provides is not ethnocentric or culturally conditioned or with geographic limitations. Jesus the Light of the world transcends cultural limitations. His light has universal and global appeal and attraction. Therefore, no matter who you are, and where you are in the world, you can experience Jesus the Light of the world when you open your heart to Him.
The feeding of the five thousand people (John 6) demonstrates that Jesus is “the Bread of Life.” The healing of the man born blind (John 9), shows that Jesus is “the Light of the world”. He is one who gives sight to the blind both physically and spiritually.
Finally, when Christians live lives of integrity and authenticity and witness with our lives and lips, we also become the light of the world that exudes the fragrance of Jesus Christ, who is the Light of the world.