Reader: “I am the light of the world.”
Response: “If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness.”
Scripture: John 8:12-19
Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” The Pharisees replied, “You are making those claims about yourself! Such testimony is not valid.”
Jesus told them, “These claims are valid even though I make them about myself. For I know where I came from and where I am going, but you don’t know this about me.You judge me by human standards, but I do not judge anyone. And if I did, my judgment would be correct in every respect because I am not alone. The Father who sent me is with me. Your own law says that if two people agree about something, their witness is accepted as fact. I am one witness, and my Father who sent me is the other.”
“Where is your father?” they asked. Jesus answered, “Since you don’t know who I am, you don’t know who my Father is. If you knew me, you would also know my Father.”
One of the First Testament pericopes Isaiah (9:2) proclaims, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” Could our present day world be described anymore clearly? People all around us walk and live in a land of deep darkness. Too morbid? Watch or read the news. Godlessness abounds. And people aren’t even aware they are living and walking in darkness. There is no shame. I’ve mentioned this before, but years ago I talked briefly with a young Jewish man who had found the Messiah and had become a solid believer. I haven’t forgotten his comment to me. “When I became a Christian, I discovered a whole new world I never knew even existed!” He came from darkness to light.
The portion of Scripture you just read is part of a larger section encompassing chapters seven and eight of John. Jesus was present in Jerusalem teaching at the Temple and a conflict arose as to who he was. Was he the Messiah? He made strong claims saying his message was coming from God. There is a short insert (8:1-11) and then the conflict intensifies bringing us to today’s passage as Jesus remains in Jerusalem teaching.
Earlier in chapter seven the Festival of Tabernacles concluded with a celebratory pouring of water over the altar. In that setting Jesus proclaimed anyone coming to him would receive living water. Now he claims to be the light of the world telling the people very straightforwardly that they are walking in darkness. Their whole world is in the dark. The Pharisees were troubled because, among other things, he was breaking their Jewish law by including all people, not just the Jews.
We need to move beyond words here to have a clearer picture of the context. During the Feast of Tabernacles, four towering menorahs with four golden bowls each were filled with oil and lit in the Temple. The wicks were made of worn-out priests’ garments. They burned all night flooding the Temple grounds and the streets of Jerusalem with light. This ceremony was a part of the pouring of water mentioned above. It happened every night of the festival. All of this light was reminiscent of the Shekinah glory of the days of Solomon’s Temple and, as Ezekiel proclaimed, was looking forward to the return of the Shekinah in the days of Messiah. So there is a Messianic aspect to the Feast of Tabernacles with an expectation of the Messiah coming during that festival. (Overwhelming light is still a significant part of the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles today in Jewish practice today.)
Now picture Jesus standing beneath these brilliant lights proclaiming, “I am the light of the world.” He is claiming to be the Shekinah glory of God, the Messiah in the flesh! While the significance of saying “I am the light of the world” may skip over our heads, to the Pharisees and all the Jewish people gathered, they knew exactly what he was claiming and rejected his testimony. The light Jesus offered would end the darkness of the whole world through the gift of salvation and the forgiveness of sins. The light source was not oil in lamps but the Incarnate Son of God who was not a reflection of God’s glory, but the very Source.
Knowing the law, the Pharisees claimed that Jesus needed two witnesses to validate his claim (Deut. 19:15) and from their standpoint he did not have them. Again, Jesus answered them directly. “I know where I came from and where I am going, but you don’t know this about me.” You Pharisees are trying to judge me by human standards. In my claim as light of the world, I am one witness and my Father is another witness as to the truth of what I say. Then, still not understanding, came the Pharisees’ obvious question, “Where is your father?” Jesus’ answer is timeless in that it is true and descriptive of our world today. “Since you don’t know who I am, you don’t know who my Father is. If you knew me, you would also know my Father.”
The light of the star led the Magi to Bethlehem to worship the infant Light of the World. As you go about today and tomorrow, let the light of the Savior shine as we endeavor to reflect his glory in a very dark world that others may come out of darkness into the light that leads to life that never ends.
Music: Three glorious different settings. You’ll love them!
“This Little Light of Mine” Odetta
“This Little LIght of Mine” Soweto Gospel Choir
“This Little Light of Mine” arr. Moses Hogan TCU Concert Chorale
Lord Jesus, the Light of the world, how dark is the world we live in. David wrote, “I could ask darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night―but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.” Lord I ask that those hiding in darkness afraid of your light may have courage to realize they cannot hide or run from you. May we be helpful and have courage in pointing people to your light of the gospel wherever we go. This world is in need of such a drastic renewal by your Spirit. Shine in us. We pray this in the name of Jesus, who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God world without end. Amen.