Dear radio friends,
In John 8:12 Jesus said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
It is somewhat difficult to determine the exact context of our Lord’s words and thoughts. We could see that His words there in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world,” is a fitting summary of the incident of the woman who was taken in adultery and in the filth of her sin. That is what is recorded in John 8:1-11. She had walked in darkness and the Lord had shined the light of repentance and pardon into her soul. He had said to her, “Go, and sin no more.” What a fitting conclusion Jesus brings to that event by saying, “I am the light of the world. I have shined upon you the light of repentance. He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness. Go, and sin no more.”
It is certainly true that repentance is the work of Jesus Christ as the light of God. When convicted of our sin and brought to repentance and changed, then we shall follow Him and walk not in the darkness of sin but in the light of life.
I think, however, that the Lord’s words in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world,” are to be seen in a larger context than simply the woman who was taken in adultery. Jesus was in Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles, or what we may call the Feast of Tents. We read in John 7:2, “Now the Jews’ feast of tabernacles was at hand.” The Feast of Tabernacles, or Feast of Tents, was to memorialize Israel’s traveling from Egypt to Canaan, during which time they traveled through the desert and lived in tents. It was on the day of the Feast of Tabernacles that they were to make booths or tents and live in those tents for seven days, remembering the time when their fathers lived in tents in the wilderness.
There were two things that were celebrated in connection with the Feast of the Tabernacles. There was a pouring out of water, reminding them of the water that came to them out of the rock to give them water in the wilderness. And each evening there was the lighting of candles. Giant candles in the courtyard of the temple reminded them of how God had led them by a pillar of fire in the wilderness to teach them that God was their light.
So, in John 7:37, during the Feast of the Tabernacles, that great day, Jesus stood up and cried, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.” He was the fulfillment of that aspect of the Feast of the Tabernacles, pointing to the water that came out of the rock. And now, in our text, He says again (we read in John 8:12), “Then spake Jesus againunto them,…I am the light of the world. Those lights and candles commemorated at the Feast of Tabernacles—I am the fulfillment of that.” Jesus proclaims that He is the only light, the only light of lights, that only through Him can we be taken into fellowship with God and live in the light of God’s face.
“I am the light of the world,” said Jesus. Every discerning Jew at the Feast of the Tabernacles would have known that Jesus was announcing that He was the Messiah and that He was the very Son of God. “I am the light of the world.” Repeatedly in the Old Testament the prophecies had identified the coming Messiah, the Christ, as the light. Isaiah 9:2, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light.” Isaiah 60:1-3, “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.” By proclaiming Himself the light of the world, Jesus was announcing Himself to the Jews and to us as the promised Messiah, sent of the Father, according to His promise to bring salvation. And He was also proclaiming Himself to be God. Think of what He was saying. In the context, again, of the Feast of the Tabernacles, when that light reminded them of the pillar of fire by night, Israel said, “God is our light.” And Jesus said, “I am the light. Look at Me—and see Him. I’m the revelation of God. I am God.” Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the Messiah and their God when He said, “I am the light of the world.”
Specifically, what does that mean about Jesus?
First of all, it means holiness. Jesus reveals the sinless purity of God and the holiness of the mighty. In Isaiah 6:1-3 we are told that the angels stand before God and God’s light shines forth. And they cry out, “Holy, holy, holy Lord God almighty.” When Jesus calls Himself the light of the world, He means that He is the light that reveals the holiness of God. He (Jesus) stands before men and He says, “God is holy.” That is what Jesus says. Never does Jesus say, “Sin doesn’t matter. Sin is unimportant.” But Jesus always comes to us and declares “God is spotlessly pure. And that is why I have come. Because His spotless holiness requires that a payment be made for your sins.” As the light of the world, Jesus is proclaiming that God is a holy God.
Secondly, He is proclaiming that He is filled with wisdom and knowledge. That is true in our own language. You say, “Shed some light on this for me. I don’t understand.” Or you say, “That little girl is bright.” So Jesus Christ, as the light, is the One who alone can give the knowledge of God. We read in II Corinthians 4:6, “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” As the light, He is the One who gives us to know God. As the light, He alone can give us to know God, to learn of who God is. The God of holiness? Yes. But the God also of grace and mercy. Learn about God. Learn of God’s wisdom and grace. How? Only through Jesus Christ, who is the light of the world.
Thirdly, Jesus is proclaiming that He is life. He is proclaiming that He is holy; that He is the wisdom of God; and He is life. For we know from the creation that there can be no life without light. Even twenty-seven thousand feet deep down in the marina trench in the ocean, there is life—fish and different types of life. But take away the sun, and there can be no life at all. So God, in the beginning, on the first day, said, “Let there be light,” and there was light, for there is no life in darkness. Jesus, as the light, is the source of life. He alone can bring us to life, to God.
Finally, as the light, Jesus is proclaiming Himself to be the glory of God. In Him is all the glory of God. Jesus is holy. Jesus is wise. Jesus is life. And Jesus is glorious. All the truth and all the reality of God shines out of Jesus. God’s glory is the outshining. It is the emitting of who He is. He is glorious. Jesus says, “Look at Me. I am the shining of the glory of God Himself. I am the shining of the glory of God’s grace—that He gives His own Son that sinners might live with Him.” Jesus is saying to them, “Don’t think of that candle that they have lit in the temple courtyard. But think of Me. I am the light. I am holy, wise, life, and the glory of God.”
“I am the light of the world.” He means to say that He is the only saving light. In all the world. In every race and in every culture and in every place on the earth. He is not just light to the Jews who lived at that time in Palestine. But He is the light of the world. He is saying that the world, apart from Him, is in darkness. There is no holiness, there is no wisdom, there is no life, there is no glory of God in the world—apart from Jesus Christ. He is saying, “But you don’t have holiness. You do not have knowledge. You do not have life. You do not have that which is glorious apart from Me. I am the light of the world.”
That is, perhaps, offensive. And, in fact, we might say that all of the I Am’s of Jesus are offensive to man. When He says, “I am the bread, I alone can satisfy”; when He says, “I am the Good shepherd, I alone can save”; when He says, “I am the light”; when He goes on to say, “I am the way, the truth, and the life”—all of these I Am’s are offensive to the pride of man. We would say, “You are the light? What do you mean? We are enlightened. We are enlightened sexually today. We are enlightened in our technology. We are enlightened in our science. We are so knowledgeable. Look at us! We are light.” But Jesus says, “No, apart from Me, you are darkness. There is only darkness in the world, fallen away from God, rejecting the true God, living apart from God, serving sin—thick, thick darkness. But I am the light, the only light.”
The light of the world that shines upon you is the grace, the renewing grace, of God. You come to Jesus and embrace Him as the life and the glory and the truth of God and find knowledge and peace of your soul in Jesus—to do that means that He opened your blind eyes to see, and flooded your soul with the light, driving away the darkness of the guilt of your sin and the power of evil. That is how He saved you. You were blind. When one is blind, light can be all around him, shining even into his face, but he doesn’t see it. As blind men we could stand on a sunny beach in all its brightness, and all would yet be darkness. No, our eyes must be opened. We must have the ability to see. Jesus must impart the ability to see. He is the light of the world. He does that by imparting to you the knowledge of your darkness and your sin, and then the holiness and the glory of God and the grace of God and the cross of Jesus Christ and the payment of your sin and hope of life eternal. In that way, by grace, He is your light. He is your light when He shines upon you His grace.
As the light of the world, Jesus shines by dazzling grace into the hearts of God’s children throughout the whole world. And we see. What do we see? We see, first, our sin—my sin in such a way that I could never see it apart from Jesus. Apart from Jesus I would never go to the heart of it—the pride, the anger, the enmity, the contempt of God.
Oh, many a man will confess a mistake or two. He will confess sin, especially when he is caught. He will say, “I made a bad decision. I made a mistake. I even hurt others. There is something missing in my life. I need to change.” But now hear a Christian as he confesses his sin ( Ps. 51): “Against thee, thee only have I sinned and done this evil in thy sight.” We see the mountain of iniquity within our hearts, the pride, the corruption, the evil of our heart. As the light, Jesus gives us to see both the misery of our sin and the marvelous grace of God—the grace of the holy and the wise God who has given His Son Jesus Christ to remove that awful, awful guilt of sin and to deliver us from that awful, awful bondage to sin and to bring us humbly and obediently before the throne of God, there to bow and to confess that He is God, the only God, the true God who alone can give light and hope and life to my soul. He is light to us.
He is not light to all. As the light of the world, Jesus does expose, Jesus does condemn, Jesus does stand before men and say, “You cannot save yourself. You are hopeless of yourself. No matter what you do, there is no inherent goodness in you. You are in darkness. I am the light of the world, not you.” As that light, He exposes, convicts. But apart from grace, one responds to Jesus as the light with anger and says, “Who are you to tell me that I am in darkness?”
Jesus Christ is the light shining, by the grace of God, into this world, enlightening all of His children and bringing them to know and to see God and His matchless grace. Is He light to you? Have you come to the light? Do you run from the light when you see your sins and your unworthiness? Do not run. Do not flee. Rather, “He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life,” said Jesus. The light of Jesus Christ attracts and draws us closer to Him. When He shines within our hearts we draw closer to God in the knowledge of the love of God. When the light shines into our hearts, let us not deny it. Let us not try to change what it shows. But let us confess, by the grace of God, our sins. Let us not try to cover up what the light of Jesus reveals about ourselves. Let us not try to pull a blanket of silence over our sins or to hide them under the pillow of our excuses. But let us bring those sins that are revealed by the light of Jesus and confess them—not pointing at others—but confess them to God.
And follow Jesus. To follow Jesus is to obey Jesus. It means that it is your greatest desire that you will be pleasing to Him at all times and will be as His loving servant. You will want the light of God to shine upon you and to show you the way every day in everything that you do. You will confess that, apart from Jesus, there is only darkness and despair and sorrow. But with Jesus is fullness of life and joy. And then, said Jesus, “You will not walk in darkness, but you shall walk in the light of life.”
When one walks in darkness, he lives a life apart from God, apart from the acknowledging of God. And in that way of rejecting God, in that way of rejecting Jesus Christ, that darkness deepens until finally one will walk into the darkness of hell, into the eternal night of death, eternal death—the deep, the unbearable bleakness of the pit of hell prepared for all those who reject the living and the true God and His Son Jesus Christ and walk the eternal walk of darkness.
When Jesus says to follow Him, that is the call. Embrace Him. By a true and living faith we see, through faith, His light. Place your trust in Him and in Him alone. Follow the light of the world, the light that shone in Bethlehem; the light that grew stronger as He went to the cross; the light that was blinding upon the cross of Jesus Christ when He died to open eternity for our souls; the light of His resurrection; the light of the Holy Spirit working now in our hearts that we might believe in Him as our Savior and our God. Do not walk in darkness. Do not walk in despair. Confess your sins. Follow Jesus, the light of the world!
And follow Him as He leads safely home through the wilderness of this world, till finally we come into the light of God, the home of God, where all is light.
Let us pray.
Father, we again thank Thee for Thy Word and pray for its blessing upon our souls today. We pray that this glorious gospel might be sounded—that Jesus Christ is the light of the world. Use this Word to convict and to slay the awful darkness and pride of men and of our own souls. And bring us humbly to the light, so that in the knowledge of Thee we bow before Thee in Jesus Christ and confess that He alone is truth, He alone is light, He alone can give us life and the knowledge of God. And give us that light of Jesus in all of our darkness, that we might have comfort and peace today. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.