Dear Radio Listeners,
We come to the second “I Am” statement of Jesus in our series of messages on the seven I Am’s of Jesus recorded in the Gospel of John. This second one is recorded, first of all, in John 8:12. There we read: “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” A little later in the gospel of John, chapter 12:46, Jesus also said: “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.”
Last time we began by saying that the heart of the gospel is the truth concerning Jesus Christ: who He is and what He has done for sinners. This truth concerning Jesus Christ is set forth beautifully in these seven I Am’s of Jesus.
In our last message we examined the first of those where Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” Today we consider the truth that He is the light of the world.
We should put this “I am” statement of Christ also in its context. Jesus word is connected, first of all, to what precedes it. That is, first, the Feast of Tabernacles referred to in John 7:2. One of the aspects of this Feast of Tabernacles was the burning of candles. By this, the Jews recalled the fact that God had been a light to them in the wilderness when they had come out of Egypt. Specifically, we remember that God led them by the pillar of fire. When Jesus says that He is the light of the world, He means that He is the fulfillment of that light of God.
Then, too, Jesus words relate to the incident recorded in the first part of John 8, the incident of the woman taken in adultery. That woman had been living in spiritual darkness, in gross immorality. But Jesus revealed Himself to her as the saving light.
Secondly, Jesus’ statement is connected to what follows in John 9. Jesus meets a blind man, a man living in darkness, literally but also spiritually. To that man, Jesus also reveals Himself as the light of the world.
We want to keep those examples before us as we examine together the meaning of Jesus’ statement: “I am the light of the world.”
There are four truths that are revealed concerning Christ in this “I Am” statement. In the first place, when Jesus calls Himself the light of the world, He is declaring to us that He came into the world to manifest the very glory of God. Jesus shines with the full brilliance of the being and nature of God.
When we think of light here, we must not think of a little candle light, a little flicker of a flame. We must think of a blazing, brilliant light like that of the sun, like that pillar of fire that led Israel, or that cloud of glory that filled the Tabernacle and Temple in the old dispensation. This is how Christ came into the world. The Old Testament prophet Malachi, in fact, referred to Messiah as the “Sun of Righteousness.” Christ came into the world blazing with the glory of God, manifesting the majesty and power of the Lord, showing forth His perfect nature.
Christ could do that, of course, because He was and is God. Here again we see that Jesus’ “I Am” reveals Him to be Jehovah God. This is another statement of His deity, which is why the Pharisees went after Christ right away. In chapter 1, John clearly points to this truth that Jesus is the light of the glory of God. There he says, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
In the second place, that Jesus is the light of the world means that He is the revelation of the holy God. Light in Scripture also stands for that which is morally pure and clean and, therefore, that which is holy, without sin, that which is perfect. Light is the opposite of darkness, which symbolizes in Scripture that which is evil and sinful and vile and unclean. In I John 1:5 God is said to be light in this sense, “and in him is no darkness at all.”
Jesus certainly meant this concerning Himself too. He came into the world as a pure and holy light, shining in the dark place of man’s sin and immorality. How many times did that not become manifest in His life? It made Jesus stand out, for the entire world lay in darkness.
This truth about Him not only reveals that Jesus is God, it also reveals Him as the Christ, the Savior. For the Savior, you see, must be without sin. If Jesus is to bear the sin of His people, He must be light, He must be sinless. If He is to deliver us from our dark and vile sin, He Himself must be light and holy. And so He is! “I am the light of the world,” He says.
He came into the world and entered our darkness, to bear our darkness, even to descend into the darkness of hell to pay for the sins of His people and to deliver them from it. He did that on the cross when He went into the night of our sin and the night of God’s wrath. That is how the light of the world merited light and life for His own.
In the third place, that Jesus is the light of the world means that He comes to impart the true knowledge of God to men. Light, in Scripture, often stands for truth and knowledge. We speak of the light that is in men. We say that a person is bright when he is knowledgeable. But we also know that man is full of darkness spiritually and that he is ignorant of God, blind to the truth. We do say that he has glimmerings of natural light. Yet the light that is in him is darkness.
That Jesus is the light of the world means that He came into the world as the revelation of the true God. And in all that He said and did, He revealed the truth concerning God, concerning man, concerning Himself as the Savior, and concerning the only way of salvation. Jesus is not like a Mohammad, or a Ghandi, or a Mary Baker Eddy. He is not like a “New-Age” teacher. He is the light of the world, the only One who imparts the true knowledge of God to men.
In the last place, that Jesus is the light of the world means that He is the source of spiritual life to sinners. As He goes on to say in our text, he who follows Him will have the light of life. As the light of the world, Jesus promises to give to sinners who follow Him a light that is life, that is, spiritual life, life with God, eternal life.
We see this relation between light and life in creation. Without light, plants die. That is why prior to creating the plants in the week of creation, God Himself, first of all, put light in His universe. So it is with man, the sinner. Man sits in the darkness of sin and death by nature. He has no spiritual light, and therefore no spiritual life. But Jesus comes as the light of the world to give life to lightless and lifeless sinners. He is the source of life because He is the divine Savior, with power to bestow the light of eternal life to dead sinners such as you and me.
Having established what this means that Jesus is the light of the world, we must now say something about the twofold effect which the light of the world has on men. We begin by saying that Jesus is the saving light to the elect people given Him by His Father. When Jesus came into the world as the light, and as He is still revealed in this world as the light through His Word and the preaching of the gospel, this is the effect that He had and has on the elect. He shined on them and saved them. In this sense He is the light of the elect world of men.
In this work of saving His own as the light, Jesus first of all enlightens His people in their hearts and makes those see who were blind sinners. Remember that they, too, are blind and in darkness spiritually. Like this blind man, and like this adulterous woman, we are all spiritually blind, groping about in the darkness of sin and depravity. But Jesus, the light of the world, came and delivered His people from the power of the darkness of their sin and spiritual ignorance and imparted to them the true knowledge of God. Not, you understand, by merely shining around them, but by shining in them. Jesus saves His people by opening the eyes of their hearts and minds through His Spirit. He makes them see their sin and repent of it. As their light, He gives them faith and teaches them so that they believe on Him. That is what He did in the lives of these two people recorded in John 8and 9. And so He has done for you who believe. The light has shined on you and in you.
So, secondly, when He did that, He also gave you life. That was the saving effect that He had on you. You dwelt in the darkness of death. You and I had no life with God but were separated from Him and headed for a life apart from Him forever. But the light shined on them, on us, and drove away the darkness of our death, delivered us from the night of dying that we were in, and created in us life-new, spiritual life-life with God, everlasting life. That is the effect the light has had on you who believe by the grace of God. What a glorious, gracious light Jesus is.
And, thirdly, when the light of the world shines on you who believe, who are His own, then He has this effect on you too, that He causes you to be holy and to walk in holiness so that you may reflect His light to the world.
We said that part of the meaning of “light” is that it stands for “holiness.” When Jesus shines as the sovereign light in His people’s hearts and lives, He makes them to be light too, pure and holy, to reflect His holiness before a dark world.
We may compare this to the moon’s reflection of the light of the sun. If Jesus is the Sun of Righteousness then when He, as the light of the world, is poured out in us, we reflect Him as so many moons in this world. That was true of this woman in John 8. She had been living in the darkness of immorality, sexual uncleanness, and adultery. But Jesus, the light, came to her and made her holy. When He said to her, “Go and sin no more,” she did. She went and walked in the light.
So it is for all who believe. That man in John 9 who had been blind and was made to see, began from that day on to walk in the light of holiness, pleasing God in his life.
What about you? And what about me? Has the light shined in us to make us holy? Are we, then, walking in the light, revealing Jesus as the light before men? We must, if we are followers of the light.
But, you see, there is another effect which the light of the world has on men. It is a negative one. You are aware of the fact that light also has the power to expose and drive away. Light has the power to blind and to harden. There are certain animals which come out only at night, in the dark-raccoons, for example. If you shine a light on them they scurry away. They do not want to be exposed. Some insects are the same way. Cockroaches love the darkness. As soon as they are exposed to the light they run for cover. Some men are that way, too. Thieves do not like to work in the light. They want darkness. If a policeman comes in the night and shines his spotlight as the thief is breaking into a house, the thief runs off.
So, too, the light can blind and harden. If you stare at the sun, for example, you will become blinded by its intense light. And under the burning light of the sun, the ground can become hard. The earth is baked and becomes brittle.
It is this way spiritually, too, with Jesus, the light of the world. When Jesus came into the world and shined with the glory of God, with perfect holiness, with the true and eternal life, ungodly sinners were exposed in their sin and uncleanness. They were exposed in their lies and in their death. They dwelt in the darkness and they did not want to be discovered in their evil. So when Jesus shined on them, they ran away. That was the effect on those scribes and Pharisees who had found this adulterous woman. When He exposed them in their sin they had to turn away. They couldn’t stand the light of the world.
So, too, when the light of the world came and shined with the glory, holiness, and truth of God, some sinners were blinded by that light and hardened in their sin. The end of John 9 reveals this effect of Jesus too.
Still to this day, this is the negative effect which the light of the world has on some men. Wherever the light of the gospel is shined in the preaching, there Jesus is revealed as the light of the world. And where this light is found, there some will always run away when they are exposed in their sin. There some will always be blinded by the light and be hardened in their sin. From our point of view, this is a sad effect. But we must remember that this too is according to the sovereign purpose of God. For some, the light of the world is a saving light. But not for all. And also when the light of the world condemns and hardens, God is glorified.
But now, the knowledge of this twofold effect which the light of the world has on men also points us to our holy calling. You will notice that Jesus says, “he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” That means, from a negative point of view, that you must not refuse to follow the light. You must not ignore the light of the world and continue to walk in the darkness of your own sin. When the light shines on us and reveals the truth of the gospel to us, we must never ignore that light and choose the darkness of the lie. When the light shines upon us and exposes us in our sin and wicked ways, we may never close our minds to that sin, deny it, and run from Jesus. When the light appears as our guide to lead us in the way of holiness in the midst of this dark world of sin and evil, you and I may never ignore Jesus and refuse to follow His leading, walking instead in the darkness of immorality and impurity. If you respond this way to the light of the world, you will abide in darkness and you will die in darkness. You will not know where you are going in life because the darkness of sin and the lie will always deceive you. But know for certain, listener, that if you do not believe in the light and follow the light, you will end up in the place of everlasting darkness, the blackness of hell.
The Word of God warns us today: do not treat the light of the world this way. Rather, believe in the light and follow the light. Receive the truth that Jesus is the light, God of God, light of light, the only true God and the only true Savior. And embrace Him, by faith, as your personal light, putting all your trust in Him for deliverance from the darkness of your own sin, from the blindness of your own heart and mind.
Follow Him as the only true guide in this dark world. Like the Israelites in the wilderness, follow the light, love the truth that He reveals to you in His Word, walk in holiness being pleasing to the light. Reflect Him as children of light. Show forth His glory and truth and purity.
And His promise to you is that you will not walk in darkness, but you will have the light of life. You will not stumble around like the blind. You will know where you are going in this world. You will be guided safely through this night of sin by the light of Jesus.
So you will possess life, life with God-here and now, and forever. You will abide in that everlasting light of heavenly glory as you follow the light in your life.
Are you following the light of the world? He that followeth Me, Jesus says, shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
Let us pray together.
Most merciful Father in heaven, we thank Thee for sending us Thy Son to be the light of the world. We thank Thee for giving Him for us to be our light, we who once dwelt in darkness and in death. We thank Thee for enabling us to believe on Him and to follow Him as the light so that, following Him, we shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life. Preserve us, Father, in that following of the light so that we will one day be with Thee and the Son and the Spirit forever, in the light of the new creation. We pray this in Jesus’ name and for His sake, Amen.