Jesus’ “I Am” Statements – 02(“I am the Light of the World”)
- SCRIPTURE READING:
Joh.8:12-30 (ESV) ~ “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13 So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” 14 Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. 16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. 17 In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. 18 I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” 19 They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 20 These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come. 21 So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” 22 So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” 23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” 25 So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. 26 I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” 27 They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father. 28 So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. 29 And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” 30 As he was saying these things, many believed in him.”
Thomas Alfa Edison who was born in 1847 in the USA, moved at a young age to New York City and eventually established a laboratory. In 1877 he invented the phonograph, which used a record made of tinfoil to play back sound. Apart from the phonograph, he also developed many other devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the motion picture camera, and in 1879, a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb. By the end of 1880, Edison had produced a bulb that lasted 1500 hours.
The invention of the lightbulb changed the world in many ways, including facilitating the creation of large power grids, changing the social and economic structure of society and bringing other appliances into the home. The invention of the lightbulb changed human existence by eliminating the night and making it hospitable to a wide range of human activities during the night.
The question however remains whether Edison’s lightbulb has really changed the people of planet earth? When asking this question, two verses (one in the Old Testament and one in the New)come to mind ~ “What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols!”(Hab.2:18)and Matt.16:26 ~ “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”
Jesus gave the answer to these questions by revealing something of His unique and Godly attributes, when saying in the opening verse of our Scripture reading for today ~ “I am the Light of the world.”This statement is the second of His eight “I AM” statements, which is only recorded in John’s Gospel. This statement points to Jesus’ unique Divine identity and purpose. A further question however is, what does this statement by Jesus about Himself, really mean and how can we apply it to ourselves.
This statement implies that there is darkness in this world that people do not perceive. Paul says in Col.1:13 ~ “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.”
We are thus confronted by the fact the world needs deliverance from darkness (i.e. spiritual darkness).
In today’s message, we will look at Jesus the Light of the world. This will be the second “I Am” statement that we will be looking at. Our main points will be:
- The Messiah’s Claim (vss.12-20).
- The People’s Confusion (vss.21-29).
- The People’s Conversion (vs.30).
- THE MESSIAH’S CLAIM (vss.12-20):
In declaring Himself to be the Light of the world, Jesus was claiming that He is the exclusive source of spiritual light. No other source of spiritual truth is available to mankind.
Thomas Edison’s lightbulb was good and changed the world, there is however, another Light, a Light so important that the Son of God had to come in order to both declare and impart it to men. The allegory used by the Lord in this verse (vs.12) speaks of the light of His Truth, the light of His Word, the light of eternal Life. What Jesus is saying, is that those who receive the true Light will never walk in spiritual darkness again.
Prior to Jesus’ claim, the scribes and the Pharisees had just finished accusing a woman caught in adultery. According to Jewish laws, if someone is caught in an act of adultery, such a person was stoned to death.
The scribes and Pharisees also wanted to ensnare Jesus (Afrikaans: “in ‘n lokval lei”) in the process, because He claimed that He was God and the Light of the world. Jesus also showed them how self-centred and legalistic they were. In John 8:34 Jesus tells the unbelieving Pharisees~“Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.”He uses the analogy of a slave and his master to make the point that a slave obeys his master because he belongs to him. Slaves have no will of their own. They are literally in bondage to their masters. When sin is our master, we are unable to resist it. But, by the power of Christ to overcome the power of sin~“You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness”(Rom.6:18).
The scribes and Pharisees accused Him of bearing witness about Himself (vs.12), so they wanted to bring Him to justice and therefore they asked Him what should be done with the woman. Surprisingly, Jesus responded on the scribes and Pharisees’ question by saying ~ “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first”(John 8:7).
This interaction between Jesus and the scribes and the Pharisees took place in the city of Jerusalem in the temple area. How fitting that during the Feast of Tabernacles, when the large lamps were burning, “Jesus … said, I am the Light of the world.”The world is in darkness, a symbol of evil, sin, and ignorance ~ “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil”(Joh.3:19).
We must remember that all people commit sin – are in sin ~ “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”(1 John 1:8) and Jesus also said in John 8:34 ~ “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin’”(John 8:34). Jesus was telling His followers that all of them were living in darkness and in bondage of sin (sin which is our natural state).
Jesus declared that He was the Light of the world. He wanted His followers to know that they didn’t have to live in darkness, hopelessness and bondage to sin. In the original text, the Greek for light is φῶς(phõs)which literally means “to illumine;” “to bring to light,”and it can also mean that light is the possibility of grasping and hence of mastering the world.
Furthermore, “Light”in the Bible is a symbol of God and His holiness ~ “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all”(1 John 1:5). Jesus is “theLight,” not merely a light or another light among many lights. He is the only Light; “the true Light”(John 1:9)for the whole world. When Jesus said, “Whoever follows Me”(Joh.12:26), He meant whoever believes and obeys Him. Jesus was speaking of salvation. When He saves us, He illumines us and He brings us into the Light and enable us to master the dark world and its sin.
If the people who listened to Jesus wanted to follow Him, then He would bring His “light of life”into their lives, transforming them and restoring them with His power, in order for them to become slaves of Jesus Christ.
The Pharisees were not happy about Jesus’ claim that He was the Light of the world and they accused Him of bearing witness about Himself and that His testimony was not true (vs.12), but in vs.13 Jesus tells them that no earthly witness is capable of testifying on His behalf because of His divine origin.
Jesus argued further that the Pharisees were not qualified to render a verdict on the validity of His witness because they used the wrong criteria, that is why He says in vs.17 ~ “You judge according to the flesh,”or as the NIV states~ “You judge by human standards.” To form a correct estimate of Him, they must have the proper standard, and Christ is not measurable by “human standards.”The actual word used here for human standards is “flesh,” (as in the ESV) which is used metaphorically to refer to the human nature. The ordinarily used categories for measuring personality would not apply to Jesus. He appealed to the rule of the law that prescribed to witnesses for acceptable opposition ~ “On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness”(Deut.17:6). He would be qualified as one of the witnesses and His Father as the other ~ “And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me…”(Joh.5:37a).
In vss.20-21, Jesus bluntly told the scribes and Pharisees that they had no real knowledge of God. The fact that they did not recognise Him for who and what He was, provided the proof that they did not know. The tragedy was that the whole history of Israel had been designed so that the Jews should recognise the Son of God when He came; but they had become so involved with their own ideas, so intent on their own ways, so sure of their own concept of what religion was that they had become blind to God.
After the interaction between Jesus, the scribes and the Pharisees, they started to leave one by one because none of them were without sin themselves. Jesus told the woman who committed adultery that He wouldn’t condemn her either, so she should go and sin no more. Is this not also true of the people of our day? They construct their own image of God and create their own religion so that it suits them (e.g. it is too farfetched for liberal theologians to believe that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary and therefore, they say that, that part of the Bible is a myth and thus creating their own self-made law. To the other side of the spectrum though, if something feels wrong for someone, they also create their own self-made laws – e.g. women are not allowed to wear long trousers, or short hair – such people base their own viewpoint on improper Biblical analyses and are therefore self-righteous and legalistic).
The first group (mostly liberal theologians) are busy creating their own bible and they are involved in gross idolatry. The legalistic group, on the other hand, must also be careful that they are not busy with the same situation and practice.
- THE PEOPLE’S’ CONFUSION (vss.21-29):
In vss.21-29, Jesus talks about leaving the people and about them dying in their sins (unless they believe in Him), and about the fact that they cannot come to heaven because their sins are unforgiven (vs.21). As John shows throughout, they failed to understand: they asked, “He isn’t going to kill Himself, is He?”Perhaps they thought because of the pressures on Him, He would take His own life and according to Jewish belief, someone who commits suicide goes to hell and because they are sure of their “salvation”(based on their works and knowledge of the Scriptures). Jesus, according to them is going to hell and they are going to heaven. How wrong were they! Jesus would (after His death) return to the Father, and they would die in their sins.
We see in vs.27 that the people did not understand what Jesus was talking about. Jesus’ patience is exemplary (from which we all have much to learn). He continues to explain in vss.28-29 by telling them that His death, resurrection and ascension (His “lifting up”) will be His vindication (Afrikaans: “regverdigmaking”). Then, many of them would understand that He is the promised Messiah. That is when they would receive an answer to the question, “Who are You?”
- THE PEOPLE’S CONVERSION (vs.30):
Jesus’ claim that He is the Light of the world and His subsequent conversation and explanation was not without fruit, because we read in vs.30 ~ “As he was saying these things, many believed in him.”
John says in 1 Joh.1:9 ~ “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”There is hope for the lost, there is an everlasting hope and light awaiting on those who are willing to bend the knee before Christ the Saviour and confess their sins and believe in Him.
Coming to Christ for salvation results in a different kind of life. A believer will never walk in darkness, that is, he will not live in it. He does not remain in the realm of evil and ignorance ~ “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness”(John 12:46) for he has Christ as his Light and salvation ~ “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light”(Ps. 36:9). Once we come to Christ in repentance and receive forgiveness for sin, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit who comes to live within us. It is by His power that we are able to resist sin and become slaves of righteousness.
- CONCLUSION & APPLICATION:
We saw that light also means “to illumine;” “to bring to light”– that light is not only for us, but when we have the light in us, it must not be hidden under a basket, hidden from the view of others – Edison made a light to light up the surrounding area, Jesus lit us up, so that people can see the Truth and become free in Him (Luke 11:33). If we confess that we are followers of the Light, we repent of our sins in order to stay close to the Light of the world. In fact, Jesus commands us to be “lights” too (Matt.5:14-16).
Just as the moon has no light of its own, but reflecting the light of the sun, so are believers to reflect the Light of Christ so that all can see it in us. The Light is evident to others by the good deeds we do in faith and through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The emphasis here is maintaining a credible and obvious witness in the world, a witness that shows us to be faithful, God-honouring, trustworthy, sincere, earnest, and honestin all that we do.
If we say it must be obvious to the world, we must ask what signs will darkness have. There are many, but I just want to name one – 1 John 2:11 says ~ “But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness…”I also want to mention one sign of light – 1 Joh.2:10 ~ “Whoever loves his brother abides in the light.”
The Gospel Light we have is not to be covered, but made obvious for all to see and benefit from, that they, too, may leave the darkness and come into the Light. Go out into the world and let your light shine in a dark world – let people see in you and hear from you, that Jesus Christ is the Light of the World!