Jesus, the Light of the World

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The second ‘I AM’ saying of Jesus in this Born Identity series is found in John 8:12:

"WHEN JESUS SPOKE AGAIN TO THE PEOPLE, HE SAID, “I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD. WHOEVER FOLLOWS ME WILL NEVER WALK IN DARKNESS, BUT WILL HAVE THE LIGHT OF LIFE.”

John 8:12

David reminded us of the importance of context in reading God’s Word; for example, Jesus says “I am the Bread of Life” the day after feeding the five thousand. After feeding them physically, he now offers to nurture them spiritually. 

The context of “I am the Light of the World” is less straightforward. Notes in our Bibles indicate that ‘the earliest and most reliable manuscripts do not have John 7:53-8:11’, thus placing “I am the Light of the World” in chapter 7, in the context of the Festival of Tabernacles. A prominent feature of this festival was the Illumination Ceremony, when four huge lamps were lit to remind Israel of how God had led them through the wilderness. At the end of the festival, the lamps were extinguished. In this dramatic context Jesus declares his born identity. David addressed the three phrases of this ‘I AM’ statement in turn:

 

I am the Light of the World

This was controversial – not just ‘the Light of Israel’, but ‘the Light of the World’ – Jews and Gentiles. Jesus is for everyone. This was a step too far for some of Jesus’ listeners and immediately he was challenged by the Pharisees:

"HERE YOU ARE, APPEARING AS YOUR OWN WITNESS; YOUR TESTIMONY IS NOT VALID."

John 8:13

Jesus’ claim holds true today, but it is still often a step too far – not everyone will accept it.


Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness

Undeniably we live in a dark world. Sin, brokenness and hopelessness surround us. This darkness has devastating consequences on our relationships with God, with each other and with our environment. If we ‘see the Light’, believe and follow Jesus, we will no longer be prisoners in the kingdom of darkness. Jesus reissues this call in a later chapter of John’s gospel:

"BELIEVE IN THE LIGHT WHILE YOU HAVE THE LIGHT, SO THAT YOU MAY BECOME CHILDREN OF LIGHT."

John 12:36

But will have the Light of Life

Life, David pointed out, is a key theme of John’s gospel – eternal life found in Jesus. The light of Jesus, unlike the lamps in the Festival of Tabernacles, will never be extinguished. Later on in John’s gospel, Jesus proclaims:

"WHOEVER LIVES BY BELIEVING IN ME WILL NEVER DIE."

John 11:26

Postscript 1: This ‘I AM’ appears again in the next chapter (John 9), when Jesus restores the sight of a blind man – a wonderfully clear demonstration of Jesus as the Light of the World! How is our eyesight? Can we see clearly now?


Postscript 2: This ‘I AM’ differs from all the others because Jesus turns it around and says:

"YOU ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD."

Matthew 5:14

We have no light of our own but are called to reflect and radiate the light of Jesus.

  1. Explore references to ‘light’ in the Old and New Testaments: prophecies, predictions, promises… and find one that encourages you as you walk in the light.
  2. David spoke of the devastating consequences of darkness on our relationship with our environment. Consider what these might be and how we might address them.

 

How can I both reflect and radiate the light of Christ in my life this week?

Dorothy McMillan

Dorothy McMillan

Dorothy McMillan