Jesus, the Light of the World
October 1, 2023

Jesus, the Light of the World

Preacher:
Passage: John 8:12

Jesus says, “I AM”

Tonight we’ll continue looking at the second of seven statements Jesus makes about who he is, commonly called the I Am Statements of Jesus. As I said last week, “the words, “I AM” are themselves significant, because on the Old Testament, God reveals himself to His people with the name “I AM” – Yahweh. Jesus does the same here in John’s gospel. But as we consider these statements, we’ll be focusing on the last part of the statement – on what it is Jesus says He is.

Jesus said these words – he referred to himself as the light of the world – at a specific time. And the timing of Jesus’s words helps us to understand the significance of his words. You’ll notice in John 7, verse 2, that the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand. And a little further on, verse 14 says, “About the middle of the feast, Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching.” And our verse in John 8, verse 12, is spoken in close connection with this Jewish festival called the Feast of Booths.

The Importance of Context

So why is that significant? Well, centuries earlier, the Jews – the people of Israel – they were enslaved in Egypt. But God raised up a prophet named Moses to lead them out of their bondage into a new land that God had promised to give them. And along the way, as they waited to enter the land, God cared for them in the wilderness. He gave them bread from heaven, he provided water for them from a rock, and he was with them to guide them as a pillar of cloud and a pillar of bright fire.

Now, the Feast of Booths was a special event God commanded the Jews to observe every year. Because one of the main purposes of this festival was to remind the Jews how God had led them in the wilderness. God gives instructions for the Feast of Booths in Leviticus 23: “You shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

So the Jews observed this festival, remembering what God had done for their forefathers. Over time, the Jews developed a water-pouring ceremony and a fire-lighting ceremony – these ceremonies reminded them how God provided water in the wilderness, and how he was present with them as a great pillar of fire to lead them.

But Jesus does something shocking. He makes it clear that the Feast wasn’t just a festival to remember the good old days of God’s provision. The Feast was actually a sign, pointing ahead to something even greater that was yet to come. What was the Feast anticipating? What was the Feast pointing to? It was pointing to Jesus.

In John 7, verse 37, Jesus stands up on the last day of the feast – likely around the time of the water pouring ceremony – and he announces, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” And in our passage tonight – John 8, verse 12, Jesus seems to be pointing to the fire-lighting ceremony at the Feast of Booths, and he declares, I am the Light of the World.

So with this context in mind, I want to break down what it means for Jesus to be the Light, and then what it means for him to be the light Of the World.

I am the Light…

When Jesus declares, “I am the light,” he’s identifying himself with the light that led the Jews through the wilderness. This is significant for many reasons.

First, it means that Jesus is claiming to be the LORD of the Old Testament. Exodus 13:21 tells us, when the Jews were leaving Egypt – that “…the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light...” The LORD was the light that helped the Jews in the wilderness – and the LORD – the Lord Jesus Christ – continues to be the light that leads us in darkness.

When the LORD gave light to the Jews in the wilderness, it was a light of physical, visible brightness. But when Jesus said he’s the light of the world, he wasn’t talking about that type of light. He didn’t have a heavenly spotlight beaming down on his head – he didn’t glow in the dark. Jesus gives a form of light that’s far more uncommon – that’s far more important – he gives spiritual light.

I’m fully aware, some of you might not be impressed. Spiritual light? What’s so great about that? See, we hear Jesus’s statement here, and it doesn’t affect us like it should, because we don’t think of ourselves as being in darkness. We think of ourselves as good people, as sensible, as discerning – we believe that we see the world clearly.

But the Bible tells us otherwise. Listen again to the words of Jesus here: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Notice here – Jesus recognizes that the default position of his listeners – the natural condition of humanity – is darkness. Without Jesus, we walk in darkness. Not in love, but lust. Not in reverence, but rebellion. Not in sanctity, but selfishness.  Not in wisdom, but ignorance.

Just consider some basic questions here: How do we know the difference between right and wrong? How can we gain reliable information about who God is? How do we find out the purposes he designed us for? Where can we go to find out what God thinks of us? Is he happy with us? Is he angry with us? How do we know? Who can tell us? Do we have this life thing all figured out, or have we just arrogantly assumed that we do without actually knowing?

Look, I can invent my own answers to these questions – I’m sure you could, too. I could pick and choose a couple things that sound good. But I would still be in darkness, that leads to disobedience against God and death. You and I can’t just settle for answers that sound good. We need the actual answers. We need divine light to show us the truth, because human opinions and ideas aren’t enough.

But whoever follows Jesus will no longer walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

In our sinfulness and selfishness, we don’t want God’s truth – we’re blind to its goodness. But Jesus is the one who can heal us of our blindness. He’s the one who can lead us into light and life: peace with God, fullness of joy, true pleasure that lasts forever. We can’t have these things without Jesus.

…Of the World

And you’ll notice in our text: Jesus say’s he’s the light of the world. And interestingly, when Jesus says he’s the light of the world, it’s both an inclusive statement, and an exclusive statement.

 

It’s an inclusive statement, because it means that Jesus offers himself to all sorts of people from every nation. This means that Jesus isn’t just the light who led the Jews through the wilderness in the days of Moses. Jesus isn’t just a light for the Jews who lived around Jerusalem. Jesus is the light of the world. God has put forth Jesus to provide light for Mexicans, for Native Americans and for the people of India, for Russians and Ukrainians, for the Chinese, the Sudanese, the Portuguese – Christ came to give light to the world. And within those nations, even within our own nation, Christ has come so that his light would come to the rich and the poor, to blue collar workers and white collar workers, to high school dropouts and university PhDs, to the old and to the young, to the lovely and the unlovely, to people happily situated in a church AND to people who are utterly lost in their sin. Jesus is the light God has given for us all.

Jesus being the light of the world is also an exclusive statement, though. Because Jesus is saying, for the whole world, he is the light! – the Supreme light, the one-and-only light, to whom all nations must come. It doesn’t matter how sincerely someone follows Buddha, or the teachings of the prophet Mohammed. These world religions teach a different message than the good news of Christ, and they can’t make us right with God. I could commit my life to practicing good morals, saving the environment, and being a good neighbor – but if, at the end of it all, I haven’t fallen on my face before Jesus to worship Him as my Savior and to follow him out of my lostness, then I’m still missing the mark! I’m still dead in the darkness, and I don’t have the light of life.

So as we consider who Jesus reveals himself to be here – as the light of the world, here are four quick ways we can act and take Jesus’s Word seriously:

Regarding Jesus as the Light of the World

Number 1, Consider what it means to be lost in the darkness without Jesus. Recognize with a humble heart how needy we are for God to make himself known to us.

Number 2, give thanks that God has provided a light that didn’t just sprinkle a couple faint sundrops into our darkness from far away – but Jesus Christ stepped down into our darkness. He carried the foul stains of our sin to the cross and died in our place, so we could be clothed in the shining robes of his righteousness. He entered into the gloomy blackness of the grave so we could enter into the dazzling brightness of God’s presence. Thank God for this! We’ve done nothing to earn it. It’s a gift of God’s kindness.

Number 3, follow Jesus. Follow him when it’s easy. Follow him when it’s hard. He’s the only right light who can lead us into receiving the promises of God, just like the people of Israel were led to the Promised Land. Listen to his Word, here in the whole of Scripture – because His Word is a light to our feet, and a lamp for our path. He won’t lead you astray. He won’t disappoint you.

Fourth and finally, for those of you who are following Christ, let the light of Christ shine in you. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus speaks to his disciples, saying, “You are the light of the world…” And a couple verses later he encourages them, “…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Those who follow Christ and his word, who resemble him, who know him – they are commissioned by Christ to shine in the dark wilderness of the world. But notice – when we let our lights shine, it isn’t so that the world would be attracted to us or impressed with us. We shine so that people will see the source of our shining – so that people will give glory to God.

All we have is from him, through His Son, Jesus Christ, the light of the world. So let’s close by giving glory to God our Father together. Please pray with me:

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