The Light of the World
I’m gonna invite you to the book of John. John chapter eight’s where we’re gonna be together. We’re gonna pick up in verse 12 in today’s message. John chapter eight, verse 12.
A little bit of a lead in today of where we’re gonna go. I know having lived in Utah we have a gamut of people that have a different opinion on the type of seasons that we have. We have, we have those that are just, they, when winter comes they come to life because they love the snow. They’re the kind of people that tell you I would rather be cold than hot because when it’s cold all I gotta do is put something else on to get me warm, but when it’s hot, I’m hot, right? So love the winter, love the snow, you’d be out there all day long. Then there are some people that are just, they like the winter, but they like the different months that we have, right? The seasons, I mean wait five minutes in Utah and you’re in a new one, right?
And you love the different seasons, you love being in this type of area of the world because you get really hot summers and you get really cold winters, and you get to experience the gamut. And then we have those that when winter comes a piece of them dies, right? And it’s like a slow death. At the beginning of the winter, like “Oh, winter’s coming,” but by the time you get to the end of the winter, they’re mumbling and grumping over everything.
You cannot wait, as soon as the sun popped out, especially yesterday, you were the one that were like, you were just singing vitamin D as you walk around outside. I mean, we have those kinds of people. And when I think about the way we kind of get away from the winter, we start to get into these summer months, if you’re being honest, even if you love the winter it’s nice to have the sun come back out, right? And your skin starts to look a little pale, you wanna work on your tan. It gets into the summer months, and it’s just nice to be refreshed, and to be outside, and things start to come back to life. And the bird starts to sing again, and when I think about the way we interact towards the seasons in life it reminds me of this text because in John chapter eight, this is where Jesus says “I am the light of the world.”
And it’s acknowledging for us just as your body needs vitamin D so your soul needs Jesus. But when I look at this passage of scripture, John chapter eight, verse 12, and I think about what Jesus is saying here, “I am the light of the world,” I have just a couple of questions. Out of all the superhero names you could pick for yourself, Jesus, why is it light of the world? You could call yourself the grand Poobah of life, the guru of eternity, the hero of heaven, but he comes up with I am the light of the world. And for me I look at that and I think maybe we should have a conversation with Stan Lee, you can come up with a better superhero name. The light of the world, what in the world does that, does that have to do with anything related to us today?
Well, what Jesus is doing here culturally is a pretty significant, powerful phrase. What was important to understand when Jesus is making this statement is where we are chronologically in the timeline of, of life in Israel during the year. You remember we started looking at a particular holiday a few weeks ago called the Feast of Booths. And when you’re in John chapter eight, you’re still in this this period of time called the Feast of Booths. And the feast of Booths was an important holiday for the Israelites, the Jewish people. There were three holidays that they were told to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate, and the Feast of Booths was one of those holidays that they were told at the end of the year, after harvest time, go to Jerusalem, make the pilgrimage, and celebrate this holiday.
And this holiday was a week to commemorate the way that God had delivered his people from Egypt as slaves into the promised land as free people, his chosen people. And during that time period they were so sojourners. They lived and dwelled in tents. And God guided his people through the wilderness to the promised land for 40 years. God provided for them. It says that during that time period not even their clothes began to decay or wear out, that God took care of his people. So at the end of the year, after the harvest time, they would go to Jerusalem to commemorate those moments in which God preserved them as they went from slave to free. And it was to remind them of the goodness of God and his provision, and to continue to look to God as their source in life, because he provides for his people.
And a part of this week celebration, Israel again would return to tents. They would dwell intents during this time period, and they would celebrate what God has done. And a part of this celebration was this festival of light. At night, every night at dusk, they would journey to the temple. And you see a picture of the temple there. And in the temple, in the courtyard, what was called the courtyard of the women, or the place where the temple treasury was located, right in front of the temple, this large courtyard, they would erect these tall pillars, these candelabras that stood 50 feet into the air. No one really knows for sure, I think, exactly how these candle operas look, if you look these up there’s different illustrations.
But what it said about these candelabras is that they were so powerful that when they would light them at dusk and they would stay lit until dawn, and they would distinguish the light at dawn. But these lights were so powerful that they say there’s not even a courtyard in Jerusalem that wasn’t illuminated by the power of these lights. And when this celebration would start, as dusk would come near, they would begin this huge festival of cheering and rejoicing. And they would go into this courtyard, and they said that young men would perform this particular dance, and they would throw torches into the sky, and then they would ascend on a ladder 50 feet up to illuminate these candles.
You can read it in the, the mission of the Sukkot, the Jewish people write about this. The mission is a rabbinical teaching of the law that took place a few centuries after the time of Jesus. They wrote about their law. But they said the celebration was so great in Israel during the feast of Booths, and especially during the time of the lighting these these candles, the celebration was so grand that they would say, the rabbis would write that if you didn’t celebrate during this period, you were the kind of person that never celebrated in your life at all. That’s how positive and exciting and encouraging the atmosphere was during this time. And you can imagine all of these lights just illuminating the sky.
And I think here in this moment Jesus steps in, and you kind of wonder how, how this took place, but Jesus is in the middle of this courtyard with all the people around. And maybe it’s just at the moment they’re about to stick the torch to the light to illuminate the sky. And in that silence as everyone hushed, Jesus delivers this statement that echoes through the darkness of night. Jesus spoke to them saying, “I am the light of the world. “The one who follows me will not walk in darkness, “but will have the light of life.” This would have been an incredibly powerful statement for Israel. It would have not beat around the bush to the identity for which Jesus has, has viewed himself in the way that he wants Israel to understand who he is.
I mean you think about just the significance of I am the light of the world, what this means for the Jewish people, that the phrase I am is a hinge point statement in the gospel of John that Jesus uses multiple times, and it’s to correlate his identity back to Exodus chapter three, right before Israel was led out of captivity, that this was the name that God gave to Moses when Moses said “I’m gonna go before Pharaoh “to say let the Jewish people free from slavery, “who am I gonna tell him to sent me?” And God says “Tell them my name, “and my name is I am.” And when God speaks to Moses, he speaks to him through a burning bush. That’s God’s presence to his people, this Holy burning bush.
And then when God leads his people out of slavery in Egypt into the promised land, he guides them by cloud by by day and by light at night. And Jesus, Jesus is now correlating all of that experience in this celebration, this holiday, and years of lighting, these, these lights in the night sky as himself. I can imagine how sobering this moment was when Jesus places this identity on him in the middle of this celebration, because in Israel’s history, if you read through the Old Testament, what you find is when Israel goes into captivity into Babylon, that it records for us that the presence of God leaves the temple. There’s no more light.
In fact, in Ezekiel chapter 10, the profit Ezekiel, during, during this captivity when Israel is being captured to be carried into Babylon, when all that’s taking place, Ezekiel chapter 10 tell us that the glory of God leaves the temple. No more does that light dwell there. In fact, when Ezra, when you read about the return from captivity from Babylon, when the people of Israel go back into their promised land, when you read about that, Ezra chapter three, in verse 13, it records the people’s response. So Israel goes into a captivity, they’re conquered by Babylonians, they’re carried off for 70 years. After 70 years they’re told that they can return just a few hundred years before the time of Jesus, and they go back and they rebuild the temple. But once the temple is rebuilt it tells us that people were, that were alive during the time when Israel was first taken in captivity, they happen to be able to make the journey back. They survive that 70 years. They make the journey back.
And when the temple is built, and they return to the temple to worship, it tells us that the people that were there in Israel before it was captured, when they get to return, rather than rejoice that the temple is built, they weep. They weep. Wow. Because the presence of God’s gone. Though they have the building, God’s not there. And for hundreds of years, God throughout the Old Testament remains silent, until Jesus comes. You can imagine, we don’t know for sure exactly how this ceremony would have taken place when Jesus gives this pronouncement, whatever it would have been, it would have been enough for Jesus’s voice to be echoed through the multitude of people. But Israel knows when this celebration is over, and they distinguish this light, what represented God’s presence becomes a reminder that the temple still really doesn’t have God’s presence, until Jesus. And Jesus steps forth, and he delivers this statement.
There’s no mistaken to the Jewish mind what Jesus is saying. He is correlating his identity to God himself. The absence of his presence now for hundreds of years, and now finally God is with his people. This statement is so powerful that John in verse 20, he records this thought about Jesus. He says in verse 20 “These words he spoke in the treasury, “which is the court of the women.” This is the court that you’re seeing pictured in front of the temple. As he taught in the temple area, and no one arrested him because his hour had not yet come. I mean John’s even saying what Jesus, what Jesus is declaring in this moment, if they don’t perceive him as God is so blasphemous that they would kill him. But in this moment, his life is preserved. God sovereignly is the father is protecting him in this moment to give, to allow him to give his identity to this world because his hour of the cross had not yet come. So what does this mean for us? What does this mean that Jesus calls himself the light of the world?
Apart from understanding the cultural significance of this statement and why Jesus chooses to identify himself this way, I mean you don’t have to know Jewish history to just understand why, why this phrase of light and life is so powerful. I mean, we talked about it here in the beginning in our valley when we go through the winter months, there becomes this fatigue of the coldness in which your soul desires that vitamin D. You wanna see the spring time. You wanna, you wanna see what, what the light will produce because you know that the light brings life. And that’s what Jesus says at the end of this phrase.
What does it mean that I’m the light of the world? Well being the light of the world, his light brings life to you. The life, the vitality of outside it’s, it’s born again, things are born in the spring, right? I mean, you know, if you’re a gardener, it’s this time of year that you go back into the soil and you plant, and from that comes life. This is when your soul finds life. And this is what Jesus is correlating to for us in this illustration, that from the beginning light has always tied itself to life.
In fact, when God created in the beginning it tells us that he was the light before he created the sun that would give life, that God himself is the life of all things. And now his presence back with his people, what it delivers to them again is life. Not only that, but it tells us in this passage that it provides direction. The one who follows me will not walk in darkness. And you can imagine Israel for hundreds of years, over 400 years up to this point, God had not spoken to his people. It’s as if they’re fumbling in the darkness and God in these moments is calling us to follow him. Why? So that we find direction and purpose and meaning, and value and everything that we are as people, and the way that we choose to live our lives. That God, while he may have been silent, that God was still active, and God still cares.
And he shows us that by, by coming in the flesh and declaring who he is in this moment so that we could connect ourselves to him, and pursue him with our lives that he gives direction.
And last I’ll say this, that light offers hope. You see the magnitude of Jesus’s declaration here, right? It’s not limited in its scope, but when he calls himself the light he very clearly is just saying he’s not the light just to the Jews, but his intentions are for the world, if the world would turn and follow him.
This is a message of hope. So light brings hope. I mean you think about in society, when things bad, when bad things tend to happen, it’s usually in the darkness of night. The worst of crimes seem to be committed in the darkness of night. It’s like, it’s like you as a, as a person, you’re not gonna do bad things in this world when your momma’s sitting right beside you, right? But it’s when you’re all alone that we have the tendency to make poor choices, because you like to be hidden when you make those choices. You like the darkness when bad decisions are made.
And so it is in this world when crimes are committed, the violent crimes of life tend to be more in the darkness than the light. My wife believes in that so much that when the darkness of night comes around our house, any room that she goes in she feels every light must be turned on because it provides protection. The minute of the light goes off in a room there’s a crime committed. So 37 lights. The light brings safety. It brings hope, and sometimes keeps us from always going green. But this is what Jesus says in this moment, the significance of who he is. You don’t always have to understand the culture to know the power of this statement. But you recognize just in the simplicity of the thought of light and what it represents to us. There is life. There is hope. There is direction, and so why, why does it matter? Why does it matter? In verse 13, in the, in the midst of Jesus’ declaration, he immediately faces a challenge.
And in verse 13 you see it from the religious leaders. So it says, “So the Pharisees said to him, “you’re testifying about yourself, “and your testimony is not true.” So Jesus makes this bold declaration, and immediately out of their mouths they’re saying look Jesus, what you’re saying is not true, you’re the liar, you’re the darkness, you’re the problem, what we offer is right. You think of the irony of that statement.
We’re not talking about bad people denying Jesus here, we’re talking about the religious people denying Jesus. In fact, the Jewish people would qualify them as the holiest people in the land, the most righteous people in the land, the people that they look to to teach them about pursuing God. It’s the good people in their society that’s denying Jesus. It’s the good people in their society that are pushing people away from Christ, and saying look, don’t follow him who calls himself the light, follow the rules that we’re gonna give you, and that will enlighten you Leaving me to say this. Guys, I don’t really care what religion says about Jesus. What we should care about is what Jesus says about Jesus.
I would say in your life the most important decision that you can wrestle with, who is Jesus? Even Jesus horn, when you read Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the other three gospels at the end of his life, after his resurrection, or just before his resurrection, I should say, Jesus warns his disciples that people are gonna come along and teach a different Jesus. In fact, in second Corinthians chapter 11, verse three and four, Paul says in that chapter, he says “I’m worried or concerned from you “that people are persuading you “from the purity that is Christ.” In verse four he says this “And they’re teaching you a different Jesus.”
Just because people talk about Jesus doesn’t make it Jesus. Muslims teach about a Jesus, does that make them Christian? Just because people speak of Jesus doesn’t make it Jesus. And who Jesus is becomes an important question to answer. And that’s why I say to us when we’ve gone through this gospel of John together to read it with the eyes of a child, and just embrace Jesus the way that Jesus declares himself. Just if you could for a moment take all religious teaching you may have learned about Christ, and just say in the simplicity of this gospel, “God just show me who you are, “that’s what I desire to know.”
And in verse 14, look at what Jesus says. Jesus responds to their question. You’re testifying about yourself, who are you? And in verse 14, Jesus answered them and said, “even if I testify about myself, “my testimony is true.” Jesus said “Look, I’m gonna tell you who I am. This is who I am, this is what I’m going to say about me, and what I say about me matters, because I know where I came from, and I know where I’m going, but you don’t know where I come from or where I’m going.
Verse 15. You judge according to the flesh. I’m not judging anyone, but even if I do judge, my judgment is true for I am not alone in it, but I, and the father who sent me. Even in your law it has been written that the testimony of two people is true. I am he who testifies about myself, and the father who sent me testifies about me. So they were saying to him “Where is your father?” And Jesus answered “You know neither me, nor my father. “If you knew me, you would know my father also.”
What Jesus is saying is you don’t know where I come from because quite frankly, you don’t know who I am. I am from above, you’re from below. I’ve come representing heaven because I know what heaven’s like, I made it. And Jesus is saying if you don’t know me, it’s because you don’t know the father. And the reason you don’t, you don’t know me is because you have no relationship with the father.
Everything that I’m saying is declared on the back of two witnesses, which is according to Jewish law. And in that statement what Jesus is referencing is his baptism. And Jewish law taught it’s the testimony of two or three people that carried in the court of law, and when Jesus was baptized to affirm Jesus. John the Baptist identifies him. But when Jesus goes into the Jordan river to be baptized, the father speaks, the spirit descends, and Jesus testifies to his identity.
Jesus is recognizing that just because someone calls them a religious leader or a religious person doesn’t mean they know Jesus. And so in verse 24 Jesus does something very powerful with these individuals that, that are rejecting him. It says in verse 24, “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins for unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins. Jesus’ warning it’s not to bad people. Jesus’ warning is to the religious people.
It’s as if he’s saying do you wanna know why I made this declaration? Not only am I life, but I’m the only source of life. You’re going to meet the father. You’re going to meet the Lord in your sins. You will die in your sins, and unless you believe in me, that source in verse 24, you will die in your sins. Guys, you look at a passage like that, and when you juxtapose those two positions, what the Pharisees are saying, and what Jesus is saying in the spurs, it’s a very powerful dilemma placed on the people here, this sort of fork in the road of what are you gonna listen to? What are you going to follow?
It’s not if you believe in a Jesus that matters, but what you believe about Jesus that matters. I mean the religious leaders in this moment very much believe that Jesus was a real person, that Jesus taught good things. They didn’t agree with the things that he taught ultimately because they crucified him for it. But they saw him sort of as a, in a rabbinical representation to the Jewish people. It’s not if you believe in Jesus, but what you believe about Jesus that matters.
Some of us have a faith in Jesus that’s about as useful as your faith in George Washington. It’s like saying like this, I would think nearly all of us, if not all of us in this room probably believe that George Washington was a historical figure that existed, right? But believing in George Washington does little to change your life. And if we examine ourselves over our faith in Jesus, maybe someone could look at it and say, and looking at your faith in Jesus is much like George Washington, because it does little to change your life. It’s a pretty wimpy Jesus that you believe in.
But Jesus in this passage wants us to make no mistake, because what he declared himself to be is the I am. He is the greatest authority of all. He’s the one that created everything. He is the God that preserved the life of the Israelites in slavery to freedom. He’s the one that carried them through the wilderness, and brought them into the promised land, that directed their life by this light. That is Jesus. And so here’s our invitation.
Our invitation in this story is it’s not to convert to religion. Our invitation in this story is one of relationship to walk with Jesus, to fall on our knees and follow him because he wants to bring the light of life to you and to me, and this is, this is the way he says it. In verse 12, look at this one more time. And Jesus, again, spoke to them, saying “I am the light of the world. “The one who follows me will not walk in the darkness, “but will have the light of life.” You hear Jesus’ calling.
He identifies who he is in our life, but then he gives you this statement, this relational statement with it. Follow me. Follow me. This is a declaration over you, and to the world to lay down your life, to surrender, to repent from anything that you pursued in this world. And to just take Jesus, to find your life preserved in him, built in hope in him, with the darkness cast out, and the direction that you and I are called to pursue. So maybe the question that we could ask here is what identity do you wear? What identity do you wear?
In the power of this statement that Jesus made, the leaders of in Jesus’s day went back to attack his identity. You’re not the Messiah, you’re a liar. You’re not the Messiah, you are the darkness. You are the problem. And as followers of Jesus, or people that are just examining Jesus to see if they wanna give their life to Jesus, the world puts that same pressure on you to conform to them, to align your life with them. But the question for you is where do you find your identity?
Because what Jesus is saying in this story is he is the light of the world. He is the great rescuer. He is the place you find your worth, your value, your purpose, your meaning. He is intended to lead your life. And he is intended to be your guide that provides. And what it tells us at the end of this section of scripture, in verse 30, as he said these things, many came to believe in him. This idea of belief, as they leaned their trust fully into what Jesus says.
As a church, can I tell you, in our community there is nothing more special to us than when someone discovers this statement that Jesus delivers in a personal way. When they come to that point in their lives where they let go of anything else they had trusted, and just embrace the freedom of what it means to be surrendered to Jesus as your light. When I come to a passage like this, and I understand contextually and culturally what it means for us as people, for me it brings a praise of thankfulness before the Lord.
It makes my heart thankful because when I look at this story I realize what Jesus is doing here at extreme risk to his life. Jesus stands in the boldness of the darkest of nights, in the middle of a crowd that could take them away at any moment and crucify him and kill him, to clearly identify himself for who he is, that we could see in that clarity what we’re called to follow. Jesus at risk to himself did this for you. Why? Because he knew the value of his light in your life. Your soul needs the light of Jesus more than your body needs the light of the sun.
Perhaps the question then we can ask ourselves is where is Jesus leading you that you aren’t following? Where is Jesus calling you that you aren’t willing to go that this light has returned for you in the midst of God being silent for hundreds of years, now Christ has come for you. Where in your life do you, do you need that healing touch of Christ? Where in your life do you need him to illuminate that path? Where in your life do you need his life to rejuvenate you? Where in your life do you need the hope of Christ to reign and to rule?
That was the declaration of this statement in your life. And like the pharoses, where do you wrestle? Where do you push Jesus away? The idea of this salvation that Jesus brings is a beautiful story. It reminds me of a story.
There was a man in World War II named Desmond Doss. They made a movie about Desmond Doss not too long ago, I think is about four or five years ago, called “Hacksaw Ridge.” But Desmond Doss was, he claimed to be a Christian. He was a follower of Jesus, but one of the unique beliefs of Desmond Doss is that he didn’t believe in carrying a weapon. And he went into the military in World War II, and he found a way to still serve in the military without carrying a weapon. He volunteered to be a medic.
And he was going into the Battle of Okinawa, and he found himself on the top of a ridge, and behind him was a 35-foot cliff. His, the group of soldiers that he was serving with went on top of this ridge, and they fought this battle Okinawa, and it was win the battle or die because they couldn’t get off the cliff fast enough to find their lives saved anyway. So they fought and they fought hard, and they fought valiantly. But in this battle there was many people that lost their lives. And Doss went into this battle, and he valiantly, without any weapon, rescued person after person, just giving all that he had throughout the entire day.
He would rescue someone, and he would carry them to the cliff. He would tie a rope around their chest, and he would lower them down 35 feet. And the military claimed that after the end of this battle that Doss would have rescued more than a hundred people, and he denied it. He said “At best it was probably 50.” And so they finally settled on 75 people. And he received the medal of honor for what they think is at least 75 people that he preserved their life. But you think of the boldness of that moment, that risk to who he was, willing to run into that battle to save lives.
And when you look at a story like this, Jesus is that hero at a greater risk than even Doss was willing to run, because Jesus knew his days were numbered, because Jesus’ whole purpose was to give his life for you. And the calling of these moments is the calling of a hero. “I am the light of the world. “I’m declaring this to the world to give the world “an opportunity to find its saving hand in me, “that if you would just follow me, “the light of life would be made known to you, “and the path that I lead you on, “and the hope that I bring can be yours,” because when you look at the world around you right now guys, it’s easy to see things seem pretty precarious right now. What do you hope in? With the gunfire going all around and things that could easily fall apart tomorrow, where is your hope?
Jesus gives this declaration in the darkness of your life that you would pursue him with all that you are, as he has given all that he is that you could find life in him.