I AM: The Light of the World
(A Sermon Series on Jesus’s Identity and Our Response to Him)
Week Two: The Light of the World
John 8:12 NIV
We are looking at the great I AM statements by Jesus about Himself found in the Gospel of John. Last week we saw that Jesus was the Bread of Life come down from heaven. Just as Yahweh provided a means to life through bread/manna in the wilderness, Jesus provides a means to life in the wilderness of human sin. Belief in Jesus brings everlasting life.
Today we are looking at Jesus’s declaration: “I AM the light of the world.” Before we do, let’s review how John the evangelist describes Jesus in John 1:1-5:
- John 1:1-5à 1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. 3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
- Again, after Jesus encountered Nicodemus and made clear that being part of the kingdom of God required being born again, John goes on to make this declaration about Jesus in John 3:19à This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
Later, in chapter 8, we hear Jesus making the same declaration: "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). Let’s look at the broader context for today’s I AM statement.
Chapter 7 begins with Jesus going to the Feast of Tabernacles, even after he told his biological brothers that he would not. You see, even his own brothers did not believe in him, yet they egged him on to go public…show yourself to the world. In my opinion, they wanted to see Jesus make a fool out of himself.
But, “his time had not yet come.” It was NOT time for him to be arrested and crucified for the sins of the world. That would come 6 months later. Right now in the story, it is the time for the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles, a time to remember their wilderness wanderings and the leading of the Israelites by Yahweh with the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.
Well, Jesus ended up attending secretly and began to teach in the temple courts about half-way through the week-long festival. Division among the Jews began to stir. Some said Jesus was from God because he taught with such authority, while others said, “no way,” because they knew where Jesus had come from…Nazareth (they didn’t bother to find out that he was actually born in Bethlehem, the city of David’s birth). [BTW, Bethlehem means “house of bread.” Remember last week’s “I AM” statement?]
Some even accused Jesus of being demon-possessed. It was a hot mess. Then there is a section of scripture NOT found in the earliest manuscripts. Most of your Bibles will have a statement that says the ancient manuscripts do not contain John 7:53-8:11. That means this part of the text cannot be called inerrant, but it does NOT mean that it did not happen. And, because this story is so powerful and frequently passed down in oral tradition, it has remained in our Bibles. You know the story…it’s the story of the woman caught in adultery.
The Jewish leaders were trying to catch Jesus breaking the law so they could have something else to accuse him of. Instead, he turns the tables on them and says, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first throw a stone at her.” Of course, they all drop their rocks and leave. Jesus makes this powerful two-fold statement of love: “Then neither do I condemn you. Go and leave your life of sin.”
We could spend our time in this beautiful story of redemption, but we must move to the main text today. Let’s read the passage containing our key verse. [John 8:12-31.]
Pastor, teacher, and author, John MacArthur, states that when Jesus said, “I am the light of the world,” his audience knew exactly what he was saying. Why? Because of two things: the external evidence of the times and surroundings, and because of the internal evidence of Jewish prophecy. First, the external evidence:
- Again, it was during the Feast of the Tabernacles, a week-long celebration of their forty-year wilderness wanderings with Yahweh as their guideàa pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night.
- Jesus is standing near the treasury in temple courts when he spoke these words.
- This would have to have been the area known as the “Court of Women,” where both Jewish men and women, along with proselytes, were permitted to gather.
- This massive courtyard had 13 receptacles around the courtyard to receive the temple tax, money for purchasing doves, and general donations to the temple.
- The courtyard was surrounded by lamp stands that would burn all night during the Feast of Tabernacles to illustrate the pillar of fire by night.
- We don’t know if the courtyard was fully lighted when he spoke those famous words, or if it was early morning and the fire had gone out. But we do know that it is HERE that Jesus speaks, “I am the light of the world.”
This was a definite declaration that Jesus was the Messiah. The Jews knew it, because they would have known of the Messianic prophecies of Isaiah found in Isaiah 42, 49, 50, and 53 in which the Messiah was known as the servant of Yahweh. This is the internal evidence. In Isaiah 42, for instance, the Lord speaks of his servant like this:
1Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations…6I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, 7to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.
But instead of discussing with Jesus about him being the light of the world, the Pharisees changed the subjectà 13The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.” How can you be trusted, since you are testifying on your own behalf?
We know people who make definite claims about themselves. The famous St. Louis Cardinals pitcher, Dizzy Dean, said, “It ain’t bragging if you can do it,” when challenged because of the claim that he made that he and his brother, Daffy (another pitcher), will win 45 games between them. In fact, they won 49 games and ultimately the 1934 World Series.
Remember Mohammad Ali’s self-proclamation: “I am the Greatest!” And many would bear witness to all the fights he won that he was the greatest boxer of his time.
The Pharisees are saying, “Who is backing you up to your claim? Who bears witness to your declaration, ‘I am the light of the world’”? So, Jesus goes with this, spending the next 15 verses dealing with their objection—never mentioning being the light again in this conversation—by talking about his relationship with the Father. Seven times in this passage he speaks of being from the Father, having been sent by the Father, having the Father testify about him, etc.
Pastor and author, John Piper puts it this way: “Jesus is the light of the world precisely because of his relationship with the Father.”
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." It’s a life-changing verse. It means being so taken with him that you join yourself with Him. If you follow the light is to HAVE the light of life, the world.
Let’s break down this statement by looking at two key phrases.
- The Light of the Worldà Darkness is defined as the partial or total absence of light. In John’s description of Jesus, the Word of life, in his first letter, he says this: 5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all (1:5).
The entire world is not being illuminated just because Jesus is there. He’s not taking away the darkness of the world. So, what does “of the world” mean? According to Piper, it means:
- The world has NO other light but Jesus. It is Jesus or darkness. No third alternative.
- All the world and everyone in it needs Jesus as their light.
- The world was made for this Light, Jesus. Creation was made for the light of Jesus to fill it. The light is the owner of the world.
- One day this world will be filled with the light of Jesus and nothing else. When this light comes, it not only makes sin plain, but sooner or later the light will banish all darkness from the world. This is why Jesus calls hell the “outer darkness.”
Jesus is the radiance of the Father and he will fill the world with his light. Yes, Jesus will reveal your sins if you have his light. But that is good news. It’s like finding out VERY early a diagnosis of cancer in time to cure it. The light of Christ also reveals all that is beautiful. Nothing is the same when you have Jesus as your life. Listen to the way the apostle Paul puts it in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians: (see 2 Cor. 5—new creation…we see nobody the same…we see nothing the same…)
Light is the active force that dispels darkness. Jesus Christ is the:
- Light of truth that dispels the darkness of falsehood
- Light of wisdom that dispels the darkness of ignorance
- Light of holiness that dispels the darkness of impurity
- Light of joy that dispels the darkness of sorrow
- Light of life that dispels the darkness of death
To claim to be the light is to claim to be God. Is Jesus your God? Or, does something or someone else occupy the throne of your hearts? I wonder, does this truth claim of Jesus being the light of the world make any real difference in our lives?
Because if Jesus were really our light, then:
- We would know the truth and the truth would set us free from the lies of the enemy: “You’re not forgiven.” “You’re a loser, just like others say you are.” You’ll always be sick…you’ll always be broke…you’ll always be alone…” LIES!
- We would walk in wisdom because the Word of God would be our guide, NOT Oprah, Fox News, The View, or whatever else we may watch to get knowledge.
- We would strive for holiness, without which no one can truly see God, not impurity of language, thought, and deed.
- We would know JOY…real joy…NOT temporal happiness that passes off as joy. True JOY is being at peace even when the world around you is crumbling. Right now my heart is heavy for the state of the church and the nation. But my heart is filled with JOY because Jesus is my light!
- We would be filled with LIFE, NOT death. Jesus said, “I have come to give you life to the full.” Are we living as if we are ALIVE or are we living waiting to die? What is our witness about the light of life?
In John 12:44-46, Jesus said this, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. 46I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” Let’s look at a second phrase from his opening declaration in John 8:12.
- The light of life. Remember how John describes Jesus in the opening of his Gospel? 4In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. You see, the life of Jesus imparted to those who believe in him enables them to see light. Dead people don’t see anything! When we are we dead in our sin…when we are spiritually dead to Christ, we can’t see. But when the life is imparted to you, you are now able to see. We can’t see the kingdom of God without the life of Jesus in us.
In Paul’s opening address to the church of Colossae, he makes this great proclamation: 13For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Col 1:13-14).
Because of God’s great love for us, the Holy Spirit quickens our hearts, enabling us to respond to his gracious act of Salvation in Jesus Christ, our light. And when we respond by faith in Jesus Christ, we have the light of life…we are no longer in the dominion of darkness. We are King’s kids! We are a reunion of the rescued! This allows us to SEE GOD, who is our light!
Let’s get practical. What does all this mean? Listen to that Jesus says about us in Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” Not only is Jesus the light of the world, WE are the light of the world? How can that be? Because WE have fellowship with Jesus through the Holy Spirit. We are new a new creation. We are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.
Of course the world, which is still in darkness and always will be enemies of Christ, will smell us as the stench of death instead of the fragrance of life. And some of us would rather put on perfume to smell good to the world. We compromise our faith in order to fit in…in order to be politically correct or inclusive. We fear not being accepted by the world, so we don’t tell others about the reason for the hope we have…JESUS!
We don’t get involved to rescue the most vulnerable among us: the unborn…the children being trafficked for sex…the neglected elderly. We’re too busy running our lives that we don’t have time to be salt and light by allowing the light of life to guide us and empower us.
Need another text for proof of what I’m saying? How about Ephesians 5:8-10à 8For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9(for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10and find out what pleases the Lord. When we read on in that passage we see what we should avoid as children of light: 11Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Wow! We’ve covered a bunch of scripture, but we started with this one great I AM statement by Jesus: I AM the light of the world, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." That’s the promise by Jesus to you and me. How is that truth changing your life? You’re either part of the dominion of darkness—in which case there is no life—or you are part of the kingdom of light in Christ—in which case you are in HIS life. And that reality should be growing you and changing you day by day.
The choice is ours you know. AMEN.