The Light of the World
Have you heard it said, or has it come from your mouth, the phrase, “That’s your truth…” We live in an age that understands the perception and reasoning of mankind to be flawed. But instead of identifying it as flawed, and stating there is an objective Truth, we “subjectify” truth to the experience of the individual. One could perceive an event and interpret their findings, and another person could perceive the same event and interpret different findings. It happens every day at the Gaither house, like a Calvin & Hobbes comic: “He hit me!” “No I didn’t—“ “Yes you did!” “No, your face hit my hand!” “You meant to do it!” “Well, that fits your meta-narrative perfectly, that’s your truth!” “My perception IS reality!”
It’s a trite example, but it works. An event happened. Two different perceptions of the event occurred. They don’t agree with each other. Is there then no truth to be found? They claim different interpretations of the same event. Who is right? And if neither, did the event never happen? Who can interpret the Truth?
As we dive into John, let me remind you of the context of our passage. We are in chapter 8. There was great Messianic expectation for the people of Israel at this time. They sought to be delivered from—once again, the largest and most powerful empire the world had known to that date. Jesus was healing the sick, raising the dead, and feeding the thousands. He seemed like the natural choice for a military leader to lead the nation against Rome! The people where thronging to him and the religious elite were jealous. Not far into the gospel of John, we see plans made by the religious leaders to capture and kill Jesus. In our reading, Jesus had addressed them about this twice. We also see the Pharisees had sent the temple guards to arrest him, but when they heard him speak, the were dumbfounded, and said, “No one ever spoke like this man!”
In our passage today, Jesus and his disciples were in Jerusalem for the Feast of Booths. The feast celebrated Yahweh’s provision for the people of Israel as they were delivered from the tyranny of Egypt. They were led into the desert for 40 years of wandering. Specific rituals during the feast pointed to the ways God provided for his people during this wandering. The Feast of Booths celebrated God’s provision of both water and light. Water was provided through the rock, struck by Moses, and light was provided by a pillar of fire that led them by night. The feast celebrated this provision with great lights in the temple that were said to light up the city of Jerusalem. There was great rejoicing in the city, and men would rejoice, sing and dance under the light from the feast. It’s in this context that we read Jesus’ statement in verse 12. We are going to look at the passage under the following headings:
The Claim, The Promise, The Protest, The Proof
We will spend the majority of our time unpacking Jesus’ claim in verse 12. Please stand with me as I read.
 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.”  So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.”  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.  You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.  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.  In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true.  I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”  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.”  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.
 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.”  So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?”  He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.  I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”  So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning.  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.”  They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father.  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.  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.”  As he was saying these things, many believed in him. (ESV). [pray]The Claim: … 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.”
I believe Christians have become anesthetized to the power of this statement. It could be so simply because of exposure, or it could be because we don’t fully understand the truth of what Jesus was saying about himself. This is a large, sweeping claim, with implications that pierce every facet of life for the christian. In order to understand the breadth and the potency of this statement, we first must understand the claim in the context of those to whom Jesus was speaking. During the Feast of Booths, they would light four huge lamps in the temple’s court of women. There was exuberant celebration under those lamps. DA Carson quoted sources from the Mishnah, stating “‘Men of piety and good works’ danced through the night, holding burning torches in their hands and singing songs and praises. The Levitical orchestras cut loose, and some sources attest that this went on every night of the Feast of Tabernacles, with the light from the temple area shedding its glow all over Jerusalem.” This was so great a celebration that a rabbinical saying exclaimed ‘He who has not seen the joy of the place of water-drawing has never in his life seen joy.’
In Jesus’ statement, “I am the light of the world,” he was placing his light above that of the lamps of Jerusalem, as a greater light than that of the feast. He was not merely the light of the Jews, but the light to the world. This is significant for many reasons, foremost is that Jesus was claiming his light was that for the entire world. He is not merely Messiah to Israel, but savior of the world.
Light has symbolic meaning for the people of Israel, more than festival joy. In the Bible, light represents or is associated with truth, understanding, life, moral good, righteousness, salvation, the Word of God, glory, and God Himself. Here are some passages that give light to what He is saying:
Truth: Psa 43:3 Send out your light and your truth;
Understanding or wisdom: Ecclesiastes 2:13 - Then I saw that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness.
Life: Psalm 36:9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light. And 13:3: Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
Good: Isa 5:20
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,
who put darkness for light and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
Good is contrast with evil as darkness is to light.
Righteousness: Psalm 97:10:
O you who love the Lord, hate evil! He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked. Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.
Salvation: Psalm 27:1
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
Word: Psalm 119:105
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Glory: Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, you are very great!
You are clothed with splendor and majesty, covering yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent.
God himself is described as light:
Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will be seen upon you.
And nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising.
It is with this understanding that John wrote later in his epistles:
1 John 1:5
God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. (ESV)
Jesus’ claim as the Light of the world encompassed all of this. In regards to truth, Jesus is full of grace and truth (Jhn 1:14) and asserted:“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. (Jhn 14:6)
In regards to to understanding, he is without parallel, and teaches with authority. Where the rabbi of the day would refer to other teachers as the basis of their authority, Jesus would claim authority for himself, and say,
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment…
He interpreted the law perfectly, and taught us with the words of the Father.
In regards to life, Jesus asserted “I am the resurrection and the life.” (Jhn 11) and eternal life is “knowing [the Father] and the Christ whom he sent. (Jhn 17:3)
In regards to his goodness, He said, “No one is good, except God.” (Mk 10:18) And “I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” (Jhn 8:29)
In regards to his righteousness, he asks, “which one of you convicts me of sin?” (Jhn 8:46)
In regards to salvation, he states that “Whovever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.” (jhn 3:16) And “No one comes to the father except by me.” (Jhn 14:6)
As to the Word, “The word became flesh and dwelt among us,” and we are clean because of “The word he has spoken to [us].” John 15:3
As to glory, he prayed “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed…” (Jhn 17:5) and told his disciples “they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Matt 24:30)
And here, in John 8, he proclaims that He is the Light of the world.
We cannot gloss over, and casually read past this great claim. He is claiming to be of greater power, greater worth, than of the very sun that shines light and gives us day. And with his claim of power he gives us …
Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
There is a condition to this promise. Whoever follows… this is a common analogy for one who is a disciple. A disciple one who submits themselves to the teaching of another. They trust, and seek to understand the thinking, the way of life, of their teacher. We are not, by nature, good “followers.” Some are better than others, by nature, or by temperament. I have 4 children. When we walk through the parking lot, 3 of them like to run ahead as if they are leading, and one is off in their own world, meandering about 20 feet behind, jumping on every crack in the pavement, smelling every flower!
To follow Christ means to take his yoke upon us, to learn of him, to seek understanding from Him, to let Him determine what is true. Right thinking leads to right living. And the Bible makes clear distinctions on what is right and wrong. It matters little what your truth is, the ultimate reality is this: Jesus is the Son of God, and is the Light of the world. Either you walk in His light, or you walk in darkness.
Let’s take this back to their context, their timeline. They were expecting a Messiah. One that would free them from their oppressors. One that would shine the Light of God on them as His chosen people. One that would lead them, and rule them in righteousness. One that would give them life. But the Light exposes sin. It exposes darkness. Darkness hates the light and runs from it. So do those for whom their evil deeds are exposed. Their own determination of truth, their own wanderings are exposed in the light of Christ.
What is the promise? That the one who follows Jesus will walk in the light. “To walk” is a Hebrew idiom for their way of life. The one who follows Jesus will have a way of life that is righteous, not because they are righteous, but because He is and is making them righteous. He will lead them in righteousness. And it is a way of blessing, the light of life! “Blessed are those who walk not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers, but their delight is in the law of the Lord and on His law they meditate day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; in all that he does he prospers.” Psa 1:1-3
There is blessing to follow, to be a disciple of Jesus, to follow His light. There is light and life and joy and goodness and righteousness that is greater than all the treasure of the earth.
The Protest:  So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.”
When one hears something they don’t like, they protest. They find a loophole, and exploit it! Do you (or your children) do this: But you said “such and such!” Caught you! So, I therefore don’t have to do what you’ve asked me to do!
Often, when arguing against something one can’t refute, they seek to discredit the argument, to dismiss it. They could not refute the miracles Jesus had done. They could not argue with his teaching, and every opportunity they had to contest, he always won. So they appeal both to Jesus’ own words, though out of context, and to the law, to assert that his testimony was not true! In John 5:31 Jesus stated that if “I alone bear witness about myself my testimony is not true!”
The pharisee’s response: let’s hold you to your own word, Jesus! But the next verse is this: “There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true…” Friends, John the Baptist, the Spirit of God, and a voice from heaven — the Father, testified that Jesus was the Son of God.
 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.  You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.
For all the implications stated in our first point, Jesus’ testimony regarding himself is true. Why? He tells us: Look at the word for. Jesus knows where he came from, and he knows where He is going.
Who here knows their origin? Truly, you might know your biological mother and father, and maybe your grandparents, possibly your great grandparents, but at some point your knowledge of your origin terminates. Even ancestry.com will run out of their database and at some point terminate the beginning of your existence to a person. But who created that person? Jesus knows his beginning, for he is the beginning. He knows where he came from, and he knows where he is going: to the Father’s side. None of us have that kind of understanding, that breadth of knowledge, or power to know what is determined for us, or to determine our own destiny. Only Jesus. And because of his knowledge, he deems and determines truth, and can and will judge based on that truth.
They judge according to the flesh… according to what they perceive and their own self-interests. Jesus’ words in context mean, he doesn’t judge in the same manner. As we keep reading, he says in the text “I have much to say and much to judge about you…” so what does he mean? Let’s read.
 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.
Jesus does all things in unity and solidarity with the Father.
 In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true.  I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”  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…”
This is their second attempt to debunk Jesus’ witness. If he can close the loophole, they attack his lineage. Son of a carpenter, and some knew Mary and that she was pregnant before they married.
 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.”  So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?”  He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.  I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”
What did Jesus mean by “You will seek me?” That they will seek the Messiah, but will have rejected the only one who could save them from their truest enemy, sin and death.
 So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning.  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.”  They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father.
Jesus had proclaimed from the beginning that He is the Messiah. They would not hear, would not listen, would not accept it. It did not fit in their paradigm of their own truth, it did not complement their understanding.
How would they know? When would they know that Jesus was the Messiah? He pointed to the proof:The Proof:
 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.  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.”
What is the proof he is referring to? The crucifixion. This proves the testimony of God the Father that Jesus was and is the Light of the world.
 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.  The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised,  and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.  When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (ESV)
Jesus pointed to the event of his death as the moment they would know that He is the Light of the world. All his words, his deeds, were done with the authority of the Father. His truth is ultimate truth. His testimony is true, and his death and resurrection proved the ultimate reality of his words.
Recall with me that at the point of his crucifixion, his disciples, save John and maybe Peter, were scattered and hiding. They were fearful for their lives, for they too could be condemned. It wasn’t until the resurrection, and many convincing proofs that they came out from their hiding and proclaimed Jesus as their risen Lord. His testimony is true. It is ultimate truth. He is light, and He has come to reveal to us the Light of the gospel, that we have been made righteous by his death, and are vindicated by his resurrection. We walk in His light because He has dispelled the darkness for those who trust in Him, for those who believe in Him, for those who follow Him, for those who believe and submit to His word, and find Him to be glorious!