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"I AM the Light of the World" - The Claims of Christ

“I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

 - John 8:12 -

There was a ceremony in Jesus’ day called the Illumination of the Temple. It involved the lighting of four golden temple lamps that were seventy-five feet high and fed by oil. The lamps reminded temple-goers of the pillar of fire that guided Israel in their wilderness journey. Their brilliance was said to have illuminated all Jerusalem, and all through the night, the people danced before the Lord and sang praises to the great God of Israel. It is during this ceremony that Jesus declares: “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12). He earlier called Himself the bread of life (after feeding the multitude) and the water of life at Jacob’s well. But here, at the temple treasury, Jesus zeroes in on light: a central theme of the Old Testament.


Creation began with God and light. In an instant, what was empty and void was filled with life. Light formed the formless and drove back the darkness, so much so that Isaiah described Messiah’s arrival this way: ‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined’ (9:2). Without Christ, life is formless, dark, and void. Fortune and fame can’t fill it. Neither can fast cars or speedboats. So while Jesus is the light of the world, is He the light of your world?

John says of Christ: ‘In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it’ (1:4-5). People walk in darkness when they try to live without Christ. He came to illuminate our world. He came as the light that shines in a dark place. In Jesus, God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. Hear Paul: ‘For God, who said “Let there be light in the darkness,” had made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ’ (2 Cor. 4:6). Our lives only fill up with light when we see and understand God in the face of Christ, all bright, beautiful, and shining.

There is only one light strong enough to penetrate the sinful heart. Christ didn’t say He was ‘a’ light, but ‘the’ light. The light of Christ is not to merely admire. It’s a light that leads like the pillar in the wilderness. It leads out of sin, sorrow, and the darkness of death. Those who walk in the light and perceive its brilliance will never walk in spiritual darkness. Until you have Jesus, you are spiritually dead, and dead people are blind to the things of God. Dead people need the life of God that reveals the light of Christ. As Paul tells the Ephesians: ‘I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people’ (1:18).


Following Jesus means His light illuminates our path. His light never fades or goes out. Jesus is the radiance of the Father and He will fill your life with the light of His glory. You’ll see everything in its original beauty. This is why ‘if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away; behold, all things become new’ (2 Cor. 5:17). The world belongs to God, and one day, when our lease on earth expires, it will be lit only with the light of Christ. Sons of darkness will go to a place that Christ calls outer darkness filled with weeping and gnashing of teeth. There is no light there, but there are more horrors than one could imagine. Without Jesus, there is only darkness.

John records Christ warning: “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light” (12:36). Jesus is the light of the world, and so are all who believe. Our words and actions should reflect His light. Christ teaches: “If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight is shining on you” (Luke 11:36). Light witnesses to a dark world, so we are to be cities on hilltops, glowing in the night for all to see. Live so that your life points people to the light of Christ. The Pharisees knew from Scripture that the Christ would be the light of the world. Isaiah not only called Messiah a ‘great light’ but God promised His Anointed: “I will also give You as a light to the nations, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth” (49:6).


As the Old Testament closes, Malachi looks forward to this coming light, saying: ‘But for you who fear My name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in His wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture’ (4:2). So when Jesus calls Himself the light of the world, He is identifying Himself as Messiah. The Pharisees met His claim with hostility, saying: “You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true” (8:13). They say He is boasting with no witness to confirm it. The light of the world is shining right at them, but their hearts are hard and their minds unconvinced. They demand proof, but it’s never enough. Knowing God personally is the last thing on their minds. All they want is to trap Christ in His words, then kill Him and extinguish the light.

Jesus tells these religious elitists: “I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin. Where I go you cannot come” (John 8:21). His bluntness shows they’re responsible for what they will or won’t believe. In the face of the evidence God so graciously gives, the Pharisees’ unbelief is inexcusable. John says earlier in his gospel: ‘He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him’ (1:11). Salvation is offered and the evidence compelling, so Jesus never sugarcoats the truth about Himself. He warns time and again: “You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come” (7:34). Hell is full of people seeking and not finding Christ. Theirs will be weeping and gnashing of teeth in eternal darkness.


In the tale of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man asks for Lazarus to “dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue: for I am tormented in this flame” (Luke 16:24). The rich man rejected Scripture, so all that remained was endless agony. The time we have to decide for Christ is limited. People will wake up this morning not knowing their last breath will come today. Paul warns: ‘Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation’ (2 Cor. 6:2). Truth be told, those who wait on tomorrow to give their life to Christ are often the ones who die today. They die in their sins and forfeit heaven like so many Pharisees did.

The sect of the Pharisees lived by self-achievement, which made the prophesied Savior redundant. They forgot Isaiah’s words: ‘We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind’ (64:6). They missed their true spiritual condition and mocked Jesus with blasphemy. They laughed when they should have cried. They weep today but nobody hears their screams. They will forever seek Jesus but never find Him. In their torment, they will finally realize Christ didn’t come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32). What lost opportunity!


Jesus chides them: “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world” (John 8:23). The worldly will die in their sins. 1 John 2:15 warns: ‘Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the father is not in Him.’ The world celebrates carnal ambition and selfish desire. It denies that faithless people die in their sins. Trusting that Christ is who He claims to be is the only thing keeping us out of hell, so John says that ‘as Jesus spoke these words, many believed in Him’ (8:30), but context indicates they weren’t ready to fully trust Him. This is a common condition today. Many believe in a higher power but live unchanged lives. They say they’re Christians but Christ is absent in their lives. Paul calls them ‘lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power’ (2 Tim. 3:4-5). To deny the light and power of Christ is to stand condemned.

False faith is everywhere and it’s deadly. Mental assent isn’t enough, as ‘even the demons believe and tremble’ (James 2:19). So Jesus tells the somewhat convinced: “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed” (John 8:31). Why did Jesus say this? Because those without true, transformative faith always walk away. It’s common for deceived people to think they’re walking with God when they’re not at all. Millions go to church and do good works, but Christ will still tell them: “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matt. 7:23). They may have a form of Christianity, but if the light of the world is not in it, then their future is doom and darkness. The only remedy is to abide in the Word of God.


Abiding in the Word is the mark of a true disciple. This is how God communicates with us. Study the Word, taking time to grasp its meaning. In the parable of the sower, the devil steals the Word from those who don’t grasp it. Reading, understanding, and then acting on the Word puts us in the hands of the Father and nothing removes us from His care and protection. Abiding is therefore evidence that we’ve moved from darkness into light. As the beloved disciple cautions: ‘Anyone who wanders away from this teaching has no relationship with God. But anyone who remains in the teaching of Christ has a relationship with both the Father and the Son’ (2 John 9).

Jesus rounds out His light of the world discourse by further enraging the Jews. He tells them: “If you abide in My word, then you are truly My disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32). How dare He call them slaves! They answer: “We are Abraham’s seed and have never been in enslaved to anyone” (8:33). They’re saying: “Don't You know who we are? We’re God’s chosen people!” The Jews had reason to be proud of their heritage but they ignored that Israel had often rebelled against God and been enslaved by pagans. The children of Abraham spent years laboring in Egypt. Then, during the time of judges, Israel fell into bondage seven times. Finally, the whole nation was carried off to Babylon for seventy years. Even as the Pharisees attack Jesus, the nation was under Roman rule! They claimed freedom on the basis of heritage, but there’s a big difference between worldly freedom and Biblical freedom.


Jesus then says something else they don’t want to hear: “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever” (John 8:34-35). As slaves of sin, they will have no inheritance until they repent and become children of God. In other words, lineage without conversion is pointless. They may have been God’s chosen people as a nation but not as individuals. Long ago, in a world full of sin and false idols, God showed His goodness to one group of people so that, through them, the world might know His glory. When they rejected God, He gave them the Law and sent prophets to light their path. Yet they broke the Law and killed the prophets. Years passed until God finally sent His Son, the very person they are here talking to. How they (and we) respond to the Son’s offer of light and freedom determines eternal destiny. The Pharisees chose poorly, but we can choose light while the day of grace continues.


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