I Am the Light of the World
“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (Jn 8:12)
John’s ‘I Am’ statements are known the world over, by theologians and Sunday school children alike, they take a few moments to learn but a lifetime to ponder and appreciate. This morning as we consider the Light of the world, may we seefresh truth about the Lord Jesus, and worship him accordingly.
The ceremonial background to this statement is the feast of tabernacles (Jn 7:2) where the Jews remembered God’s provision as he led their ancestors for 40 years in the wilderness. On the last day of the feast the Lord Jesus proclaimed himself as the water of life (Jn 7: 37), and now the day after the feast has finished, he announces himself as the Light of the world. This declaration was made in the treasury (v20) which ‘was in the court of the women, the most public part of the temple where four golden candelabra stood; each with four golden bowls’. These massive lampstands brilliantly illuminated this very public arena and the columns of light would have reminded the children of Israel that God had once led the nation by a pillar of fire through the wilderness. Nehemiah says to God of the pillar “thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness … the pillar of fire by night, to shew them light, and the way wherein they should go” (Neh 9:19).
Since the feast was now over, the ceremonial lights had gone out for another year. Added to this, was the religious darkness that rejected Christ (Jn 7:20,30,44,45), who was the fulfilment of this Old Testament type. The scene then was very bleak; physical darkness because the lamps had been extinguished, and worse still a spiritual darkness that rejected the true Light. This is always the case; religion despises the Lord Jesus.
Against this dark and gloomy backdrop Christ heralds that he is the Light of the world. He was the one that the pillar of fire pointed to. He is not a physical light that leads to a physical land, but he is a spiritual light amidst a world of darkness that can lead to eternal life. Israel were guided to the edge of the promised land, but Christ can lead people into a heavenly country. This world was lost in the wilderness of sin, until the light of the world came and illuminated the way to God.
The pillar of fire was restricted to one nation only, but a hallmark of John’s Gospel is that this is a global Saviour – he is for the world, indeed the Light of the world.
This verse is also pregnant with thoughts of the deity of Christ. Since God is light in his nature and essence (1 Jn 1:5) the Lord Jesus also claims to be ‘the light’ in an absolute and essential sense. He has the same nature as God, for he is equal to God. Consistent with the workings of the Godhead, Christis the visible manifestation of who God is, little wonder John wrote in the prologue “we beheld his glory” (Jn 1:14). The Light of the world is the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:6), he is the outshining of the nature of God.
The title ‘I Am’ also has divine overtones (Ex 3:14), showing that the Lord Jesus is the eternal God, who alone qualifies to provide eternal life.
Furthermore, the appearing of Messiah was consistently used under the metaphor of light in the Old Testament, and certainly had divine connotations. Isaiah and Malachi bear testimony to this, saying, “the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory” (Is 60:19); “the Sun of righteousness (will) arise with healing in his wings” (Mal 4:2). The Lord Jesus was claiming to be the long-awaited Messiah, and yet “he came unto his own, and his own received him not” (Jn 1:11). Though the light had come, there was none so blind as those that would not see.
Just as light is the source and supply of life for the natural world, those who follow Christ find that he is the giver and sustainer of spiritual life. We depend on him for everything, and owe all to him. Perhaps David understood something of this when he said “the Lord is my light and my salvation” (Ps 27:1). May we rejoice as David did, and praise God this morning that our eyes have been opened to behold the glory and majesty of his Son.