I Am the Light of the World

On Sunday October 14, we were unable to livestream our sermon.  A rough manuscript has been provided below.  May God bless you with the preaching of His Word!

Jesus loved to party.  Throughout the gospels, we find Jesus getting invited to weddings and to dinners, and even at the regular Jewish feasts, which were solemn gatherings, he is always surrounded by other people.  Jesus did not live life in seclusion.  Thus, as grow more into the image of Jesus, we should live our lives less and less by ourselves.

In our text this morning we discover Jesus at the Feast of Booths.  This was a religious feast which last 7 days.  On the last day the people would live in tents, in “booths” remembering the days when God’s people lived in tents in the wilderness.  They used water and lamps to symbolize God’s provision.  This was an important week in the life of the Jews.  You can read more about what took place during this feast in Leviticus 23 and Numbers 29.  On the last and most solemn day of the feast Jesus utters the words we are considering this morning.  Verse 12, “I am the Light of the World.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 

We have been looking at seven statements Jesus makes about Himself in the Gospel of John.  Each of these statements begin with the two words, “I am…”  We get to see, as we have titled this series, Jesus in His Own Words.   As we consider John 8 and 9, our roadmap is simple.  We will first consider what it means that Jesus is the Light of the World; specifically, how it reveals Who Jesus Is, and What Jesus Does.

First, we should make sure we are hearing this the way his Jewish hearers would have heard it.  Texts such as Psalm 27 which we opened our service with along with passages such as Isa. 49:6 that would be echoing in their minds.  God is the only light and salvation.  In Isaiah 49:6 we read that He would send His servant to be a “light of salvation to the Gentiles.”  By saying He is the Light of the World, Jesus wants us to recognize Who He Is.  Jesus is declaring two realities simultaneously.  I am the Messiah you have been waiting for, but He is further declaring His Deity.  This man is not just Savior, and not just Messiah, this man is also God!

Psalm 76 declares that God is Radiant with light!   John writes in 1 John 1:5 that God is light.  Isaiah declares that God is the only Savior.

This becomes even more clear as we consider that on the final day of the feast the people would light lamps symbolizing God’s provision of Fire to guide them through the desert.  Jesus looks at these lights, and without confusion declares- I am the pillar of light.  I am the hope of the world.  I am the only Savior.

In Isaiah 9, God declares that the Gentiles who have walked in darkness would see a great light.  The light of the world would dawn, and they could encounter God in a powerful and tangible way.  When God appeared throughout the Scripture, what surrounded Him?  Light!  He dwells in unapproachable light.  When Jesus was revealed in His glory on the mountain in Matthew 17, what happened?  His glory was revealed in glorious light.  Jesus’ testifies to his identity as Messiah and as God.

The Pharisees challenge this.  “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.”  Ultimately the issue was Jesus’ authority.  They challenge His authority and His Lordship.  Look at Jesus’ response.  v. 14 “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”

Jesus says that His authority is supreme.  His Word and claim is enough.  His Word was enough to speak without any other authority or evidence.  He spoke on His own authority and His own power.  He knows where he comes from- from Heaven and where He is going- to the right hand of God.  His origin and His destination are the place of highest authority- the Throne Room of Heaven.

Look at verse 15-16, “You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. 16 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.”  He could speak on His own authority, but the Father also testifies about Him.

Jesus didn’t have to provide any further evidence, yet He does appeal to a standard His audience would embrace.  He quotes from the Old Testament in verse 17, “In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true.”  Most claims depended upon the testimony of two or three people.  Jesus said, I meet this standard because I and the Father testifies about myself.  Look what He says, 18 I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”   Notice, Jesus refers to Himself and the Father as two distinct persons who make the testimony.  They testify about who He is: The Light of the World.  The Savior.  God in Flesh.

Jesus seemed clear, yet the Pharisees were still unsure.  See what they say:

19 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.” 20 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.

Jesus was making a loud declaration: This temple, this feast, all of this worship is about me- yet you don’t know me and you don’t know the Father.  You’ve missed the point.  In verse 21-27 we see a series of misunderstandings on the part of the Pharisees.

First, they thought Jesus might kill himself (21-22).

21 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.” 22 So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” 

Second, they still questioned His identity (23-25).

23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” 25 So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning.”

Finally, they missed that Jesus was speaking about the Father (26-27).

26 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.” 27 They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father

Ultimately, Jesus says that in the end they will be left with undeniable evidence of this: He would be “lifted up” on the cross, resurrected, and exalted in the Heavens.  There would be no argument then.  See how he continues:

28 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. 29 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.”30 As he was saying these things, many believed in him.

Did you see that last part?  From these arguments, many came to believe.

Jesus spoke with authority and clear evidence of His identity as the Light of the World, the Messiah, God come to dwell with us.  But being the Light of the World meant more than just a revealing of His identity.  Being the Light of the World also reveals what He does.

Light doesn’t just describe who He is.  Light describes what He does.  What does this “light of the world” do?  The Light of the World Frees from Sin. (31-46)

Jesus speaks to those about who came to believe in Him about the power of the Word of God and His power to set people free.  Look at this instruction, 31…If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

The hope for these new disciples was in the Word of God.  And friends, this isn’t just the case for them, if we are truly Jesus’ disciple and we truly desire freedom- we will abide in His Word.  We will abide in the Scripture.

They asked a great question in verse 33.  If you set us “free” by your word, what are we enslaved to?  Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.”

Sin enslaves all of us.  It blinds us.  It kills us!  Ephesians 2 calls us “dead” in our sin.  We walk in darkness.  We pursue sin because it has captured our hearts.  Jesus goes on in John 8:39-47 to describe people lost in their sin as “children of the devil” because of their rejection of Him.  This is true of all who are outside of Christ.

But look at verse 36- If the Son sets them free, you are FREE indeed!  Do you feel enslaved this morning?  Is there a sin that is tormenting you to the deepest levels of your soul?  I have good news.  Freedom is available!  Jesus can free you!  His Word can set you free and keep you free!  The Light of the World breaks the chains of sin!

But the Light of the World also reveals God’s glory to us! (47-58)

There is continued interaction between the Pharisees and Jesus.  They are arguing about why Jesus’ word has the power to set free.  And our Lord sets them off again by saying in verse 52, “If anyone keeps my word, He will never taste death.”  What?  How does this man have such authority?

This is a man who said that Abraham, thousands of years before, looked forward and in verse 56, he looked forward to see Jesus’ day and was glad!  Jesus is greater than Abraham, with greater glory.  The Pharisees respond in verse 57, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”  Look at this response.  Verse 58, Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.  Now, this certainly is bad grammar, but this is a great theology.  Before Abraham was, Jesus is saying, “I am.”

“I am” was the name God gave Himself in the Old Testament from the burning bush.  “I am” is a name of God’s self-existence.  He is eternal.  He doesn’t need anything to sustain Him.  Nothing can contain Him.  Jesus is the “I am.”  He said this back in verse 24, that we must believe that “I am HE” or we would die in our sin.  Jesus was clearing revealing that He is Deity, the Sovereign God who rules the Universe.  See His glory!  Yet, so many of us are blind to it.  John opens his gospel by displaying this glory.  John 1:1-2 and 14: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God…14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus shines the light on our eyes that we can see His glory!  He is the “I am.”

Notice that at Jesus’ statement, the Pharisees picked up stones to stone Him.  This is what Jewish people would do for the crime of blasphemy.  The Pharisees knew what He meant.  They knew what He was claiming.  They knew what Jesus was saying about Himself and the incredible work He claimed He could do.

Friends, have you seen the glory of Jesus?  This isn’t simply something His early disciples saw, no, all of us must see His glory.  Jesus is the Light of the World!  This reveals who He is and declares what He does.  And these two points collide in chapter 9.

We won’t be able to look at this whole passage, but here we see that all that God does, He does to reveal Who He Is.   All that God does reveals who He is.  All that God is doing in your life and in the world is God’s light shining into the world: This is what I am like!

In John 9 Jesus encounters a man born blind and through saliva and mud gives this man sight.  Throughout the passage we see many people doubt, while others marvel.  The Pharisees said that this blind man, or his parents, must have sinned to be born blind.  Yet this wasn’t Jesus’ perspective.  See John 9:3, “Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”  The works of God might be displayed!  Jesus declares again in John 9:5 that He is the Light of the World.  After the whole interaction, the man’s sight is restored and the man declares, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. The blind man went from a doubt to worshipper.  From blind to sight.  From death to life.  From darkness to light.  The Light of the World overcame the darkness of his blindness.

God enables us to see His glory!  We were the blind man spiritually before Jesus shined on us.  We were the doubters, the blind ones, the dead ones.  Yet, when He opens our eyes we see the glory of Jesus!

I want us to close with seeing the glory of Jesus.  I hope we will all see past the veil!  When the Light of the World shines on us, we cannot help but pursue Him with all we are!  2 Corinthians 4:6 tells us that God shines into our hearts that we might see “the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”  Asaph prays in Psalm 80, “Let your face shine that we might be saved!”  See the connection?  God’s shining leads to God’s saving!  Paul’s prayer is that the Ephesians would have their hearts “enlightened” so that they might know all that is theirs’s in Christ!

When we see the light, we follow.  Remember what Jesus said?  I am the light of the world, whoever follows me shall have the light of life.  When the light shines, and the chains of sin fall off, we follow after the Lord.  We follow the true pillar of fire through the wilderness of a fallen world.  This is well illustrated in the words of Charles Wesley’s hymn “And Can It Be, That I Should Gain?”

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth and followed Thee.

Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me!

God is glorified in what He does because people see who He is.  Friends, when we see God freed from the power of sin with the Light of the World piercing the darkness of our night, we recognize that there is no greater pursuit.  Jesus is the single more beautiful Being!  All sunsets pale in comparison.  All oceans are but a drop in His vastness.  No greater joy!  Nothing of greater worth!  Nothing of greater glory!  Nothing deserving of our life, our devotion, our all!

When we follow Him, we have the light of life.  When we follow God and we get God.  What a promise!  Friends, what are we pursuing?  What are we giving ourselves toward?  How do we apply this?  Let me offer three thoughts.

  • The Peril: Do Not Walk in Darkness

His call to follow the light is also a warning to not walk in darkness.  There is a warning of peril here!  Sin led the Pharisees to seek to kill Jesus.  They were seeking to do the will of the devil, Jesus says.  Walking in darkness was destructive.

To give a silly, but very real illustration: Parents, you know how dangerous it is to walk in darkness.  You have a child sleeping and you are trying to sneak through the house to grab a house or get some housework done.  And what happens?  You step on the toy you told them to put away!  You STEP on a LEGO!  In the darkness, there are untold perils.  In the darkness of sin, stepping on a Lego is the least of your worries.  Sin seeks to skill all who it enslaves.  Sin is a hard and terrible master- but slavery to the Son of God is true freedom!  Flee the darkness of sin!  Flee rejection of Jesus for if you do not confess that He is God then you will die in your sins.  This text is a warning- there is peril.

  • The Promise: He Will Get You Through

Remember, Jesus is claiming that He is like the fire in the wilderness that if we follow, we will make it through the wilderness and into the promised land.  Follow Him you will walk in light and you will complete the journey.  Do you feel as if you won’t make it through the desert of this life?  Do you feel like you are wandering aimlessly without hope?  Jesus says, “Look to me!”  “Follow me! I am the light to follow, the pillar to guide you on your journey!”

God goes before you, believe, as the light on your path.  But are you following Him?  We don’t tell the Pillar of Fire where to go nor can we instruct Him in the best route.  We trust that the light knows best.  In your life, you may be led over bumpy ground and through rough terrain.  That may happen when we stray from the light, and it will happen if we follow the light.  But, the destination is worth it.  He promises to lead us to the finished line.  To bring us all the way home.  He warned us of peril, he comforts us with a promise, and He encourages with the Prize.

  • The Prize: The Person of Jesus

What is the greatest goal of your life?  What do you desire to hear when you close your eyes for the last time?  Some people long to hear, “Well done clever and creative artist.”  Some long to hear, “Well done good and faithful parent.”  Other longs to hear, “Well done, loving and tolerant person.”  While some of these things are good things, they are not the greatest thing.

The Scriptures place before us one hope.  The words of Jesus, “Well done good and faithful servant.”  This is what we should long to hear!  And the hope continues, “Well done good and faithful servant enter into the joy of your master.”  The joy of your master.  The joy of being with your master.  The joy of ­having the Light of Life.

Will you follow the Light or will you walk in the dark?  Today you can begin follow Jesus through faith and repentance.  Through turning from the path, you are walking and pursuing Him.  You can correct this morning and get back on the path if you have fallen off.  Do your business with God.

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