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Light of the World

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We've been going through the Gospel of John. We'll continue to go through it for quite some time, but right now we find ourselves in chapter 8 of that gospel. It's at the end of the Feast of Tabernacles, and Jesus is having a discourse with His opponents. We looked, last week, at a time when He was teaching there in the temple, and they brought in a woman that had been caught in adultery. We, today, continue in that same area where He was teaching.

We discover in our reading that it was an area called the treasury. Jesus still, having to meet these who are opposing Him. Their hearts are cold to His teaching, to His direction. They're certainly religious people, but they're not willing to hear the truth that Jesus is trying to share with them. So today, I want to take one of the I am statements, we call it, that Jesus makes that John gives us…seven different I am statements that he gives us in his gospel. Jesus begins our discourse today by telling His opponents primarily and those who are gathered that, "I am the light of the world."

I invite your attention to John, chapter 8. We'll begin today in verse 12, "Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, 'I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.' The Pharisees therefore said to Him, 'You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true.'

Jesus answered and said to them, 'Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from and where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me. It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true. I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me.' Then they said to Him, 'Where is Your Father?' Jesus answered, 'You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also.' These words Jesus spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one laid hands on Him, for His hour had not yet come."

An interesting literary aspect here that he doesn't identify, John doesn't identify the location until the end of the dialog and says that it's the treasury. But to the Jewish mind, that paints a very vivid picture, especially at the end of the time of the Feast of Tabernacles. Several things took place during the Feast of the Tabernacles to remind the Jews of the wilderness journey. That's certainly what the tabernacle was all about. It was a celebration of what God had protected them as they lived in those tents, or tabernacles, during all of their days in the wilderness journey.

Part of that, we had looked at it before, was the water that came from the rock. Part of the celebration they had every day was the priest would go to a certain brook and he would draw some water in a pitcher and he would come and he would pour it out onto the altar to remind them of God's provision and His blessing. It was on that occasion, if you were with us during that part of the study, that Jesus said that, "I am the water of life. That anyone who comes to Me shall never thirst." Very similar to what He had said to the woman at Samaria.

Well, at the treasury, another event took place during the feast that was also a reminder to the Jews of God's protection and provision. If you'll remember when the Jews had crossed the Red Sea and the Hebrews began to journey toward Mount Sinai, they were in a place they had never been to before. There were no landmarks. They were simply having to follow the leadership of God and God provided that direction and that leadership in a cloud during the daytime and a pillar of fire at night. Literally, that pillar of fire would light their way and would show them the way they were to go.

Well to celebrate that event, during the Feast of Tabernacles, they would light a torch and bring it into the treasury where they had set up one or perhaps a few of the huge menorah-looking candelabras that were in the temple. They would sit those out there into the courtyard and they would light those. They had an oil basin that each held about 50 gallons of oil, and they would light those every night as part of their procession. It was said that every courtyard in Jerusalem was lit by the lights of these two huge candelabras. Jerusalem, in those days, was not a very large city, and so that was certainly possible given the hilltop location of the temple area.

So it's there at the treasury where they would sit at these huge candelabras that Jesus takes that event to try to show them the truth of what's being celebrated. You know Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians that God provided for the Hebrew people water from a rock and He says that rock was Jesus. In other words, the things that happened to the Hebrew people along their journey in the wilderness was really God's picture of how God deals with all of us. That the pillar of fire, in other words, though it helped them physically find the law and find God at Mount Sinai, we discover that it's really symbolic.

It's symbolic of Christ Himself in that He is that light. So Jesus makes that statement. He says, in the Greek I should say, He says, "I, Myself, am the light of the world. I am that light." Perhaps even pointing to that great glowing candelabra. He said, "That's symbolic of me. "I am the light of the world." Notice what He goes on to say, "Whoever follows Me…" You see that's what the Hebrew people had done in the desert. They didn't just see the light; they followed the light.

By follow, what Jesus meant was to obey Him, to receive Him as their Messiah and to obey His teachings, to become literally, a disciple of His. So He says, "I am the light of the world, and whoever becomes a student of Mine…whoever becomes a student of Mine…" Look back to verse 12, "Will have the light of life and not walk in darkness."

Darkness all through John's gospel is a symbol of evil. It's a symbol of man. It's a symbol of not having the truth. The light, through John's gospel, is a symbol of truth. It's a symbol of what God would expect and the direction that God would have you to live. Jesus is saying, "Those who choose to become My disciples, those who will follow Me will not be in darkness because I'm the light." When you have the light with you, you're not in darkness, but you have the light of life itself. That's a common theme. That's one, as believers, that we try to let everybody know that in Christ is life…the real life.

Oh, the world paints the picture and maybe some soured Christians paint the picture that Christianity is a dull, drab life, that it is one that you can't do this. You can't do that. There are restrictions and rules and all the things that man tries to make, but I want to tell you friends, in Christ is real life, is joy, is excitement and living. Jesus is saying that My disciples will discover that.

Now when you know the story of the disciples, when you know the story of the early Church, we understand that persecution and the martyrdom they went through, listen, there had to be some reason they stayed around. I mean a smart person would have gotten out of that program very quickly. They wouldn't have stayed around seeing everybody else killed and martyred for the name of Christ unless there was something to it. That something to it was the joy of life, a life that is beyond comprehension, the Scriptures tell us, a joy that is unspeakable that can't even hardly be expressed, but one that is just so full of glory, that is so full of light, so full of joy.

Jesus says, "I'm that light. I'm what you've been lighting with your torches and symbolizing, the followship of God. That happens when you follow Me. The direction of God happens when you follow Me." My friends here today, I want to tell you that Christ stands as that candelabra. He is not just the light, but the very essence of life itself. When you choose Him, you will discover the joy of the abundant living He came to offer. He is the light of the world. That's exactly what Jesus was trying to tell these opposing religious Pharisees.

Now, they responded to Him in verse 13 and said, "You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true." They know exactly, in other words, what Jesus is trying to say. They understand very clearly the implication when He said, "I, Myself, am the light of the world." So they because their hearts are cold, because their hearts are so hardened are denying it.

You know I like what one commentator said, "Light permeates everything. Light will go through most curtains. It will go through trees, but if you want to stop light, you have to have a hard surface to block light." That's so symbolic of hearts of people. It's only when your hearts have grown cold to the touch of God, it's only when you have built up that resistance to the things of God that the light of the world will not penetrate into your heart.

You need to understand that if you're not able to see that pillar of fire, if you're not able to see God's direction before you today, if you'd like to know…What do I need to do? What next step do I need to take in my life? What decision do I make at the fork in the road that is before me? You need to examine and see if, through religion as with these Pharisees, or through some other philosophy, you have actually blackened off the light from your life. You've so hardened your heart.

Now you would never claim to be hardhearted, and I understand that. To us that sounds like we're mean. To us that sounds like we're somebody who is always in a bad mood, but to be hardhearted is as simple as rejecting the truth of God. To be hardhearted simply means that you do not accept His teachings. You do not even open your mind to consider His teachings.

I think sometimes the people who are the most closed minded to the things of God, they're the ones who bought into another faith of some kind. You know, I believe we all are going to place our faith and trust in something. It may be science. It may be ourselves. It may be our best friend, but there is always something we're going to put our faith in. There is always something that is bigger than us that we're going to have to trust in.

We don't have magic wands, and we don't have crystal balls to be able to know what's going to happen at every step in our life. There always comes a place where we have to trust, where we have to make assumptions. The more that we choose to place our faith in other things, the harder our heart gets to God's attempt to reach us. You see it's not naïveté that you need in order to hear the voice of God in your life. It's not ignorance to science that you need. It's not staying away from maybe the advice of your family that you need. What you need is to open your heart. What you need is to be willing to see that the light of the world is shining down on you and wants to lead you in direction.

The Pharisees didn't see that. The Pharisees, instead, turned and said, "I don't trust the source. I don't trust the source. You're just telling us this and You don't have anything to back it up." Isn't that strange? Because the Pharisees were the first to receive the reports of all that Jesus had done. They knew He had fed 5,000. They knew He had walked on the water. They knew He had healed. They knew of His miracles. It wasn't that there was a lack of evidence in that day; it's just that they had predetermined what they were going to do and the direction they were going to follow and the traditions they were going to keep. So they closed their heart to anything that was before them.

Though all of the evidence was there… Remember if you were with us a week or two ago, the crowd was saying, "What more could any Messiah do that this Man has done?" In other words, there were those in that same crowd who believed in Jesus because they had seen the great things He had done. But the Pharisees had already closed their hearts.

I realize I might be able to try to debate with you. I might be able to try to come up with a most cleaver list of rules and statements for you. I might try to make a great proof before you of the reality of God and the reality of Christ, but you know I know none of that would ever work. Really, the initial step to you accepting Christ has been made by God. He brought you here. Through whatever circumstances, a friendship or obligation or duty, you are here today. The second step belongs to you. It belongs to you to see the light that is penetrating into your heart as being from God, as being from Him.

Well the Pharisees would not see that, and so Jesus responds. In verse 15, He says, "You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one." Isn't that true of us? We try to make determinations based on our limited knowledge of things. You know we really do have limited knowledge of things. You might confidently be here this morning and say, "Well, I know the world just appeared from that big bang. I know that it has just evolved." Yet, if you were to start to write down everything you know about the universe, every planet you're aware of, every aspect of the evolutionary scale that you personally have knowledge of, it's going to be pretty small, isn't it?

We really don't know that much. When we begin to investigate and discover the speculations and the partial facts that make up even the evolutionary faith system, we realize that nobody knows much of these things. The Pharisees were taking their limited knowledge. They had the Scriptures before them, and obviously they didn't even see the Messiah in their own Scriptures. They were making judgments based on the flesh.

Jesus says, "I don't judge anyone." He says in 16, "But if I did judge, My judgment would be true because the Father is with Me in this. The Father is the One who is testifying." He is the reason, Jesus has already said, that I have performed the miracles. He's the reason I've been able to do the signs. He's the reason that all these things have taken place. He's the reason that I come before you today. I'm not here for my own name. I'm not here for my own popularity. He's saying, "I'm here to fulfill the will of God." Because of that, God is the One who is bearing witness of Me.

Let me tell you that Jesus today, speaks to your heart. It's not Bob Wiegel that's trying to bear witness to the truth to you. See I learned that a long time ago. I don't stand here trying to win a philosophical argument with anyone. What I know to do simply is to present the Word of God and let the Holy Spirit of God be the One you're wrestling with. Let Him be the One who is convicting you and convincing you of the truths of God.

So Jesus says, "I don't judge anyone. If I did, I have my Father to back Me up, but unlike you who are dealing with your limited flesh," He says, "I don't have to judge anyone." So in verse 18, He says, "I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me." Well that caused the Pharisees to say, "Well, then who is Your Father?" Now they're thinking Joseph…Joseph of Nazareth. They're expecting...well, you know, where is Joseph? Commentators tell us that probably Joseph had passed away by now. Maybe some Pharisees know that, but maybe they know nothing of that. They're just saying, "Who is this Father You're talking about? What do You mean by Your Father?"

Oh how convicting Jesus' response is! He says, "You know you don't know My Father. You want to judge. You want Me to bring My Father out here and then you're going to judge Him based on the flesh. The thing is you don't know My Father. I know My Father, but you don't know My Father." Listen in verse 19, "Jesus answered, 'You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also.'"

You know my friends, I don't mean to cop out with this, but really, that has to be the answer of every believer to every non-believer. The reason that I can't convince you of anything is because you don't know the Father. Until you know Jesus, none of this… The Bible even tells us, none of this makes any sense. The Bible very clearly admits that it is through the foolishness of preaching this that people come to know Jesus that they come to know the Father. It admits readily that to the world, these are foolish statements.

You may be here this morning and very politely listening and saying, "What foolishness!" I agree with you except for the fact that the Father came. Except for the fact that I've surrendered my life to Christ. I have gotten to know Him in a personal, not a religious, not a ritualistic, but in a personal relationship. Now that I know Christ… And see that's what believers say, "We know Christ." Now that I know Christ, I know the Father. I know His words, in other words. I know what He wants me to do. I understand better and better every day the more I get to know Him, what His plan is for me.

You can't know that objectively until you subjectively surrender your life to Christ. You'll never do that, as I never did that, until I was 18 years old. I thought I had religion, and I guess I did. I had religion all figured out…until God stepped in. He convicted me. That's what we call it. He told me I was a lot more alone than I thought I was. He told me I didn't know nearly as much as I thought I knew. Hey, I was a top student at Sheridan High School in Grant County. I mean, what more could anybody want? At least I thought, but the Lord revealed Himself to me and He left it up to me to accept Him or to reject Him.

He may be revealing Himself to you over these last weeks, months, years, today. I assure you He leaves it to you. Why? Because He wants the glory. He wants the glory of you accepting Him. He wants the glory of you voluntarily receiving Him as Savior, of you stepping out of the world's wishes and your friend's peer pressure and accepting what the world rejects and people will mock and make fun of. He gets glory when you choose Him over the world, and His Holy Spirit comes to live in your heart. That's what the Scripture tells us. That's what we experience. And we begin to see the Scriptures in ways we've never seen them before.

We see and hear how to make decisions about credit cards, how to make decisions about marriage, how to make decisions about jobs to take, how to make decisions about being a good parent to our young children. We discover that because we have a personal relationship with Christ. It means more to us than anything else. We devote our lives to this One who loved us so much that He sent His only Son to die for us.

My friends, that same love is available. It's available to you. I'm not talking about religion. I'm not talking about following a set of creeds. I'm talking about just receiving the gift of that light into your life, of letting Jesus be powerful and light the way to the joy and abundant life that He offers me, that He offers Brother Mark, that He offers that believer sitting next to you. Oh, what rejoicing comes in your life when you surrender yourself to Him!

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