Jesus the Light of the World
Read John 8:12-20 in ESV. This discourse continues Jesus’ public teaching in the city of Jerusalem in the temple area. The event described here took place during the Feast of Tabernacles, when the large lamps were burning. On the evening of the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles there was a ceremony called The Illumination of the Temple. It took place in the Court of the Women. The court was surrounded with deep galleries, erected to hold the spectators. In the centre four great candelabra were prepared. When the dark came the four great candelabra were lit and, it was said, they sent such a blaze of light throughout Jerusalem that every courtyard was lit up with their brilliance. Then all night long, until cock-crow the next morning, the greatest and the wisest and the holiest men in Israel danced before the Lord and sang psalms of joy and praise while the people watched.
Again Jesus utilizes a convenient symbol for Himself that is rooted in the O.T. imagery of the wanderings in the wilderness. In ch. 6 it was the manna, and in ch. 7 it was the water associated with God’s provision from the rock (cf. Num. 20:8–11). Now, the lighting of the giant lamps reminded the nation of the pillar of fire which guided them at night (cf. Ex. 13:21; Num. 9:15–23). In contrast to the moral darkness of the nation and the world in general, Jesus describes His function as the Light (cf. 1:4, 9), the very revelation and truth of God, and the solution to the evil in mankind and the world. This is the second great “I am” declaration in John’s Gospel.
What does light do? What does our Lord do? Of what is He the light? Does the average Christian believe that He is the Light of the world? Is this truth found anywhere else in the Bible? (Luke 1:78, 79; Is. 42:6, 7; 49:6; 60:1, 2.)
- Jesus the Light of the World, vv. 12–20
Jesus gave this teaching in the treasury of the temple (see v. 20). A multitude was still following Him. He turned to them and made one of the many grand statements as to His Messiahship. He said, “I am the light of the world.” Naturally speaking, the world is in the darkness of sin, ignorance, and aimlessness. The light of the world is Jesus. Apart from Him, there is no deliverance from the blackness of sin. Apart from Him, there is no guidance along the way of life, no knowledge as to the real meaning of life and the issues of eternity. Jesus promised that anyone following Him would not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.
Jesus said: “He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” The light of life means two things. The Greek can mean either the light which issues from the source of life or the light which gives life. In this passage it means both. Jesus is the very light of God come among men; and he is the light which gives men life. Just as the flower can never blossom when it never sees the sunlight, so our lives can never flower with the grace and beauty they ought to have until they are irradiated with the light of the presence of Jesus.
A believer will never walk in darkness, that is, he will not live in it (cf. 12:46; 1 John 1:6-7). He does not remain in the realm of evil and ignorance (John 12:46) for he has Christ as his Light and salvation (cf. Ps. 36:9).
John 12:46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.
1 John 1:5b-7 God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
Psa 36:9 For with you is othe fountain of life; in your light do we see light.
See Matthew 5:14-16 – Those who follow Jesus are, according to Him, also the light of the world. We must not hide that light. What do you think Jesus meant by this?
That utterance shows Him to be one of three things: what are they? Was our Lord a lunatic? Was He an impostor? What then was He?
Did He say: “I am a light of the world”? From whom then does the world get all its light? (Turn to and read - John 1:4, 5, 7–9; John 9:5; John 12:35)
Who does John tell us in his epistle is light? (1 John 1:5.) If then our Lord is the Light of the world, who is He?
The obvious answer is, He is God.
- Following Jesus:
When Jesus said, Whoever follows Me, He meant whoever believes and obeys Him (cf. 10:4-5, 27; 12:26; 21:19-20, 22). Jesus was speaking of salvation. Coming to Christ for salvation results in a different kind of life. To follow Jesus means to believe on Him. Many people have the mistaken idea that they can live as Jesus lived without ever being born again. To follow Jesus means to come to Him in repentance, to trust Him as Lord and Savior, and then to commit one’s whole life to Him. Those who do this have guidance in life and clear and bright hope beyond the grave. 
In this passage Jesus talks of following himself. We often speak of following Jesus; we often urge men to do so. What do we mean? The Greek for to follow is akolouthein; and its meanings combine to shed a flood of light on what it means to follow Jesus. Akolouthein has five different but closely connected meanings.
(i) It is often used of a soldier following his captain. On the long route marches, into battle, in campaigns in strange lands, the soldier follows wherever the captain may lead. The Christian is the soldier whose commander is Christ.
(ii) It is often used of a slave accompanying his master. Wherever the master goes the slave is in attendance upon him, always ready to spring to his service and to carry out the tasks he gives him to do. He is literally at his master’s beck and call. The Christian is the slave whose joy it is always to serve Christ.
(iii) It is often used of accepting a wise counsellor’s opinion. When a man is in doubt he goes to the expert, and if he is wise he accepts the judgment he receives. The Christian is the man who guides his life and conduct by the counsel of Christ.
(iv) It is often used of giving obedience to the laws of a city or a state. If a man is to be a useful member of any society or citizen of any community, he must agree to abide by its laws. The Christian, being a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, accepts the law of the kingdom and of Christ as the law which governs his life.
(v) It is often used of following a teacher’s line of argument, or of following the gist of someone’s speech. The Christian is the man who has understood the meaning of the teaching of Christ. He has not listened in dull incomprehension or with slack inattention. He takes the message into his mind and understands, receives the words into his memory and remembers, and hides them in his heart and obeys.
To be a follower of Christ is to give oneself body, soul and spirit into the obedience of the Master; and to enter upon that following is to walk in the light. When we walk alone we are bound to stumble and grope, for so many of life’s problems are beyond our solution. When we walk alone we are bound to take the wrong way, because we have no secure map of life. We need the heavenly wisdom to walk the earthly way. The man who has a sure guide and an accurate map is the man who is bound to come in safety to his journey’s end. Jesus Christ is that guide; he alone possesses the map to life. To follow him is to walk in safety through life and afterwards to enter into glory.
* The argument with the Pharisees (John 8:13-20)
When Jesus made his claim to be the Light of the World the scribes and Pharisees reacted with hostility. That claim would sound even more astonishing to them than to us. To them it would sound like a claim—as indeed it was—to be the Messiah, and, even more, to do the work that only God could do. The word light was specially associated in Jewish thought and language with God. “The Lord is my light” (Psalm 27:1). “The Lord will be your everlasting light” (Isaiah 60:19). “By his light I walked through darkness” (Job 29:3). “When I sit in darkness the Lord will be a light to me” (Micah 7:8). The Rabbis declared that the name of the Messiah was Light. When Jesus claimed to be the Light of the World, he was making a claim than which none could possibly be higher.
The argument in this pass is difficult and complicated, but follows three strands:
- The Jews first insisted that a statement such as Jesus made could not be regarded as accurate because it was backed by insufficient witness.
(a) He answered that his own witness was enough.
(b) Jesus said that in point of fact he had a second witness, and that second witness was God.
- Second, Jesus dealt with his right to judge. (a) There is a judgment based on human knowledge and standards which sees only what is on the surface/
(b) There is judgment based on knowledge of all facts that is the judgment of God.
- Lastly, Jesus bluntly told the scribes and Pharisees that they had no real knowledge of God. The fact that they did not recognize him for who and what he was was the proof that they did not, * “If Ye Believe Not that I Am He, Ye Shall Die in Your Sins,” vv. 21–25 (a) Jesus begins by telling his opponents that he is going away; and that, after he is gone, they will realize what they have missed, and will search for him and not find him. This is the true prophetic note. It reminds us of three things.
(i) There are certain opportunities which come and which do not return. To every man is given the opportunity to accept Christ as Savior and Lord; but that opportunity can be refused and lost.
(ii) Implicit in this argument is the truth that life and time are limited. It is within an allotted span that we must make our decision for Christ. The time we have to make that decision is limited—and none of us knows what his limit is. There is therefore every reason for making it now.
(iii) Just because there is opportunity in life there is also judgment. The greater the opportunity, the more clearly it beckons, the oftener it comes, the greater the judgment if it be refused or missed. This passage brings us face to face with the glory of our opportunity, and the limitation of time in which to seize it.
(b) When Jesus spoke about going away, he was speaking about his return to his Father and to his glory. That was precisely where his opponents could not follow him, because by their continuous disobedience and their refusal to accept him, they had shut themselves off from God. His opponents met his words with a grim and mocking jest. Jesus said that they could not follow where he went; and they suggested that perhaps he was going to kill himself. The point is that, according to Jewish thought, the depths of hell were reserved for those who took their own lives. With a kind of grim blasphemy, they were saying: “Maybe he will take his own life; maybe he is on the way to the depths of Hell; it is true that we cannot and will not follow him there.
(c) Jesus said that if they continued to refuse him they would die in their sins. That is a prophetic phrase (cp. Ezekiel 3:18; 18:18). There are two things involved there.
(i) The word for sin is hamartia, which originally had to do with shooting and literally means a missing of the target. The man who refuses to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord has missed the target in life. He dies with life unrealized; and he therefore dies unfitted to enter into the higher life with God.
18 “When I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his ablood I will require at your hand.
18 “As for his father, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother and did what was not good among his people, behold, he will die for his iniquity.
(ii) The essence of sin is that it separates a man from God. When Adam, in the old story, committed the first sin, his first instinct was to hide himself from God (Genesis 3:8–10). The man who dies in sin dies at enmity with God; the man who accepts Christ already walks with God, and death only opens the way to a closer walk. To refuse Christ is to be a stranger to God; to accept him is to be the friend of God, and in that friendship the fear of death is for ever banished.
8 They heard the sound of athe Lord God walking in the garden in the 1cool of the day, band the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
(d) Jesus goes on to draw a series of contrasts. His opponents belong to earth, he is from heaven; they are of the world; he is not of the world.
John frequently talks about the world; the word in Greek is kosmos. He uses it in a way that is all his own.
(i) The kosmos is the opposite of heaven. Jesus came from heaven into the world (John 1:9). He was sent by God into the world (John 3:17). He is not of the world; his opponents are of the world (John 8:23). The kosmos is the changing, transient life that we live; it is all that is human as opposed to all that is divine.
(ii) Yet the kosmos is not separated from God. First and foremost, it is God’s creation (John 1:10). It was through God’s word that his world was made. Different as the world is from heaven, there is yet no unbridgeable gulf between them.
(iii) More than that, the kosmos is the object of God’s love. God so loved the world that he sent his Son (John 3:16). However different it may be from all that is divine, God has never abandoned it; it is the object of his love and the recipient of his greatest gift.
(iv) But at the same time there is something wrong with the kosmos. There is a blindness in it; when the Creator came into the world, it did not recognize him (John 1:10). The world cannot receive the Spirit of truth (John 14:17). The world does not know God (John 17:25). There is, too, an hostility to God in the kosmos and to his people. The world hates Christ and hates his followers (John 15:18, 19). In its hostility Christ’s followers can look only for trouble and tribulation (John 16:33).
(v) Here we have a strange sequence of facts. The world is separate from God; and yet between it and God there is no gulf which cannot be spanned. God created the world; God loves it; God sent his Son into it. And yet in it, there is this blindness and hostility to him.
There is only one possible conclusion. There is only one thing certain about the kosmos, it is not what it was meant to be. Something has gone wrong. That something is sin. It is sin which separated the world from God; it is sin which blinds it to God; it is sin which is fundamentally hostile to God.
Into this world which has gone wrong comes Christ; and Christ comes with the cure. He brings forgiveness; he brings cleansing; he brings strength and grace to live as man ought and to make the world what it ought to be. But a man can refuse a cure. A doctor may tell a patient that a certain treatment is able to restore him to health; he may actually tell him that if he does not accept the treatment, death is inevitable. That is precisely what Jesus is saying: “If you will not believe that I am who I am you will die in your sins.”
The Gospel of John : Volume 2. 2000, c1975 (W. Barclay, lecturer in the University of 8Glasgow, Ed.). The Daily study Bible series, Rev. ed. (11). Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.
Believer's Study Bible. 1997, c1995. C1991 Criswell Center for Biblical Studies. (electronic ed.) (Jn 8:12). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
The Gospel of John : Volume 2. 2000, c1975 (W. Barclay, lecturer in the University of Glasgow, Ed.). The Daily study Bible series, Rev. ed. (11). Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.
cf. confer, compare
Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (2:303). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
o Jer. 2:13; John 4:10, 14; 5:26
cf. confer, compare
MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. (1997, c1995). Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments (Jn 8:12). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
The Gospel of John : Volume 2. 2000, c1975 (W. Barclay, lecturer in the University of Glasgow, Ed.). The Daily study Bible series, Rev. ed. (12). Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.
The Gospel of John : Volume 2. 2000, c1975 (W. Barclay, lecturer in the University of Glasgow, Ed.). The Daily study Bible series, Rev. ed. (13). Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.
The Gospel of John : Volume 2. 2000, c1975 (W. Barclay, lecturer in the University of Glasgow, Ed.). The Daily study Bible series, Rev. ed. (19). Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.