Light of the World - Letters to the Prison
From the series Letters to the Prison
Last week, we interrupted our consideration of what happened at the Feast of Booths in Jerusalem in order to quickly examine a passage that was likely inserted into John’s gospel many centuries after he wrote it. So, let’s get back on track. John 7:52 flows very nicely into John 8:12 and we see Jesus saying something profound about himself:
- They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.” -John 7:52
- Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” -John 8:12
So, we see the conclusion of the angry private conversation between Nicodemus and other Jewish leaders about Jesus as he is teaching publicly in the temple, and then we are returned immediately back to where Jesus is in the temple at Jerusalem during the Feast of Booths, and he is continuing to have a difficult public conversation with other Jewish leaders (the Pharisees).
His claim to be the light of the world is stunning in a number of ways. First, it’s another “I am” statement… so, Jesus is using God’s favorite way of referring to himself. Second, Jesus is claiming that those who follow him have the “light of life” while those who don’t “walk in darkness.” It’s a “yes” or “no” circumstance. Worse, it’s a “life or death” circumstance. The implication of “light of life” is that those who walk in darkness don’t have life. So here, Jesus is clearly claiming that a decision about him is a matter of life or death. There is no middle ground with Jesus. We need to consider such thing carefully and be serious about our answer because Jesus also makes it plain that it’s not enough to simply say “sure, Jesus is who he says he is.” We also have to follow him. In other words, our actions and behaviors need to match our beliefs. Our walk needs to match our talk.
The timing of this claim is significant, also. Jesus likely made this statement during a ceremonial lighting of lamps that occurred during the Feast of Booths to commemorate God’s promise of a Messiah. Interestingly, a prophecy by Zechariah speaks of both “living waters” and a “light in the darkness” (Zech. 14:5-8). This goes along perfectly with what Jesus is saying here at the Feast of Booths about himself (John 7:37-38 and John 8:12). So, Jesus is once again claiming to be the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies of God’s promised Messiah.
And the Pharisees don’t believe him: “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” (John 8:13) How Jesus responds to this accusation is shocking:
- Jesus answered, “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. -John 8:14
From a merely human standpoint, what Jesus says here is nothing short of crazy. But Jesus is not merely human. We’ll consider what he says here next week! We love you!