“I AM…” – How Jesus Meets Our Deepest Needs
2. The Light of the World
John 8: 12 - 32
This little nightlight is not very bright but it gives just enough light to dispel the darkness in the middle of the night. On the other extreme, some spotlights claim to be one million times brighter than a single candle. Their light is so bright that they come with a warning to not look directly into the beam.
As we continue in our sermon series, we’re focusing on the 2nd “I Am” statement of Jesus: “I am the Light of the World.” We’re learning that whenever we come face-to-face with Jesus, an agonizing decision has to be made. When Jesus disrupts, some will desert Him and others will declare their allegiance to Him.
In each of these magnificent metaphors, the phrase “I Am” goes back to when God appeared to Moses in the burning bush. When Moses saw the “flames of fire,” he wanted to get a closer look but was told to remove his sandals because God’s presence had made the ground holy. Moses wants to know what to say when people ask about God’s name. God answers: “I AM WHO I AM.”
“I Am” is God’s covenant name. It literally means, “I am who I am,” and signals the truth that nothing else defines who God is but God Himself. Every time Jesus uses one of the “I AM” metaphors, He is emphatically stating that He is Yahweh. This is a staggering statement of His sovereign supremacy. Just as the bush burned brightly and cast light all around, so too, Jesus is the light of the world, and a consuming fire that should stop us in our tracks because we are on holy ground. When Jesus used the phrase, “I AM” He did so on purpose and those who heard Him did not miss the obvious connection He was making.
This riles up the Pharisees and they interrupt Jesus 10 times in John 8 alone. They take offence at His outrageous utterances and ask Jesus a pointed question – v. 53. Jesus pushes them further than they were intending to go when he declares – v. 56. They don’t know how to respond to this scandalous statement so they turn to sarcasm – v. 57. They’re probably chuckling to themselves at the absurdity of this statement and then they’re bowled over because Jesus isn’t finished yet – v. 58. They picked up stones to slay him, but Jesus slipped away.
Jesus is not saying that He is holding the light, or that He has the light, or that He’s the way to the light. Instead, He is unequivocally stating, “He is the light.” As we go through these Messiah Metaphors, it’s important to understand some background information. Let’s begin by looking at the properties of light.
1. Light reveals. Light enables us to see things that were there all along but because of the darkness we could not see them. Darkness conceals and light reveals. C.S. Lewis - “I believe in Christ like I believe in the sun. Not only because I see it, but because by it all things are seen.” Ephesians 5: 13: “But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible.” By the way, that’s why some people avoid coming to church. They really don’t want Christ to shine His light on the way they’ve been living.
2. Light gives life. Light is necessary for life itself. It sets our biological clocks, triggers in our brains the sensations of colour, and supplies the energy for things to grow. John 1: 4: “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” We should be glad because the light of Jesus frees us from our sins.
3. Light scatters darkness. Darkness is often a metaphor for sin, spiritual blindness and death. John 1: 5: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
4. Light gives warmth. Did you know that one small candle, properly reflected, will raise the temperature of an igloo from below freezing to over 10 degrees? In the Bible, warmth is often equated with the comfort of God. Ecclesiastes 11: 7: “Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.”
5. Light provides guidance. It’s difficult to walk in the dark, isn’t it? Light can help us see where we’re headed. Psalm 43: 3: “Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me.”
Light in Scripture
Those who heard Jesus declare that He is the light of the world would have had these passages running through their minds.
Genesis 1: 3, 4: “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.” The first thing God created was light in order to dispel darkness.
After God appeared to Moses and revealed His name as the “I AM,” He did an amazing thing. He turned the lights out on the Egyptians. Exodus 10: 21 - 23: “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt…’ So Moses stretched out his hand… and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days…but all the people of Israel had light…”
After illuminating the Israelites with an unforgettable display of brightness, God then promised to lead His people for 40 years with bright light at night and a smoky cloud during the day. They never had to be afraid of the dark because the Shekinah fire of God’s holy presence was always with them. They didn’t need any night-lights because the lights were always on! Exodus 13: 21: “…the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light…”
One of the names of the coming Messiah was “light.” Daniel 2: 22: “He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him.”
God Himself is referred to as light - 1 John 1: 5: “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” When Jesus declares Himself to be the light of the world, He is declaring His deity.
God’s first act was to create light and His final crescendo will be splashed with light as His work of redemption culminates. Revelation 21: 23, 24: “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk…”
Revelation 22: 5: “And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light…”
Let’s see the context in which Jesus made this startling claim. The word “light” is used 24 times in John’s gospel. John 1: 9: “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.”
1. Wilderness Metaphors. When Jesus declared Himself to be the bread of life in John 6, the people remembered the manna that was supplied for 40 years. Now in chapter 8, Jesus asserts that He is the light of the world, going back to the pillar of fire that led God’s people in the desert. Jesus deliberately associated Himself with these wilderness images in order to establish His identity. He is the bread of life, the water of life and the light of life.
2. Feast of Tabernacles God inaugurated this annual feast to help the Israelites remember that for 40 years they wandered in the wilderness before they were finally brought into the Promised Land. On the opening night of the celebration, 4 gigantic candelabras standing 20m high were lit, gloriously illuminating the entire Temple and much of Jerusalem. Each candelabra had 4 branches supplied by golden bowls filled with 50l of oil. These flames leapt toward the sky.
Throughout the week the light burned brightly as the leaders praised the Lord and sang songs of joy while the people watched and waited. Musicians played harps, lyres, cymbals and trumpets. This festival was to remind the Israelites of the glory of God, dwelling among them and how God’s Shekinah brightness had filled the Temple. This celebration also focused on the promise of God to send a light, the Anointed One, the Messiah, who would deliver them from darkness and despair. Isaiah 9: 2: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.”
The exquisite imagery of this celebration culminates on the final day of the feast as Jesus declares: “I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” What’s amazing about His timing is that as the celebration wraps up, all the lights are put out. In their minds, God has not yet sent the Saviour. The Temple has grown dark. Then Jesus stands up next to the magnificent Menorahs and declares that He is the Messiah!
We started broadly so that we could narrow in and understand the meaning of this metaphor. Keeping in mind the properties of light, the Scriptural survey, the context and the background to the Feast of Tabernacles, let’s now apply this verse to our lives. Here are some truths that come to light (no pun intended). John 8: 12: “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.’”
1. Repetition. “Again Jesus spoke” to the people. Aren’t you thankful that God doesn’t just give us one chance? Jesus loves to give us chances. But we don’t have unlimited opportunities. At some point it will be too late for you. Twice Jesus tells the Pharisees that they “will die in their sins.” I can’t think of anything more tragic than that. It’s no accident that you’re here today. This could be your last chance to put your faith in Christ.
2. Revelation. Perhaps you’re not sure if Jesus is really who He says He is. Friend, I don’t know what else you could be waiting for. What more evidence do you need? When Jesus said, “I am the light,” He is claiming to be both God and Saviour.
3. Redemption. “…I am the light of the world. Whoever…” Jesus came for the whole world. The word “world” occurs 77 times alone in the Gospel of John! We must never lose sight of the importance of taking the gospel to the nations. I love that word, “whoever.” Anyone can come to Him. He died for the sins of everyone. No matter what you’ve done, you can be forgiven. John 12: 46: “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” Friend, do you need to be forgiven? Don’t run away from the light! Come to the light and be forgiven.
4. Response. Salvation is not automatic. It doesn’t work by osmosis just because you’re in church today. It’s for whoever “follows.” To follow the Lord Jesus means to believe and receive. Have you done that yet? John says that by nature we try to extinguish the light because it hurts our eyes. The problem is we stumble around in the darkness of our sins.
5. Result. Once you respond and decide to follow Christ you “…will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Darkness is a metaphor for disaster, death and destruction, along with sin and its consequences. Do you see the word “have”? We don’t just get to see the light, we can have the light.
6. Repent. Have you been slipping spiritually? Have you been defaulting to the dark instead of living in the light? It’s time to turn the lights on. Ephesians 5: 8: “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light.”
7. Reflect. One of our purposes as His followers is to shine His light in a dark world. Matthew 5: 14: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”
Growing and Going
Let’s milk this metaphor a little more as we look at some things that could be keeping us from fully shining for Christ.
1. Stop covering your light [put a box over lit lantern]. Are you doing something that is snuffing out the light of Christ in your life? The whole purpose of shining our light is to give glory to God.
2. Make sure you’re plugged in [try to turn lamp on that is not plugged in]. Some of you are not shining simply because you’ve unplugged from your power source. You can’t grow if you’re not plugged into God. One of our values - gather with God’s people.
3. Get recharged daily [hold up dim flashlight]. Is your light growing dim? The only way to burn bright is by getting recharged and rejuvenated by daily time in the Word of God. Psalm 119: 105: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
4. Use these metaphors to help you remember. Whenever you eat bread or see bread or smell bread, ask yourself this question: “Am I finding my satisfaction by feeding on Christ?” When you see the light of the sun or when you turn on a light, ask this question: “Am I plugged in to Christ and am I shining for Him today?”
Have you asked Christ to be your forgiver and leader? Are you a believer but you’ve been doing some things in the dark? It’s time to bring it into the light.