THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
August 2, 2020
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.” 13 So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” 14 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. 15 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. 17 In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. 18 I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” 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.
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’?” 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. 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. 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.
— John 8:12-30, ESV
Light is the first commandment of God, “Let there be light” (ref. Genesis 1:3). Light is perhaps the most powerful substance in the universe, without which we would be frozen and blind. Light is used as one of the most enduring symbols known to man, always speaking of something good, often a symbol of God.
“Yahweh (the Lord) is my light,” (ref. Psalm 27:1) wrote David in the Old Testament psalm. “God is light,” John wrote in his first New Testament epistle, “and in Him is no darkness at all” (ref. 1 John 1:5).
So imagine Jerusalem’s surprise when the preacher from Galilee, pushed down in public opinion polls by the Pharisees, months away from His humiliating arrest, conviction, and condemnation, stood up and proclaimed, “I am the light of the world.”
This is the second of seven great “I Am” statements made by Jesus and recorded in the Gospel of John. They are all bold, they are all the gospel in a nutshell, and they all light the way to God. But this one may be the most powerful and personal of them all.
The Light of the World is God
Once again we are looking at Jesus on His last days at His last Feast of Tabernacles. The annual festival featured two foundational rituals. One of them involved water, when the high priest would carry a golden bucket of water from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple and pour it out upon the altar. Jesus capitalized earlier on that one to offer the masses “living water” (ref. John 7:38).
The second ritual involved light. Each night four golden oil-filled lamps lifted seventy feet high would illuminate the Temple grounds. The water symbolized the provision of God and the light celebrated the presence of God.
The light of the world is God. He is light, He gives light, and without Him there would be no light. For the Israelites, not believing in God would be like not believing in light.
Everyone believes in light. You can see it, feel it, experience it. But where does light come from? Light predates the switch, the inventor Thomas Edison, the experimenter Benjamin Franklin, and the first cave man to ever spark a fire. It goes back to creation, and someone had to be the first one to turn it on. The very presence of light leads us to pursue belief in an original and personal God.
In the Old Testament, one expressed his or her faith in God by believing in a sacred promise. It was the promise of “Immanuel” (ref. Isaiah 7:14), God with us. This is the promise of the Messiah. This is what the water and the light anticipated at the Feast of Tabernacles.
Now in this New Testament age, one expresses his or her faith in God by believing in a sacred promise about a specific person. He is God with us. He is the Messiah. He gives the living water of God the Spirit and He shines the light of the God the Father. He is God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Light of the World is Jesus
Jesus made a splash at the water ritual by proclaiming Himself as the promised Messiah with living water to give. Now He dares go even farther, standing near the light of four giant menorahs, claiming to be “the light of the world.” Everyone understood what Jesus was saying, whether they believed Him or not.
The unbelievers struck first. Represented by the Pharisees, they challenged Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah by accusing Him of self-promotion, of being the sole witness to His success. They actually had a point in that the Old Testament required two or more witnesses to make a legitimate claim.
They could have called Simon Peter to the stand as the second witness, but they did not know Simon Peter. They could have called any number of Galileans who had learned to trust Jesus, but the snobbish Jerusalem Jews did not know any Galileans. They could have called God to testify, but as Christ told them, they did not know God. Unbelievers do not know God, and they often attack those who do.
The only way to know God today is to repent from a worldly point of view believe in someone who is not of this world, namely the Lord Jesus Christ. He shines the light of the Creator, the Father, Yahweh, the great “I Am.” He shares the light by claiming “I Am the light.” And He spreads the light of the gospel through the power of the Holy Spirit. God — Father, Son, and Spirit — is light and to know Him is to come out of the darkness.
But it is Jesus, God the Son, who shines the light in such a way you can see it. People walked with Him in life. People were standing there at His death. People close to Him witnessed His resurrection and ascension up to Heaven. This story of Jesus is the light of the gospel.
The Light of the World is the Gospel
The gospel is the good news of God’s salvation, wrought by the person and work of Jesus Christ. By grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, a person can know God, become a child of God, be forgiven of all sin, and inherit eternal life. But the gospel is hard for people to believe, because unbelieving people live in darkness. It is impossible for them to seen, unless God’s grace turns on the light of faith for them.
Let’s see if this story has flipped four light switches for you.
Do you see Jesus as the Son of David, the promised Messiah?
Do you see Jesus as the Son of God, coming from the Father, from above to earth in order to make a way for those on earth to go above to Heaven?
Do you see Jesus as perfect, sinless, always pleasing the Father, and the only suitable sacrifice for sinners?
Do you see Jesus high and lifted up as He prophesied here, up upon on the cross, up from the grave, and ascended up into Heaven?
Like the four giant menorah at the Feast of Tabernacles, all four of these lights should come on for you if you are enraptured by grace and endued with faith by the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The light is God, the light is the Lord Jesus Christ, the light is the gospel, and the light is, you, if you truly believe.
The Light of the World is You
Though Jesus staked this claim near the end of His earthly life, “The light of the world” harkens back to something the Lord said at the beginning of His ministry. In His famous “Sermon on the Mount” He told His future followers this: “You are the light of the world” (ref. Matthew 5:14).
Of the seven “I Am” statements in the Gospel of John, this is the only one that applies to both Christ and the Christian. The most staunch and strong believer in Jesus cannot be for others the bread, or the door, or the good shepherd, or the resurrection, or the way and truth and life, or the true vine. But once we have received the light from the Lord, we shine it for others to see and follow.
If you are a skeptic or scoffer, or if you believe but only nominally and superficially, or if you admit you like the darkness you are living in because you do not want your sins exposed by the light, I beg you to let the light of Jesus Christ shine on you. Yes, you will have to repent of those sins, you will have to commit to Christ and obey God’s word, you will have to change and be challenged every day. But, you will live, by the light, and not die in darkness.
If you are a true follower of Jesus Christ, do not hide your light. Like the simple song says, let it shine, don’t let Satan blow it out, and don’t hide it. Live a life of light, publicly worshiping and serving your Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org