Jesus is the Light of the World
|The Light of the World
“And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.” These were the famous words that echo throughout the history of mankind spoken by a man whose eyes had been opened for the very first time by Jesus the Light of the World who came into this world to redeem mankind from their fallen state of moral darkness. When Adam fell into sin in the Garden of Eden all mankind was cast into darkness. This man who was born blind is a picture of all mankind who are born blind to the things of God. Just as this man born blind had never seen the beauty of a sunrise but just a shadow so mankind has never seen God nor the beauty of his works just a shadow thereof. Though man might have his physical eyesight the eyes of his heart are blind causing him to stumble his way through life searching for a light to guide him. To some this would be the key to eternal life but to the Jewish leaders of the time this Light would cause bitter opposition. Leon Morris states, “John evidently wants us to see that the activity of Jesus as the Light of two fold inevitable results in judgment for those whose natural habitat is darkness.” This paper will be discussing Jesus’ claim to be the Light of the World. First, it will describe the events that surround this I Am statement including: the events leading up to this statement; what was going on when Jesus claimed this statement; and what happened after he claimed this statement. Second, this paper will show how this statement is related to an Old Testament revelation. Lastly, this paper will help the reader to understand how this particular statement shows the deity of Christ.
EVENTS SURROUNDING “I AM” STATEMENT
The first time this statement is used by Jesus is in John chapter 8. In the previous chapter Jesus had made an appearance at the Feast of Tabernacles and had cried out to the people, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in me as the Scripture said. ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.’” This had infuriated the leaders of the Jews and they attempted to arrest him but nobody would take him. Oliver Green states:
“The scribes and Pharisees had just failed in their attempt to have Jesus arrested – and so bitter was their anger against him, I do not doubt that they spent hours thinking and planning, finally deciding on the scheme set forth in the first part of this chapter, in further effort to do away with him and silence him completely.”
The Feast of Tabernacles is important to mention because it helps to show what is going on when Jesus claims to be the light of the world. Leon Morris, in his commentary, states: “It is usually held that the background of this chapter, as of the last, remains the Feast of Tabernacles. In the Jewish celebration of that feast the imagery of water and of light were both very important, and light continues to occupy attention in this section.” It ends by saying that everybody went home. This probably refers to the fact that people went back to their permanent dwellings from their makeshift tents. Godet states, “…The whole people who, when the feast was ended, returned from the temple to their dwellings.” This chapter starts with Jesus coming from the Mount of Olives to teach in the temple. Elmer Towns states, “John describes Jesus beginning his teaching ‘early in the morning’ (8:2), using the word orthrou, referring to the early dawn hours just before sunrise.”
The Scribes and Pharisees came to Jesus while he was teaching to try to trap him by bringing to him a woman caught in adultery. Towns states, “The presentation of the woman caught in the act of adultery to Jesus by a group of scribes and Pharisees was not so much to get Jesus to carry out the law against adultery as it was a trap to snare him.” Their plan was to try to get him into a no-win situation. If he told them to go and stone the woman he would not be the loving savior seeking the lost. Town’s states, “If He condemned her and called for her execution, He would never be known as a friend of sinners.” If he told them to spare the woman he would be breaking the commandment of Moses thus breaking his own Law. Jesus was not caught off guard or worried. Greene states:
“The apparent zeal of these men to administer the Law of Moses could not fool the Lord, for He (the Word in flesh) ‘is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart’ (Heb. 4:12). He knew of their plan to trap him, but he also knew that they were quoting only part of the law – the part hat suited them and their purposes.”
He turned the situation back on them by telling whoever was without sin to cast the first stone. Been convicted by their own consciences the accusers left.
At this point Jesus turns back and proclaims, “I Am the light of the world, he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12) Greene states, “This brings us back to verse 2, where our Lord was sitting in the temple and teaching the people when he was interrupted by the Pharisees who brought the woman to him.” This is the first time he uses this description of himself at this point in the book of John. When he used this statement the first thing that the Pharisees did was argue with him about the witnesses of his claims. Towns states, “When Jesus made the claim to be light, the Pharisees immediately responded, ‘Your witness is not true.” Then, Jesus went on to claim that his witnesses were his own testimony and the testimony of his Father. After his conversation with them they were so furious that they started to pick up stones to kill him. Godet states, “In the face of this reply, there was indeed nothing left to the Jews except to worship or to stone him.” Jesus just simply walked away in a crowd from the temple and from this point the next chapter starts with Jesus meeting a man who was blind from birth. Morris states, “It is not so much that Jesus by superior cleverness was able to conceal himself from them. It was rather that he was concealed by another, and so passed out of the temple.” During this time his disciples are curious about this man and his blindness and ask Jesus questions. It is at this time that Jesus again declares I AM the light of the world to his disciples.
OLD TESTAMENT REVELATION
First, it needs to be understood that the Jews were well versed in the area of symbolism hence why Christ tended to use symbolism to reach their darkened minds. There are two views of how this statement related to the Old Testament. The first view is that Jesus was alluding to the Pillar of Fire that led the Jews to the promise land. Morris states, “Many draw attention to the ceremonies with lights at the Feat of Tabernacles and suggest that Jesus was consciously fulfilling the symbolism suggested by them.” As discussed before they had just ended the Feast of Tabernacles at which they would light huge candelabras to represent the Pillar of Fire. Towns states, “The illumination of the temple was a reminder to the people of the cloud/pillar of fire that led Israel through the wilderness.” The light from these candelabras would light all of Jerusalem. Hence, having this fresh in their minds Jesus proclaimed I Am that Light. Towns states, “Most Jews would have considered the cloud/pillar of fire a Theophany that was a manifestation of God Himself.” The second view is that he was alluding to the many Old Testament prophecies references the Messiah and light. Towns states, “Also, the word light is used in regard to the Messiah in several Old Testament passages (Is. 9:2; 42:6; 49:6; 60:1-3; Mal. 4:2).” Morris states, “For this reason Vitringa and other commentators have thought that they must connect this saying rather with some prophetic passage which may have been read in the temple during that day; IS. Xlii. 6: ‘I will cause thee to be the covenant of the people, and the light of the nations.” “For instance Isaiah 9:2 states, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”
DEITY OF CHRIST
All of the “I Am” statements in some way prove or show the deity of Christ. In this particular statement the connection is very clear. The words “I Am” proclaim deity in their very definition. Morris states, “Jesus’ opening words, ‘I am the light of the world’, are very impressive. ‘I am’ is emphatic. It is the very style of deity which we have seen employed before in this Gospel.” For a human standpoint what man or what creature can claim to be the light of the world? In fact science the study of the universes natural processes does not even have an accurate explanation of where light comes from or what it does. Today, in world thriving on humanism, man still cannot solve the mystery of light. Yet, Jesus stated to his disciples, “I Am the light of the world….” That is the first very clear reason that this proves the deity of Christ is because no man can claim this statement. Ironsides states, “There is no other like Him. His very presence among men was the condemnation of all other men, for here, at last, was one Man absolutely holy, utterly true, perfectly righteous.” If a common man stood up in a crowd of people and claimed that he was light people would think he had some type of mental disability because no man is the source of light either in a physical sense or even in a metaphysical sense which means that Jesus was either a madman or the Lord. Another possible reason which is stated in a previous portion is that Jesus was fulfilling the symbolism of the Pillar of Fire which is a clear distinction of deity. Lastly, a basic evidence of Christ proclaiming his deity is the reaction of the Jews. They immediately and vehemently ask for his witnesses for such an audacious claim. Towns states, “When Jesus made the claim to be light, the Pharisees immediately responded, ‘Your witness is not true’ (8:13).” They would go on to consider him a common man and therefore could not make a claim to such deity. They believe He is filled with pride. Godet states, “The inner light which He possesses with regard to His person places Him absolutely beyond the illusions of pride. And this is thee reason why He is, at the same time, the light for others.”
It is clear that Jesus is Lord. He is the Light of the world. In a world that is corrupted by darkness that groans from a curse he has come to bring light to those who are lost. Science cannot prove where light comes from but Christians can prove where light comes from. These statements were used by John to accomplish his goal of helping those to believe that Christ is Lord and that he came to earth to give eternal life. Now this paper tried to help the reader to understand the events that surrounded this statement of the Lord. First, showing what had happened to start these events by giving a background on the Feast of Tabernacles. Second, by discussing the Jews plot against Jesus using a woman who had been caught in adultery. Lastly, a second time that Jesus used this statement was briefly described to give you an idea of the two ways which Jesus is the light. Also, this paper, tried to give several views of how this statement was revealed in the Old Testament. First, by looking at the view that is was fulfilling the symbolism of the Feast of Tabernacles, and second by giving a view that is was fulfilling the many different Messianic references found in the Old Testament. Lastly, this paper ended with showing how this statement shows the deity of Christ. This was accomplished by showing three different ways. First, that the very statement “I Am” is proclaiming deity in its very definition. Second, by discussing how the very discussion of this statement would be a claim to deity. Lastly, by showing a subtle prove because of the Jews immediately reaction and denial.
Godet, Frank Louis. Commentary on the Gospel of John. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1970.
Green, Oliver B. The Gospel According to John. Greenville: The Gospel Hour, Inc., 1966.
Ironside, H.A. Addresses on the Gospel of John. Neptune: Loizeaux Brothers, Inc., 1974.
Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids: WM. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Co., 1971.
Towns, Elmer. The Gospel of John: Believe and Live. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2002.