Just for a few minutes, I want us to think about one statement, one claim that the Lord Jesus Christ made about Himself. It is found in one of the four gospels, John’s gospel, John 8:12 (NKJV):
Then, Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
Let’s remember that the writer, the Apostle John, clearly states the purpose of his gospel, “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). The Apostle has selected his material carefully, which includes the various powerful claims that Jesus made about Himself. We have just read one of those claims.
Let’s think about this claim, especially in the broader context of John’s gospel. Jesus is speaking in the immediate context to people including religious leaders who were constantly questioning who He was and what He taught. Here in John 8:12 He speaks of Himself as “The Light of the World.” It is no surprise that the following verses in this section of John’s gospel show Jesus’ opponents questioning His own witness concerning Himself. But, I want to focus on this one statement, viewing it within the gospel as a whole.
What does Jesus mean by this claim?? And what does it mean for us??
Jesus is saying that He is THE ONE LIGHT FROM GOD who leads to TRUE LIFE both now and eternally for those who follow HIM.
Remember the opening words in this gospel:
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it.”
The writer, John, goes on to state clearly that Jesus is the true light who gives light in this world.
Having seen how John begins his gospel, let’s now examine Jesus’ statement to see what this statement really means for us today.
Notice first of all that:
a) Jesus is claiming to be the Unique Light of the world.
Jesus is not just saying that he has light or that he can provide light, He is saying that He is the True Light of the World. Notice also that Jesus did not say He was a light among possible options. He said that He is THE light. In other words, He is the unique light in Himself. He is the source of God’s Truth, this truth can be found in HIM. He is the unique source of ultimate truth who came into a world filled with partial truths, lies, confusion, and evil: a world filled with a lot of darkness and confusion. This light literally and physically came into our world as John clarifies in his prologue: “….the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory….. (John 1:14).
Throughout John’s gospel opposition to the true witness of Jesus to His Father is shown. This claim of uniqueness stands against the opinion of men. There have always been those who have challenged the claims of Jesus including this one. Ultimately his death, resurrection, his appearances, his ascension, and his promise to come again have to be taken into consideration when evaluating this claim. John’s Gospel from beginning to end supports this claim and many others.
In the following chapter in John’s gospel, Jesus heals a blind man. This healing of a blind man, giving him sight, has a spiritual lesson as well. Many are blind to the truth of Jesus and His uniqueness, so they continue to walk in darkness. And it is darkness that keeps people from knowing the way to God and how to have a relationship with God. Jesus is the unique source of truth and light regardless of those who think or believe otherwise.
Notice also that:
b) Jesus is claiming to be the Sufficient Light of the world.
He is the light of the whole world. Even though he was speaking in Israel to Jews when He made this statement, Jesus did not come to be light for Israel only, or the middle-east, the west, or the east, but the whole world. He is the universal light for all people. He is sufficient light of the whole world.
The original building where our ministry is located is a very large house. And the largest room in that building is where many of our training seminars have taken place. In the earliest days, there was only one main source of light attached to the ceiling of the room. The light was not sufficient to fill the room with enough light for our training sessions. We had to add light for people to really see well. No light needs to be added to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Not long ago, our family took a special trip to Cape Cod, how beautiful! We enjoyed so much seeing various lighthouses scattered around that beautiful part of God’ creation. But, notice I said “lighthouses.” Certainly, one lighthouse was not sufficient to cover the various parts of that beautiful peninsula.
Jesus, on the other hand, is saying that He is the sufficient light to light the whole world. He lights the whole world with the truth about God, our relationship with Him, and the life that He wants us to experience now and eternally
Jesus, the very Son of God, is God’s Light for the World. This light speaks of the truth that leads to life, and the truth that enables us to live in the light. Our Lord Jesus is that truth.
c) Jesus is claiming to be the Necessary Light of the world
His statement indicates that there is a need for His light. This is in keeping with the message of the whole gospel of John. Jesus was sent by the heavenly Father because of our need. Our world is in darkness concerning God and how to have a real relationship with Him. Jesus had to come as the light of the world.
The Light of the World in a Person, none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.
Notice, in the second place that:
Notice what Jesus says, “He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
a) The purpose of light is to dispel the darkness.
Now, Jesus is not talking about walking down a very dark street. Jesus is talking about the way to experience true life in relation to God. He is talking about a life in relationship to God that is eternal.
Jesus is saying that those who truly believe on Him and therefore “follow Him” will not be in darkness. The darkness He is talking about is a darkness that keeps us from the way to God and the ways of God. When we are in the dark, we stumble, we cannot find our way to where we need to go. Living in the dark speaks of living a life that is not based on the truth of God. Our world is filled with darkness. Our world is filled with wrong, evil, and injustice. Life in the dark resists the light of God and is characterized by all sorts of evil and hatred. Darkness is not just ignorance of the light, it is against the light. In that sense, it covers evil and allows wrong to thrive.
Many years ago, I experienced the New York City “Black Out.” It was amazing to see a city that runs on electricity basically to be in the dark for a period of time. What I remember from that time was the added fear that people had because of the possible increase in crime due to the darkness. Evil and darkness go together.
Jesus is our light so that we will not walk in darkness. Jesus makes that possible for those who believe on Him as the very Son of God, and who receive Him into their lives as the One Light of the World. He lit the way by entering into our world. Besides teaching truth and showing light through His life, He had to die to take the penalty for sin and darkness upon himself. He took our personal darkness upon himself, and then rose from the dead victoriously conquering the power of death and darkness.
The purpose of light is to dispel the darkness so that we do not need to walk in darkness. Indeed, we can be rescued from the darkness through the “light of the world.”
But, there is more:
b) The purpose of light is to enable us to walk in the light.
Once Jesus has become our light, He enables us to walk in His light, to walk in truth. It is in ‘following Jesus,’ being His disciples that we have the “light of life.” How wonderful it is to live according to God’s truth, indeed God’s ways. And God’s truth is found in Jesus. And it is in Jesus Christ that we find light and life. His light leads to true life now and eternal life. His light leads us to a true life as a born again child of God. It is a life in which we find Jesus to be our Savior from sin. He becomes our shepherd who leads us. He becomes the bread of life that feeds us spiritually. He becomes our source of spiritual fruitfulness as we relate to Him as branches are to a vine. He becomes our assurance of life eternal because He is the resurrection and the Life Himself. Indeed, He is the Way, the Truth, the Life – and we have the assurance of a heavenly home through Him.
Having the light of life enables us to walk “in the light.” The Apostle spells this out in his Epistle (1 John 1:5-2:11). This life of following Jesus is true life, a life of belief in Him, a life of forgiven sin, a life of love, a life of righteousness, and a life of obedience to Jesus, a life in the Spirit. In short, it is a Christ-like life. We are now called and enabled to walk as He walked (1 John 2:6).
Are you walking in the light?
a) There is a requirement for this promise
It is for those who “Follow Me” He says. This promise is for those who have received Jesus (John 1:12), and for those who continue to abide in Him. In other words, for those who truly believe in Jesus as the Son of God and their Savior from sin (the Lamb of God) they have life in Him. But, that relationship continues as we obey the Lord Jesus and depend upon Him. Following Jesus means “trusting and obeying Him.” We are to be followers for life, not just temporary “fans.”
But, praise God:
b) There is certainty to this promise
“shall not walk in darkness”….. “but have….”
This statement of Jesus is not qualified for those who follow Him. It is stated definitely and clearly. There is a specific and ultimate movement from darkness to light. And there is a movement from what darkness brings – death, to the light that leads to life. Jesus speaks of having “the light of life.” It is not something that you have to achieve, merit, or acquire through a series of religious steps. In following Jesus this promise is yours in Him.
c) There is power to accomplish the promise
It is one thing to have a purpose, it is another to have the power to actually do what is purposed. Jesus Christ, the True Light, has the power to lead us to life and life eternal. This power is implicit in Jesus’ statement and is affirmed throughout this gospel, not to mention the rest of the New Testament. He has the power as the Son of God. He was sent to be our light. He had to die on the cross to pay the penalty of our sins so that we could move from darkness to light. But, He is the risen Son of God. Those who follow Him have the light of life. This is life in Christ right now as we follow the Lord. But, it is also life that never ends, an eternal life.
Conclusion and Final Applications:
John writes in his first epistle: “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son [The Light]. He who has the Son [The Light] has life; he who does not have the Son of God [The Light] does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God [The Light] that you may know that you have eternal life and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God [The Light]” (1 John 5:11-13 NKJV).
As I have done, you could write the word “Light” beside every reference to the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Light and life go together in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. For those who know HIM, there is the joy of being in the Light and walking in the Light. We, as disciples, as followers of Jesus will not walk in darkness. It is our spiritual privilege and condition to walk in “the light” as a “lifestyle.” So, if we have slipped into darkness by sinning and disobedience, losing our closeness to Jesus (the Light), we need to consider 1 John 1:9, confess our sins, and get back in the light as a usual lifestyle. What about you today?? Are you living in the light??
For those learning about HIM, think about His claim, I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD. HE WHO FOLLOWS ME WILL NOT WALK IN DARKNESS BUT HAVE THE LIGHT OF LIFE.
This simple statement by Jesus reveals His person, His purpose and His promise. He is the Light of the world, and in Him is life, life eternal. It is as we follow Him that we don’t have to walk in darkness, but we have the light of life. Receive Him [the Light], Believe on Him [the Light], and enter into life, life eternal. (John 1:11-12). This means turning from darkness, repenting of sin, and believing in Jesus Christ for who He is and what He has done for you. You will receive His Person, enter into His purpose for you, and enjoy the fulfillment of His promise, which is everlasting life.