Can you imagine a world without light? That is almost impossible, but how sad and dangerous such a world would be.
I remember the great so-called “Blackout” that occurred in New York City back in the 1960’s. (Yes, I am that old!) It was so strange to look across the streets and see ‘darkness’ instead of the usual lights. There was great concern during the blackout about the possible increase in crime, because so much crime enjoys the cover of darkness. In daily life, it is usually preferred to be active in the light rather than trying to function in the dark.
With these thoughts in mind, 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. The Apostle John selected his material carefully, which includes various powerful claims that Jesus made about Himself. Let’s remember that the writer 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).
Here is the claim found in John 8:12: “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 think about this claim, especially in the context of John’s gospel. Jesus spoke often with Jewish religious leaders who constantly questioned 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 after John 8:12 show Jesus’ opponents questioning Jesus’ own words and witness concerning Himself.
But, what does Jesus mean by this claim?? And what does it mean for us today??
Before we think further about this claim of Jesus, let’s 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.” We see right from the beginning of the Gospel that life and light are connected, even as they are in our text. Here in his prologue, the writer, John, states clearly that in Jesus “was life” and that life was “the light” of men. He proceeds to say that Jesus, the Word, is the true light which gives light.
Let’s examine Jesus’ statement to see what it really means for us today.
Notice first of all that:
Jesus is not just saying that he has light or that he can provide light, He is saying that He Himself is the True Light of the World.
Notice, 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 source of light in Himself. He is the source of God’s life and truth, and that this life and truth can be found in HIM. He is the unique source of ultimate truth and life in a world filled with partial truths, lies, confusion, and evil: a world filled with a lot of darkness and confusion.
Do I need to convince you of the darkness and confusion in our world?? Things are so dark that people cannot find God on their own. That is why the light had to enter our world. So, this light has a moral quality as well, since life, purity and righteousness all go together with grace and truth. (See John 1:14-18 also).
Throughout John’s gospel opposition to the true witness of Jesus to Himself and to His heavenly Father is evident. 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. His uniqueness has been proved and verified.
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 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.
Notice also that:
He is the light of the whole world. Even though he is speaking in Israel to Jews when He made this statement, Jesus did not come to be the light for Israel only, or the middle-east, the west, or the east, but the whole world. He is the universal source of light for all people. In other words, Jesus does not need any additional light to add to His role as light.
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 to give adequate light to each student or participant in the room. We had to add light for people to really see well. This is in contrast to our Lord Jesus Christ who is the sufficient light, not just for a room or a region, but for the whole world.
On Cape Cod, there are many historic light houses. One was not sufficient to cover the various parts of that beautiful peninsula. We even saw a light house that had to be moved due to erosion. But, even that light house only helped give light in a limited area. Jesus is saying that He is the sufficient light to light 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 is the truth that leads to life, and the truth that enables us to live in the light. He has the life in Himself which is also the light that we need.
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. Indeed, those who do not believe in Jesus and therefore live in the “dark” are under condemnation. Jesus had to come as the light of the world to bring salvation for those who believe in Him (John 3:16).
The Light of the World in a Person, none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Christianity is not essentially a philosophy, an ethic, or a set of religious principles, it is divine revelation in and through a person, Jesus Christ, the very eternal Son of God. He provides light because He is the light.
Notice, in the second place that:
Light serves a purpose, and this Light, our Lord Jesus Christ, has a definite purpose. Notice what Jesus says, “He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” This statement is really a statement of fact, that this is the case for those who follow Him. But, I think this statement also points towards the purpose our Savior’s mission in this world
So, first of all:
Now, Jesus is not talking about walking down a very dark street and providing light. Jesus is talking about the way to experience true life in relation to God. He is talking about life in relationship to God that is eternal. Jesus is saying that those whose truly believe on Him and therefore “follow Him” will not be in darkness, which speaks of the absence of God and that which is against God. Those in the dark miss the most important thing in life. The darkness He is talking about is a darkness that is separate from the way to God and the ways of God. When people are in the dark, they stumble, they fall, they are lost, they cannot find their way to where they need to go.
I wonder if you have ever gotten up in the middle of the light. It is very dark. And before you are able to put a light on, you stumble over something. You don’t really want to walk in darkness, it is dangerous. Well, living in the dark speaks of living a life that is not based on the truth of God. That is dangerous now and eternally. Our world is filled with darkness. Our world is filled with wrong, evil, and injustice. Life in the dark seeks to resist the light of God and is characterized by all sorts of evil and hatred.
Jesus is our light so that we will not walk in darkness. We can live in the true knowledge of God and have an eternal relationship with Him. Jesus accomplishes this 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 (John 1:12-13). 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 shed light so that we do not need to walk in darkness. Indeed, we need to be rescued from the darkness by Jesus. That is what Jesus has done for those who follow Him. He has removed them from the darkness so that they can walk in the light. Notice the certainty in the way Jesus presents His purpose. Those who follow Him “shall not” walk in darkness. This is something that He brings about in the life of His followers. Those who reject Jesus, as many were at that time and since, reveal that they are in the “darkness” and remain in the darkness.
But, there is more.
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. 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 in the present and eternally. His light leads us to a life as a born again child of God. It is a life in which we find Jesus to be our Savior from sin. He is our true light. 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.
But, having the light of life enables us to walk “in the light.” The Apostle spells this out in his Epistle. This life of following Jesus is a life of love, righteousness, and obedience to Jesus. We walk even as Jesus Himself walked (1 John 2:6). It is a life of joyful fellowship with God and with one another. It is a life of walking in the light, and knowing the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty of our sins. He rose again and He is our advocate in heaven (1 John 2:1-2). When we sin, it is because of His shed blood that we are forgiven. So, the Apostle John encourages us to walk in the light, but if we sin – we need to confess our sins and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7-9). And walking in the light means walking a cleansed life and seeking to be like Christ by His grace and power. It is a life of faith and obedience. It is a life lived in the truth of Christ as we follow Him.
Again, there is a certainty in this statement of Jesus. The emphasis here is on the certainty of being in the way that can be called “eternal life” and leads to life eternal. Yes, light and life are experienced by those who follow Jesus, but ultimately He is the light that provides eternal life for His children.
So, do you have eternal life? Are you seeking to walk faithfully in the light?
This is a bold statement by Jesus, and it implies a promise. But note:
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 abide in Him. In other words, for those who truly believe in Jesus as the Son of God and their Savior from sin (lamb of God) they have life in Him. This promise is in keeping with the very purpose of the light. But, that promise is for true followers of Jesus. It is a promise for those who believe on Jesus Christ, the very Son of God. And those who believe on Him will continue to follow Jesus in obedience and depend upon Him. Praise the Lord for His provision and promise the light that assures life eternal!
“shall not walk in darkness”….. “but have….”
It is one thing to make a promise, it is another to have the power to actually do what is purposed and promised. Jesus Christ, the True Light, has the power to lead us to life and life eternal. This is implicit is this statement. Those who follow Jesus have the light of life. Jesus followers have the light that brings true spiritual life. This is life now in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as we follow Him. But, this statement speaks of life that never ends, an eternal life. Because of Who He is, He is able to make this promise a reality.
For those of us who know HIM, we have the joy of walking in the LIGHT, His Light. But, notice that Jesus’s statement for His followers has a challenge that John spells out in his epistles. We, as disciples, as followers of Jesus are not to walk in darkness. So, if we have slipped into darkness by sinning and losing our closeness to Jesus, we need to consider 1 John 1:9, and get back in the light as out usual lifestyle. What about you today??
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.
JESUS – THE TRUE LIGHT IS A PERSON – JESUS CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD
JESUS – THE TRUE LIGHT HAS A PURPOSE
JESUS – THE TRUE LIGHT MAKES A PROMISE that he has the power to keep.
This simple statement by Jesus reveals His person, His purpose and His promise.
Are you in the light or in the dark?
Have you trusted in Him and invited Him into your life as the Son of God and the light of the World?
It is through Jesus Christ that we gain access to life and life eternal.
It is as we follow Him that we don’t’ have to walk in darkness, but we have the light of life.