I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD
Bobby G. Gordon
BIBL 323 – B04
I AM the Light of the World
There is a hope, one that prevails for all who accepts Him, and it comes at a price of full abandonment and the disciples knew well what it meant to “leave everything and follow him” (Luke 5:11, NIV). He who is this hope, is light in a dark world. Light that exposes all darkness. In John 8:12 Jesus exclaims “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Is there confidence that the New Testament gives testimony to the Old Testament with reference to Jesus as the light of the world? Does Jesus as the light of the world under gird and support His deity? Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), such as the same faith that spurs the hearts of the disciples has been brought forward into the hearts of modern day Christians? The events surrounding Jesus’ affirmation, “I AM the light of the world,” along with answering the aforementioned questions, will be discussed in a culmination of events and explanations of one of the most significant events in the Word of God.
Events Surrounding the Claim
It would be unrealistic to believe that Jesus’ “I Am” statements resonate out of nowhere with no connection or relation to encompassing events.1 The ensuing events contribute to Jesus declaring who He is by stating one of the I AM declarations. Ahead of Jesus’s claim, He leaves the Feast of the Tabernacles and encounters a challenge about where He is from; “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee” (John 7:52). The Jewish teachers of the Law and Pharisees converge with Jesus at the temple courts where He begins to teach. He was disrupted as the Jewish authorities bring forward an adulterous woman to Him to see if He
1 J.G. Janzen, I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD: CONNOTATION AND CONTEXT. (Spring, 2006). Pg. 121.
would advocate the Law of Moses and allow the woman to be stoned or would He make a preposterous assertation. Jesus replies with, “let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). Every allegation was dropped, and those who were the accusers scurried away. Jesus forgives the woman’s sin and encourages her to withdraw from her life of wrongdoing. The next time Jesus addresses this company of Jewish leaders, He exclaims, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). The Pharisees incapable of understanding His claim except that it is supposititious that Jesus would bear witness of Himself and that the Father would also affirm of Him. Spiritual blindness is the explanation Jesus gives of why they are unable to understand. This circumstance connects with Jesus healing the man born blind, as he being physically blind is able to see with new God given spiritual vision that Jesus is who He says He is, while the Pharisees who claim they can see, are spiritually blind to receive the truth and “are cut off from God’s mercy.”2 According to Köstenberger, “for John, therefore, a life lived without Christ is a life lived in spiritual darkness. For Christ is the light that has come into the world; He is life itself. The Jews do not concede this.”3
Statement Relates to God as Revealed in the Old Testament
Although the Jews maintain the Old Testament and the Law as certainty and regard that God is the creator of the universe and will bless them with the Messiah, they struggle to accept Jesus, His message of salvation, and His declarations as truth. “God is the Creator, the Giver of light which makes life possible, the one who revealed to his people moral requirements he expected them to keep, but the observing of which was rendered difficult because of human sin (“darkness”).”4
2 Andreas Köstenberger, Encountering John. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2013). Chapter 8.
3 Ibid. Ch. 8.
4 Ibid. Ch. 8.
Jesus’ assertation as “the light of the world,” which, makes life viable, exposes the darkness and immorality of man and man’s longing for a Savior to revitalize his accordance with God. Unfortunately, “claiming Abraham as their father, they (Jews) deny their own sinfulness and need for salvation.”5 It is the Jewish understanding that the Children of Abraham are the Children of God, therefore translating the Abrahamic promises automatically upon the Jews, as the true Children of Abraham, ergo children of God.6 Furthermore, assuming the reader already considers that the Jews are spiritually blind, they have a deficit of understanding concerning the covenant as stated in Genesis. God made the promise to Abraham, “I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you,” (Genesis 17:6-7). Jesus is the King of all Kings, and the Lord of Lords the one who restores man’s relationship with God the Father, He who came through this bloodline of David. In Isaiah 8:18 “Here am I, and the children the Lord has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the Lord Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion,” reiterates the promise of God, which the Gospel of John repeats through Jesus, “those who you have given me (6:37, 39; 10:29; 17:6, 9, 24; 18:9).”7 In Exodus, God reveals that He is the I AM to Moses, “and God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you” (Exodus 3:14).
5 Kostenberger. Ch. 8.
6 Janzen. 133.
7 Ibid. Janzen. 133.
connects the revelation of God, His “arm revealed,” (Isaiah 53:1), to Jesus’ claim when Isaiah says, “After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.”8 “I AM mostly represents the speech of the heavenly Father or of the Son.”9 The light of life, makes life possible, through whom is the only way to salvation and has paid for all our sin, is Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.
Statement Reveals the Deity of Christ
When looking at Jesus’ claim and His Deity, it is not the nature of God that is under scrutiny, instead it is what Jesus, the Son of God, has done that makes Him the very light of the world.10 “Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me” (John 8:54). There is no capacity for non-believers to understand the true meaning of light since the notion of Jesus as the light does not fit into the understanding of life in the light, unless the Spirit discloses. Jesus’ deity is seen in the circumstance that He, the light, sits amidst tax collectors, sinners, poor, sick, and needy and provides hope, love, and promise that the Father has every insight into what everyone’s needs are and He will afford all things. Jesus’ deity is revealed in His divine authority to extend grace and forgiveness, on the cross Jesus forgives the thief, when healing the blind man, when showing mercy to the adulterous woman, just to give a few examples. “Everything that is said of Jesus as the light of the world remains incomplete, unless it is seen in the connection with the eternal consummation.”11 The entire world, creation, and operations of God are derived from the very
8 Ibid. Janzen. 134.
9 Leon Morris, Jesus is the Christ: studies in the theology of John (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1989). Ch. 6.
10 Bishop Gottfried Noth, Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. (New Delhi, 1962). 142.
11 Ibid. Gottfried. 145.
words spoken of Jesus the Son of God. Isaiah 55:11 says, “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Just as God spoke the entire world into existence and every prophecy inspired by the Holy Spirit and spoken of by Jesus, his crucifixion and resurrection three days later, the last supper and its foretelling of the banquet feast in the Father’s heavenly kingdom, the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and His overcoming of death, the gravest price to pay for sin that has overcome man, all have and will come to pass.12 The staggering presence of sin and darkness keeps man removed from God for all eternity unless man receives God’s grace through Jesus Christ. “The fellowship between God and man is broken, and this makes the world dark – whether it notices it or not. In the full authority of God’s grace, Christ establishes a new fellowship with God, and this makes Him the light of the world. The darkness is driven away, not by a new doctrine of God, but by His act of redemption.”13 This is something that is only done through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In John 8:58, Jesus tells the Jews, “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”
How this Truth Can Apply Practically to Your Personal Life
Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand,
12 Ibid. Gottfried. 145.
13 Ibid. 143.
and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Just as the disciples lived a new life in the light by following Jesus, believers today must also live life in Christ glorifying His love, grace, and forgiveness, and by sharing the good news that Jesus has conquered this dark world. If the body of Christ “deviates” from this very path, the testimony is tarnished, and the Gospel perverted by the poor example set.14 Darkness shall remain upon the earth until the final day and the body of Christ is the only hope for the lost, so the body must live the outward expression of the blessed hope that is found in Jesus Christ alone. “The Kingdom of God is at hand. The night is far spent, and the dawn is near. The One who brought this to pass, He and HE alone can say: I AM the Light of the World.”15
14 Ibid. Gottfried. 148.
15 Ibid. 153.
Janzen, J. G. “”I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD” (JOHN 8:12): CONNOTATION AND CONTEXT.” Encounter 67, no. 2 (Spring, 2006): 115-35, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/216769004?accountid=12085.
Köstenberger, Andreas J. Encountering John: The Gospel in historical, literary, and theological perspective. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2013. Ch. 8.
Morris, Leon. Jesus is the Christ: studies in the theology of John. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1989. Ch. 6.
Noth, Gottfried Bp. 1962. “Jesus Christ, the light of the world.” The Ecumenical Review 14, no. 2: 141-153. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed November 6, 2017).