In John 8, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.” (ref. Jn. 8:12), one of seven such statements Jesus makes concerning Himself in John’s gospel. Earlier, (ref. Jn. 6:35), Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” Each of these statements reveals something about the true identity of Jesus. In (Jn. 8), as Jesus speaks of Himself as the “light of the world,” He would continue to say, “He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (ref. Jn. 8:12). How is Jesus the light of life, and what do His words reveal about Him?
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.”
The text is a continuation of Jesus’ teaching beginning in (Jn. 7). We are told, “Now the Jews’ Feast of Tabernacles was at hand.” (Jn. 7:2). About the middle of the festival, Jesus went up into the temple and taught (ref. Jn. 7:14). Many, hearing Jesus, marveled at His teaching. Understanding this setting, the Feast of Tabernacles provides context for Jesus’ words and teaching.
From my understanding, it was customary for candles to be placed all over the courtyards in Jerusalem. “The light reminded the Jewish people of how God was with them through the wanderings in the wilderness. God was seen as a pillar of cloud which turned to fire at night (Num. 9:15–23).”2 Jesus takes this opportunity to teach about the true light. “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (ref. Jn. 8:12).
In the conversation that follows in (Jn. 8), a debate is set up.
JOHN 8:13-18 (NKJV) “The Pharisees therefore said to Him, “You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true.”Jesus answered and said to them, “Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from and where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me. It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true. I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me.”
Jesus is accused of being a false witness, “Your witness is not true.” Jesus responds ultimately by saying no earthly witness can speak on His behalf because of His unique origin. Furthermore, He turns their accusation back to the law. According to their law, two witnesses could establish valid testimony (ref. Deut. 19:15). Jesus demonstrates His testimony is true in that it is based on two witnesses, the Father and Himself. Although the Jewish leaders question and even accuse Jesus, they seem to misunderstand Jesus. You can almost hear the frustration in Jesus’ voice:
JOHN 8:25 (NKJV) “Then they said to Him, “Who are You?” And Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning.”
I am genuinely thankful the Lord is patient. I know there have been plenty of times I have misunderstood Jesus and His words. Nevertheless, the debate exposes something. There is a difference between honestly struggling to understand the Scriptures and seeking to trap and accuse Jesus. The discussion reveals that the Jewish leaders follow their father, the devil (ref. Jn. 8:44). Jesus sees through the debate and knows their intentions.
JOHN 8:28-30 (NKJV) “Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.”
As we have seen in these conversations, some believe Jesus while others are skeptical or even accusatory, hardening themselves to His words. As the conversation continues:
JOHN 8:33-41 (NKJV) “They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?” Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. “I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.” They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. 41 You do the deeds of your father.”
PRIDE HINDERS PRECEPTION
Often, pride will hinder perception. The Jewish leaders are confident in their ancestry, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone.” It’s almost unfathomable they could say something like this. Had they forgotten their captivity in Egypt? They struggled to understand their sin. Abraham believed in the word of God, unlike those who are now questioning and doubting Jesus. If Abraham were indeed their father, they would not be seeking to kill God’s Anointed, Jesus.
JOHN 8:42-47 (NKJV) “Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.”
In some ways, the words of Jesus are difficult to read. Hearing and understanding Jesus requires a genuine and sincere heart. At times, I have questioned myself. Am I truly, honestly, and sincerely following the ways of Jesus? It can be easy to let pride pull our focus away from Christ. The religious leaders are not following the ways of God. They are following the way of their father, the devil, and the desire to do his will. For myself, I often need to examine my motivation. The world has an attractive and alluring pull. Unchecked, it is easy to follow familiar patterns.
familiar patterns are often opposed to Jesus and His kingdom
Returning to the beginning, Jesus said: “…I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (Jn. 8:12). The candles placed around the courtyard were a reminder of God’s presence in the wilderness, a fire by night that illuminated their path (ref. Ex. 13:21-22). Jesus, the true light, has come into the world. He is the light of life. Do we try to debate Him or argue around, or accuse Him? Today, as when Jesus first spoke these words, we have the choice to accept Him and His words or reject both He and the Father. John is writing so that we may know the identity of Jesus. He is writing so that we may believe in Jesus. His glory has been revealed, Jesus the light of the world. Will we receive Him and His words today?
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Scripture is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
1. Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, vol. 2 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 143.
2. Edwin A. Blum, “John,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 303.