Jesus says, I am the Light of the World

The True Light

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

This theme of light in connection to Jesus is found throughout John's gospel. It's as if this statement of Jesus and its impression never left John's mind. It had a profound impact upon him. Even in the opening chapter, he says of Jesus: 

“The true light, which gives light to everyone was coming into the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.” (John 1:9)

John's inference right from the first verse of chapter 1 is clear. Jesus is the uncreated light, he is the word of God, and is God. And 2000 years ago he came into the world and lived amongst us as one of us. We love to sing the carol “O come all ye faithful” at Christmas. But what does it say? “God of God, light of light. Lo he abhors not the virgin's womb; Very God begotten not created: O come let us adore him Christ the Lord.”


Why did Jesus say these words?

If you carefully look at the conversations in the previous chapters, the meaning of Jesus' words becomes much clearer. The Feast of Tabernacles or Booths is about to come to an end in Jerusalem. This was one of three national feasts the Jews celebrated. As Jesus taught in the temple, some hearing his wonderful words said “This really is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” (John 7:41) But others disputed both, pointing to the fact the Christ was to come from Bethlehem, not Galilee. Even the Pharisees discussed his identity, as some believed him to be a prophet. However the consensus the majority came to was that no prophet arises from Galilee.

The following day, Jesus is back in the temple and directly correcting them, teaching that he is not just a prophet, but much more: He says, "I am the light of the world," in the very direct meaning of those words, He is the origin of all light. He is God. Not an incomplete light, but the real, true light, which is not limited to the borders of Galilee and Palestine, but a light to the entire world.

This is what God said speaking of the Messiah who was to come, “I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.” (Isaiah 42:6-7) Jesus was without doubt claiming, and showing he was the promised light as foretold. The spiritual leaders, the Pharisees, opposed him and Jesus says that any opposition that does not accept him makes them walk in the darkness.

He calls the Pharisees who should know better, and reject him, blind guides. In fact he says this to them on more than one occasion. (Matthew 15:14, 23:16, 23:24) On the other hand, whoever believes and follows him will not walk in darkness.


How does Light affect us?

Okay, but what does this Isaiah passage mean to us, and in what way is Jesus the Light? Before we can answer, we need to understand what light is, and how it affects us. Using our eyes we see the world around us when we are born. This is only possible by light entering our eyes and falling on light receptors which then send messages to our brain. Without light, i.e. darkness, we are unable to see, and are less mobile. At night we turn on lights into a room to dispel, extinguish the darkness.

At night it is far more difficult to see, especially out in the country when the stars are obscured by clouds. However, if you have ever been underground and switched off all lights, then you will truly understand the effect of complete darkness on the senses. The experience is one you will never forget!

Sunlight is also absolutely necessary for all physical life. Plants would not be able to photosynthesise and convert the energy into sugars and growth. Without plants, animals would have no food. We also need Vitamin D which is essential for healthy bones. This is obtained from the exposure of our bodies to light.

There is another light which is spiritual in nature. It's a light so important, that Jesus had to come and declare that he was the source of that light. The metaphor, or figure of speech used by Jesus speaks of the light of His Truth, his teaching, his word. Without his light we cannot see the truth contained in his message, we remain blind. We are reminded in the scriptures time and again that by nature all men walk in spiritual darkness.

There is a prophetic passage of scripture that is commonly read at Christmas foretelling the impact Jesus would have on the Jewish nation and all who would look to him: 

“....but in the latter time he (God) has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone." (Isaiah 9:1-2)

Those who look to the true Light will never walk in spiritual darkness, but will be able to see, to grasp spiritual realities which beforehand were unseen, hidden. The truth will be unveiled. We shall see what we really are in the sight of God, sinners needing salvation. And when we see the truth and accept it, we will have life, eternal life.

What a wonderful statement! Jesus' words are said openly, plainly, for us all to hear, and his statement is both exclusive and all-encompassing.

It is exclusive because he is The light, he doesn't say I'm a light. He is light to the exclusion of all else. By saying this, he rules out, sweeps aside all other sects and religions. He alone is the true light. His statement is exclusive of everyone else, and all else. Jesus is claiming that He alone is the exclusive source of all spiritual light. No other source of spiritual truth is available to mankind.

And it's all-encompassing, I am the light of the world – not just the light of Jerusalem, or of Israel, but to all peoples and nations. And that includes you and me.

Simply put, to understand the Bible, and gain eternal life, we need to take a light to see into it and believe, and that light is Jesus Christ.

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