The Light of the World

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’” (Jn. 8:12).

- John 8:12-30

If there is anything that all people would agree upon about Jesus, it is that He is a person who always invited His friends and enemies alike to make up their minds about who He was. During His earthly ministry, some believed He was the great eschatological (endtimes/final) prophet (John 7:40). Others were convinced of His messianic office (v. 41a). Disagreements over His identity once almost led to Jesus’ arrest while He was celebrating the Feast of Booths (vv. 1–52), but He escaped because “His hour had not yet come” (vv. 30, 44). In this context, Jesus uttered His second “I Am” saying, declaring to the Pharisees: “I am the light of the world” (8:12).

Scripture often uses the metaphors of light and darkness when speaking of the Creator. God and His glory are often described using light: “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). In referring to Himself as the light of the world, Jesus was again speaking of His identity with the one and only God. Other passages in the Gospels tell us that Christ shares in the exact same light as God the Father: Jesus radiated the refulgent glory of God Almighty in the transfiguration (Matt. 17:1–13). Moreover, John 1 explains how the Word, who is God, is incarnate in the person of Jesus of Nazareth as the light who shines in the darkness (John 1:1–5).

In the Bible, darkness often symbolically conveys the idea of spiritual blindness (Ps. 107:10–11; John 3:19). This makes Jesus’ reference to darkness in 8:12 significant, for it means that He alone illumines the way out of the darkness of sin and death. Such darkness cannot finally overcome the light of the glory of God in Christ Jesus (John 1:5), although many will refuse to see the light when it is made manifest before them. The Pharisees in John 8:12–20 rejected Christ’s testimony about Himself because it supposedly lacked the second witness required by the Mosaic law for confirmation. Jesus replied that His witness alone would be sufficient because of His heavenly origins and destiny as the exalted Lord of all. Still, there has always been more than the witness of Jesus’ testimony to His person and work. The Father who gave this law also witnesses to the truth of Jesus’ claims (Matt. 5:17–20; John 8:12–18). But many Pharisees missed this truth because they cared more about the Mosaic law’s minutiae than the One who is its end goal.

Coram Deo

Blindness to Jesus’ identity is not an intellectual problem but a moral one: “Light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (John 3:19). We can show that Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God, but it takes a change in heart in the unbeliever to acquiesce to these truths. That is why we must pray for the Spirit to convert even as we are diligent to present and defend the gospel.

Passages for Further Study

Isaiah 60:1–3
Ezekiel 43:1–3
John 12:46
1 John 1:5–7

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