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’ ” (v. 12).- John 8:12–30
Reading through the Gospels leads one to the inevitable conclusion that Jesus’ words and actions made it impossible for people not to come to a conclusion about His identity and place in the plan of God. Many people were convinced that Jesus was the final and greatest prophet (John 7:40). Others thought He was the second coming of John the Baptist (Matt. 16:13–14). Still others were convinced that He was the Messiah (John 7:41a). The people who held these varying opinions did not always get along well with each other. In fact, Jesus once had to go up privately to celebrate the great Jewish festival known as the Feast of Booths (or Feast of Tabernacles) because of the stir His appearance might cause. Even then, He was discovered and almost arrested, but He escaped because the hour of His death and resurrection “had not yet come” (vv. 30, 44). After that attempted arrest, Jesus began teaching again, telling the Pharisees: “I am the light of the world” (8:12).
We see the significance of the light metaphor when we consider how often Scripture uses light to describe our Creator. For example, 1 John 1:5 describes the glory and moral purity of God by stating, “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.” Thus, our Lord’s claim to be the Light of the World is yet another instance of Jesus’ making the implicit claim of equality with God Himself. Other texts use the light metaphor to show Jesus’ divine identity. John 1:1–5 reveals Jesus as God incarnate and the light that shines in the darkness. Mark 9:2–8 describes the transfiguration, the point at which our Lord’s divine glory shone through His humanity in the brightest light imaginable.
On the other hand, Scripture often uses the metaphor of darkness to illustrate spiritual blindness (Ps. 107:10–11; John 3:19). Consequently, when Jesus says that those who follow Him will not walk in darkness, He reveals Himself as the only light by which we can truly see God’s truth. The glory of God in Christ Jesus overcomes the darkness of sin and death (John 1:5). Some receive this Light gladly. Others see that Jesus is the Light of the World but then reject Him anyway. They do not follow Him, preferring their own positions of power and authority. The Pharisees were one group who remained spiritually blind, willfully rejecting the witnesses to Christ prescribed in the law of Moses (8:12–30). Eternal death is the fate for all who persist in such rejection.
Many people in our relativistic age claim that there are many lights that can illumine the path out of spiritual darkness. Eastern religions, in fact, often speak of people as receiving illumination from Buddha or another respected figure. But Jesus is the only light who can show us the way back to our Creator. We dare not trust any other light than the Light of the World. If we trust only in Him, we will have all of the light we will ever need for salvation.
Passages for Further Study
1 John 1:5–7