For people living in darkness, Jesus is the Light! And light that produces life.
This “I am” statement was made in Jerusalem during the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. Huge lamps were lit outside the Temple to commemorate the pillar of light that guided the Israelites during their wilderness journey to the Promised Land. The glow of this light from the Temple could be seen throughout Jerusalem. And in the Holy Place of the Temple stood a Menorah, a sacred lamp-stand that represented the light and glory of God. Throughout Scripture, light is a symbol of the presence of God, guiding and guarding His people.
To claim to be the “light of the world” is an outrageous claim if Jesus were merely a human being. By claiming to be the light, Jesus was claiming to be God. We read in I John, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1:5). This imagery was understood as far back as the Burning Bush, Exodus 3. Right before this statement in John’s Gospel came two things: Jesus appeared at the Temple and spoke with such authority, that someone remarked, “No one ever spoke the way this man does” (7:46); followed by His forgiveness of a woman caught in adultery (8:1-11). There He exposed the conscience of hypocrites to the light. He flashed the light into their eyes and blinded them with its brilliance. Such are the prerogatives of deity. Scripture just doesn’t give us the option of regarding Jesus as a mere teacher.
By standing in front of the Temple, before the lights that represented the glory and presence of God, and then declaring, “I am the light of the world,” Jesus left no doubt in the minds of His hearers as to Who He claimed to be…and not a mere mortal, like the Jesus presented in a 2nd Century parchment fragment, where He allegedly claims to have a wife (and by the way, the “Bride of Christ” is the Church); this view of Jesus (that contradicts the New Testament) is easy to believe if you do deny the authority of Scripture and the deity of Christ.
At Jesus’ birth, light came to a darkened world. The prophet Isaiah writes of this: “Those who walk in darkness will see a great light that will shine in the land where death casts its shadow…for unto us a child is born; unto us a son is given; and the government will rest on his shoulders, and his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (9:2, 6). Isaiah also asks, “Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of His servant? Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the Name of the LORD and rely on their God” (50:10). Jesus is clearly presenting Himself as Israel’s Messiah, and a light to the Gentiles.
What does that mean for today? Jesus can take our inner darkness and carry us from despair to hope. He can take our confusion and enlighten our minds, giving us wisdom and insight. He can transform even the darkness of death and give us the light of life.