Summary: I am the light of the world...as opposed to the darkness in which we find ourselves apart from Christ.
In many congregations across our nation today there will come a time in worship when the pastor will ask his or her members, "Can I get a witness?" as a church member[s ]may take time to give a testimony of how God has moved in their lives.1 The assurance that God intervenes in everyday lives and everyday situations is a certain promise that needs to be shared. As these folks share how God has worked the Pastor asks the congregation to respond. Often "Amen", or "hallelujah" or "thank you Jesus" is heard as a response to the pastor’s request.
Two seemingly different situations both linked by Jesus’ self-revelation "I am the light of the world". Both were meant to offer light to people living in dark places. Both gave people a chance to believe and discover God’s blessing and friendship. Yet, during this celebration of the harvest, Succoth, only one of these yields a response of faith.
Among variants of Murphy’s Law is "where you stand on an issue depends on where you sit." Now you may agree or disagree but in my personal experience it takes an unusual sort of person to abandon their vested interest in order to do something that is going to cost them. Those I’ve seen make such a sacrifice are usually motivated by a concern for their soul and credit God for the change. It was no different in Jesus’ day.
Four huge torches each with 20 gallons of oil were lit to remind the people of the pillar of light that guided Israel on their Exodus. It was so bright from these lamps that there, "no courtyard in Jerusalem that was not lit up with the light of the ceremony."2 Those gathered heard Jesus’ clear statement and astounding promise, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
The Pharisees don’t argue whether or not Jesus is right. They take a different approach. They accuse Jesus of not having the required two witnesses which would lend credence to his claim. But Jesus is not undone by such a criticism. He simply points out that his Father is also a witness to him. Their human judgment is flawed. Our human judgment is flawed when it fails to allow for a reality that is greater than we can perceive. They couldn’t understand what Jesus meant by if they’d known his Father they’d have known him. Suffice it to say, the discussion with the Jews went downhill from here. What begins as an allusion to Jesus’ eternal existence becomes a clear-cut heresy for the Jews who hear Jesus exclaim in verse 58, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am."
John alone records this healing. It may or may not take place right after Jesus leaves the temple however there was no mention of his disciples having been present during the last two chapters. The purpose of the placement here is because it stands in stark contrast with the religious leaders of the Jews who couldn’t escape their human judgment.
The Pharisees are captive to their judgment and view which says Jesus can’t be who he claims to be. The disciples are struggling with what they’d always been taught was true and discovering that Jesus constantly met them in such places. And here was one such place right now a man born blind. Jewish theology dictated that sin was the cause of such a disability. So when the disciples ask about whose sin caused it Jesus tells them, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him." Did you notice Jesus limits it to "in him"? One of the most powerful displays is in the fact that this man submits to the one who claims to be before Abraham. This blind man discovers in Jesus someone who doesn’t hold on to the world’s methodology or criteria for judgment but rather ministers God’s rule and judgment.
And the work of everyone who follows Jesus, who has the light of life, is to be doing the same work Jesus does. Notice the strange pronoun use in verse 4, "As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me." If you thought you hired a preacher to do the praying, reaching out, touching and talking you better read God’s word again. We, you and I, are called to be partners with Christ in what GOD is doing. The outcome is this man, born blind, is healed. Light comes to his darkness. Light floods into his life. Light, Jesus, comes and gives him a life he never knew.
As long as we are content in viewing the world with our judgments and constraints, rather than God’s we are like the man before his healing. We’re in the dark, captive by our circumstances and really without any sort of hope. The Pharisees, those Jewish leaders, were so focused on the celebration in front of them and all their history offered they forgot why God had called Abraham in the first-place.