Summary: Second in a deven week series on the "I am" sayings of Jesus.
Last week we began a seven week journey to get to know Jesus better through His own words. In particular we’re focusing on the seven “I am” sayings of Jesus that are recorded for us in John’s gospel account. As we discovered last week, with each of those seven sayings, Jesus is very clearly identifying Himself as God by using the same words - “I am” – to describe Himself that God the Father had used to identify Himself to Moses when He spoke from a burning bush in the wilderness several thousand years earlier. And, if you were with us during the “Connections” Bible study, you know that the people who heard Jesus speak those words had no doubt in their minds that He was claiming to be God. On at least one occasion they picked up stones to kill Him because they thought He was committing blasphemy by claiming to be God.
We began last week with Jesus describing Himself as the “bread of life.” As the bread of life, Jesus revealed that the essence of life is spiritual, not physical and that the answer to our spiritual hunger is to pursue a person – Jesus – rather than to seek a solution through some method or practice. We also found that in order to pursue Jesus, we must have the kind of belief that results in action and that we have to make Jesus our consistent spiritual diet, not just a single meal.
The second of Jesus’ seven claims is found in John 8. Let’s read that verse out loud together:
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 (ESV)
Unlike last week, where we needed to read the good part of a chapter to find all that Jesus said about being the bread of life, Jesus doesn’t go into a whole lot of detail here about what it means for Him to be the light of the world. But when we consider the surrounding context and some other relevant Scriptures, we can develop a fuller understanding.
About six months have passed since Jesus claim to be the bread of the life while he was ministering in Capernaum right before the Passover, which would have been in the spring. Jesus would have then gone to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, as required by the Old Testament regulations concerning the feasts. He then returned to Galilee and ministered there until the early fall when He returned to Jerusalem for the Feast of Booths, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles.
During this feast, the people lived in booths to commemorate how God had provided for His people as they sojourned in the wilderness for 40 years. During the Feast, four huge candelabras were placed in the Court of the Women in the Temple. Each night these lamps were lit to remind the people of the pillar of fire which had guided them in the wilderness. The light was so great that the entire city of Jerusalem was lit up by those lights.
We know from verse 20 in John 8 that Jesus spoke these words about being the light of the world in the treasury in the Temple. The Temple treasury was located in the Court of the Women and consisted of thirteen trumpet shaped treasure chests that were placed around the walls of the court. Each of those chests was used to make collections for some aspect of the operation of the temple, so only the most devoted Jews normally hung out there.
So on the last day of the Feast, as the people gathered in the Court of the Women, with the four massive candelabras in their midst, Jesus proclaims that He is not merely the light of Jerusalem; He is the light of the entire world.
With just seven words – I am the light of the world – Jesus reveals to His audience, and to us, much about who He is. We’ll look at just four of the most significant things we can learn about Jesus as the light of the world.
As the Light of the World, Jesus is:
We must keep in mind that Jesus’ audience that day would have understood what He was saying in the context of the Feast of Tabernacles and the huge lights in the Temple court which were a reminder of the pillar of fire that had guided them in the wilderness. So the first three aspects of who Jesus is are drawn directly from the nature and purpose of that pillar of fire:
• God’s Presence
The primary purpose of the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night was to be a visible reminder to God’s people of His presence with them. We can see that very clearly the very first time we see this mentioned in the Bible: