Summary: A message on the meaning of Jesus’ declaration of Him being the Light of the World.
September 22, 2002
“I am the light of the world”
The Rev’d Quintin Morrow
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church
Fort Worth, Texas
The prologue to John’s Gospel begins with this staggering revelation:
In the beginning awas the Word, and the bWord was cwith God, and the Word was dGod. 2 eHe was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made (John 1:1-3).
The Word, of course, is Jesus Christ. And from these first 3 verses of John’s Gospel we learn that Jesus Christ has always been with God; that Jesus Christ is God; and that everything that exists in the cosmos owes its being to the creative agency of Jesus Christ.
We begin a 7-week series of messages this morning entitled “Meeting Your Maker: The 7 ‘I Am’ Sayings of Jesus.” 7 times in John’s Gospel, and 1 time in the Book of Revelation, Jesus reveals something important about His divine nature, His character, or His mission by declaring “I Am” something. And what follow these “I Am” sayings are adjectival nouns revealing something about the Savior. Jesus says in John 8:12 “I am the light of the world.” In John 6:35 He says “I am the bread of life.” In John 15:1 He declares “I am the true vine.” In John 14:6 the Savior says “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” In John 10:14 He proclaims “I am the good shepherd.” In John 11:25 Jesus says “I am the resurrection and the life.” And in Revelation 22:13 the glorified redeemer says “I am the alpha and the omega.” It is my intention that this sermon series will better acquaint you with your matchless savior.
We begin this morning with our first “I Am” saying of this
series found in John 8:12:
Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
The context for this revelation by Jesus is significant. John hints that Jesus probably declared Himself to be the light of the world during the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. This great Old Testament observance recalled the wandering of Israel in the desert before their occupation of the land of promise. The Mishnah tells us that at the beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles a large menorah was lighted in the women’s court of the temple, and that the glow of this light could be seen throughout Jerusalem. Jesus more than likely pointed to that great light radiating from the temple mount and uttered, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
But before we can examine the latter part of the Lord’s declaration concerning Him being the light of the world, we must first look at the initial part of what Jesus says: “I Am.”
This beginning “I Am” was no idle conjugation of the first person single form of the verb “to be,” but was rather a staggering confession of His deity. Follow me closely here.
You recall that in Exodus chapter 2 Moses flees Egypt for the wilderness of Midian because he had slain an Egyptian who had been beating an Israelite. In Exodus chapter 3 Moses is puttering around the desert of Midian when he suddenly spies a burning bush. He approaches the bush that is burning but not being consumed and it speaks to him. The bush tells Moses to take of his shoes because he is on holy ground, and also tells him that he is the deliverer of the descendants of Abraham currently enslaved in Egypt; so that he must go and present himself before pharaoh and demand that the king emancipate all of his Israelite slaves—immediately. Moses, being no idiot, asks the next logical question: When asked, whom shall I say is sending me? Exodus 3:13-15:
13 Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, y‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” 15 Moreover God said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is zMy name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.’
God was revealing His covenantal name to Moses. And this name was so sacred by Jesus’ time that pious Jews restricted the utterance of it to the high priest, once a year on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, lest they be guilty of violating the 3rd commandment of taking the Lord’s name in vain.