Summary: Jesus is the Light of the world. But are we walking in that light
This passage, like those of the last several weeks make reference to events which happened at the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. In this feast, the people made temporary shelters to live in for a week called booths. The feast lasted a total of eight days. In it was remembered the wanderings of the wilderness. These events included the giving of the Law of God to Moses which fits in well with last week’s text on the woman caught in adultery. Other events included the manna, which God provided the children of Israel, which is alluded to in John 6. John 7 is a parallel to the water, which came out from the rock. And today’s passage remembers the pillar of fire, which guided the Israelites by night and the cloud by day.
Exposition of the Text
The text begins with Jesus again daring to interrupt the festivities of the torch lighting, which occurred on the last day. From the large candelabra in the Court of Women in the Temple, thousands of torches were lit for a spectacular torchlight procession through Jerusalem. This procession commemorated the pillar of fire which guided the
Israelites through the wilderness and also reminded them that the Lord Yahweh (Jehovah) was their one and only light. Each of the worshippers who lit the torch was also symbolically stating that it was their responsibility to carry the light of Yahweh into the world.
Jesus here makes the claim that He is the Light of the world. In this context, He can only be saying that He is Yahweh Himself. He is claiming to be God. This is further emphasized in the “I AM” statement. In Greek, the pronoun” I” is not necessary and is added to emphasize the I to the effect He is saying: “I, and no one else, am the Light of the world. This Greek construction of “I I AM” is used in Exodus 3:14 to translate the name of God “I AM that I AM.” It also appears frequently in the book of Isaiah, especially in the verse “I AM Yahweh.” The way John uses this statement in the gospel should leave no one in doubt that Jesus is God, that is, God the Son.
The statement also excludes all other “lights” at least as far as the realm of salvation is concerned. John 14:6 which states “I AM the way, the truth, and the life” as well as the other “I AM” statements support the claim that Jesus is the only way the Father has appointed that we should be saved. Mohammed cannot save. Neither can Confucius, nor even Moses. Good works won’t redeem you. Philosophy and worldly wisdom is nothing in the eyes of God.
The Pharisees counter Jesus’ claim by saying that His testimony about Himself is invalid because no one else can confirm it. This goes back to the last chapter when the Jewish leaders sneered at the Levites who failed to arrest him by saying: “Has a single one of the Jewish authorities believed on Him?” The fact that some of the crowd believed did not matter, as the leaders considered them to be unlearned rabble who were cursed. In a sense, they were challenging Jesus to produce even one witness to Him that the Jews themselves respected. It was as if they said: “You can’t find a single intelligent witness to back your claim, can you?”