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?”
Jesus does not bring up the witness of the Father to Jesus immediately. Instead, He lets them know that His testimony is valid on the basis of Who He is, even if everyone on Earth rejects Him. Even on Earth, a single witness can tell the truth. But Jesus’ claim to be God is higher than this. God cannot deny Himself, and cannot but tell the truth. God remains God, and His truth remains true regardless of what we think or believe.
In the second half of verse 14, Jesus attacks the Pharisees directly. It is the Pharisees who are invalid witnesses. They are blind to the evidence. It is as if a car crash happened in front of the school for the blind. There might have been 100 blind persons on the front lawn, but none could testify to what they saw. Therefore, the truth is not dependent on the number of witnesses but the qualifications of the witness(es). The Pharisees could not properly judge Jesus because they were blind to God the Father and to the things of heaven. But Jesus had been there. He knew, as he has always known, the things of God because He has always been in the presence of the Father and is God Himself.
One must be in possession of all the pertinent evidence before he/she can make a sound judgment. This is why all attorneys take an oath to put the truth even above their own interests or the client’s interest. The fact that all to many lawyers and judges make light of this does not change the truth that a legal system will quickly degenerate into evil and injustice if this commitment to the truth is abandoned. All pertinent evidence must be reviewed fairly by plaintiff, defendant, and judge, Evidence tending to the innocence of the defendant must not be suppressed by the prosecution. Evidence is not to be tampered with by anyone. The defense also must be truthful as well. The judge must be impartial and not allow sleazy maneuvers by either side. And in this case, the Pharisees could not render a valid judgment upon Jesus because they did not possess all of the evidence. They also twisted the evidence that was presented. This would soon degenerate into the paying of false witnesses at Jesus’ trial before Annas and Caiaphas. What sheer hypocrisy it is that the Sadducees and Pharisees would resort to such a tactic to condemn Jesus. They boasted in the Law of Moses yet blatantly broke the ninth commandment. And yet they dared to pass judgment upon the woman caught in adultery.