Were you scared of the dark when you were a little kid? Maybe you are still scared of the dark.
Dark wasn’t my favourite when I was a kid. And back then as a kid, you even got to be out after dark. And until I was 16, we lived in the sticks and when it got dark, it got really dark. And when you have an imagination like mine, all kinds of things lived in the dark.
Does anyone remember the group the Poppy Family? It was made up of husband and wife, Terry and Susan Jack and their band. They had a hit song in 1971 called, Where Evil Grows, and the chorus says in part:
“Evil grows in the dark
Where the sun, it never shines
Evil grows in cracks and holes
And lives in people's minds. . .”
There is something primeval about the dark.
Throughout the bible, darkness is used as a metaphor for fear and evil. And 2000 years ago, the concept of dark, was much more concrete.
When I travel to Africa and we are out in some of the villages, I marvel at how dark, dark can actually be. There is no ambient lighting from porch lights or streetlights, no light from TV’s leaking through picture windows, no taillights from traffic because there was no traffic. It’s just dark.
And during Jesus’ time that was the reality. Light was something you had through the day, and to obtain light after the sun went down, was difficult and costly.
This is week three of our “I AM” series at Cornerstone and the preaching team is taking you through the 7 “I Ams” found in the gospel of John. Specifically, these are the times that Jesus described himself and his characteristics with the words “I am”.
This week we find his statement in John 8:12 Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” But that wasn’t the only time Jesus used those words, if we look in John 9:5 we hear Jesus say, John 9:5 Jesus said, “. . . But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.”
Now the reference in chapter nine seems to flow naturally from what had just happened in the story. Jesus has been in a discussion with his disciples about a man who had been blind since birth. The disciples wanted to know if the man was blind because of his sins, or his parent’s sin.
And as part of the discussion, just before Jesus healed the man and gave him his sight, he makes the statement about being the light of the world. Which kind of makes sense. Darkness would have been seen as being synonymous with blindness. So for Jesus to go from talking about a blind man to claiming to be the light of the world provided a great segue into Jesus actually healing the blind man and removing the darkness from his life.
But the statement in John chapter 8 comes right after the story about the woman who had been caught in adultery and brought to Jesus for judgment.
I’m sure you remember the story, or at least the statement that Jesus made when he said in John 8:7 . . . so he (Jesus) stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”
And, if you know the story, you know that everyone dropped the stones they had picked up and walked away. At that point, Jesus asked the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” And then he said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
And then immediately, without any type of segue we read, John 8:12 Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”
Man, a shift like that could almost give a person whiplash.
So, what’s the connection between what had happened with the woman caught in adultery and the statement that Jesus made about being the light of the world?
I think Jesus was telling us that what had happened was a result of darkness
And maybe you’re wondering how in the world I came up with that?
Well, I don’t think that the Pharisees who brought the woman to Jesus were really interested in the woman or justice. They were both simply a means to an end. The end was spelled out in John 8:6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, . . .
But I think the Pharisees thought they were serving a much bigger purpose. Maybe at the base level they thought they were making a moral statement. If you challenged them about their purpose, I’m sure they would have told you that they were simply decrying sexual immorality and standing up for the seventh commandment, thou shalt not commit adultery.
Or maybe they would have gone so far as to say they were trying to trap Jesus, but it was for a higher purpose, to prove that he wasn’t who he said he was, so people wouldn’t be led astray.
And Jesus would have said that regardless of why they thought they were doing it, they were actually blind to what lay behind their motives.
Have you ever been convinced that something came from the bible, but for the life of you, you can’t find it in the bible? Now in 2021, that’s not a problem, you simply ask Mr. Google, and he tells you. But back in the dark ages, it wasn’t that easy.
You had a big book called a concordance, that listed every word in the bible, and where it was found. I wore the cover off mine. It was a Strong’s concordance, and it was massive. Because it contained the original languages it made me appear a lot smarter than I actually am.
So, for years I was looking for the phrase, “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” Could not find it in my concordance and couldn’t understand how the publisher had made such a mistake.
Imagine my chagrin when I finally discovered those words didn’t come from the Bible, they came from a Ray Stephen’s song. Now you might be familiar with Ray Stephens from such classics as “The Streak”, “Gitarzan” and “Mississippi Squirrel Revival.” But in 1970 Stephens had a song that went to number 1 in Canada, the US and Australia and won him two Grammy’s. That was the song, “Everything is Beautiful.” And the second verse begins with these words, “There is none so blind as He who will not see.”
And the actual phrase goes back to John Heywood who wrote in 1546, “There are none so blind as those who will not see. The most deluded people are those who choose to ignore what they already know.”
But I’m pretty sure that I first heard it from Ray Stephens.
And while the words may not be included in the bible, the sentiment is certainly spelled out in Jeremiah 5:21 Listen, you foolish and senseless people, with eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear. Have you no respect for me?
The majority of the Pharisees didn’t want to see Jesus as the son of God. Their minds were made up and so like little kids they scrunched their eyes shut and refused to see what was right in front of them.
And it was their attitude that Jesus was addressing, he was telling them to open their eyes to the light that was right in front of them. It was Plato who wrote, “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”
So, why would Jesus say that he was the light of the world? I think in order to understand that we first need to understand what the characteristics of light are. What makes light, light?
Let’s start with a fundamental principle.
Light Dispels the Darkness
Here is the reality it doesn’t matter how dark it is, light will always prevail.
If we could seal off this room completely from any outside source of light it would be very very dark, or as my Daddy would say “Darker than the inside of a cow’s belly.”
I’m assuming that he was just guessing on that and wasn’t speaking from experience. But as dark as it might be that darkness would be dispelled by the flame of a single match. Anne Frank said, “Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.”
Light not only breaks the darkness, but it also reveals the darkness.
John wrote about Jesus in John 1:4–5 The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.
When Jesus said he was the light of the world he was saying that his life and his teachings would challenge the darkness of the world.
As society becomes darker and darker the need for the light of Christ becomes greater and greater.
And sometimes as we watch the moral collapse of society, we think that there is nothing that can help, but we need to remember the words of John 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.
However, the second time that Jesus said he was the light of the world, this is actually what he said, John 9:5 “But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.”
Which begs the question, what about when he’s not in the world? Well, that’s where we come in.
In the days before He was arrested we find this statement by Jesus, John 12:35–36 Jesus replied, “My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going. Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light.” After saying these things, Jesus went away and was hidden from them.
And we can add to that the promise that Jesus made to his followers in Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.”
So, not only does A light dispel the darkness, The Light was Passed on
Two thoughts come to mind, the first is how dark it gets when a light goes out. Light, dark. It’s not like water slowly leaking out of a container. If you have a light on in a dark room and you turn it off, then all of a sudden, it’s dark.
The second thought I had was remembering what it’s like at Cornerstone at our Christmas Eve services, well maybe not this Christmas Eve, but other Christmas Eve’s and next Christmas eve.
We turn down the lights while we are singing Silent Night, and there are just the five advent candles burning on the communion table, and while it’s not completely dark, it is pretty dark. And then I go over and light my candle from the Christ Candle, and I start to light the candles of those in the front row. And they turn around and light the candles of those behind them. And with every candle lit the room becomes brighter and brighter.
And so, Jesus knew that unless he did something the memory of his light would fade with him. When the light was gone, it would be dark again.
So, he passed the light on to his apostles, who passed it on to others, and the light has been passed from each generation of Christians to each new generation of Christians. But the question is why, and what are we supposed to do with that light?
Well, light actually serves several purposes. And this was a picture that these fishermen would understand.
Light is Distinctive It is the same way with light, you might hear someone say “What is that light” but you never hear about light “Is that a light or a . . .” I’m not even sure what you might possibly confuse a light with, perhaps a reflection but that is still a light of sorts.
And so, Christ is telling those who gathered to hear him that day that if they chose to follow him, they would be known as his followers, there would be something distinctive in their lives that people would know that they were a Christ-follower.
A number of years ago someone was telling me about a person who worked in the same office as they did. “We’ve worked together for years,” the person told me “And I just found out they are a Christian, isn’t that funny?”
No, actually it’s kind of sad. We are not called to be the same as everyone else we are called to be different.
And we are called to be different in our perspectives, to be different in our behaviour and different in our morals. People should be able to tell by your language that you are not like everyone else. By what you laugh at and don’t laugh at.
When they are telling you about the weekend they had, and you tell them that you worshipped the God of creation on Sunday. When they make sexually suggestive remarks, and you don’t reply in kind.
People shouldn’t wonder about your faith it should be evident in your life you shouldn’t have to wear a sign that says “Look at me I follow Jesus”, instead Christ’s presence should be evident in your life.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
We’ve all been asked questions like, “Is that a new car?” “Did you get a new house?” “Do you have new glasses?” In the same way, when you become a Christ Follower people should be asking “Is that a new life you have?”
Do you remember from watching Sesame Street “One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn't belong, Can you tell which thing is not like the others by the time I finish my song?”
If you are a Christ-follower and you are in the company of non-Christ Followers you are the thing that is not like the others, or at least you should be
When Jesus was praying for his followers before he went to the cross, praying not just for Peter and Andrew, not just for James and Nathaniel, but for Denn and for ______ and for ______ and _______ and for all the people who would ever follow him, he prayed John 17:15–17 I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.
Did you catch that? They do not belong to the world any more than I do. If you are a Christ Follower, and you’ve probably figured out if you’ve been around Cornerstone for any length of time, I use that term more than Christian because Christian is just way too generic in 2020, then it is because you are following Christ.
It’s not because you attend Cornerstone, that doesn’t make you a Christ Follower, it’s not because your parents or your spouse follow Christ, that won’t cut it.
Jesus told us 2000 years ago John 12:26 Jesus said, “Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honour anyone who serves me.”
If I was going somewhere that if you wanted to go but you didn’t know the way you could follow me.
And that would entail following me. And maybe when we got out on the highway you decided that I was driving too slow for your preference or maybe you didn’t like the colour of my car or whatever and you decided to follow someone else.
You would no longer be following me, no matter what you said.
As a Christ-follower you are to follow Christ, not Mohammed, not Buddha, not Confucius and certainly not Denn.
Dad often reminded me of the Tombstone somewhere in the US that has an epitaph that says:
Pause, stranger, when you pass me by,
For as you are, so once was I.
As I am now, so will you be.
Then prepare unto death, and follow me.
And someone had scratched on it:
To follow you I'm not content
Until I know which way you went!
Just as light is distinctive, if we are followers of Christ, we will be distinctive because we will be like the Christ we follow
Light Attracts Peter and Andrew and the boys fished at night because during the day the fish in the Sea of Galilee stay close to the bottom where it’s cooler but during the cool of the night, they come close to the surface and the guys would have kept a lit torch aboard their boats to draw the fish even closer.
You ever turn your lights off on your porch in the summertime because it was attracting moths?
When we first moved into Kingswood our son Stephen had fallen asleep watching TV and had left the outside light and the front room light on and someone who was lost deep in the Bowels of Kingswood came to our door at 2:30 in the morning looking for directions.
Why? Because they saw our light.
As the light of the world, our purpose will be to attract people to Jesus.
That’s part of what we are supposed to do. Remember what Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 4:19 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!”
and Paul writes in Ephesians 5:8 For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light!
So, are we attracting people to Jesus?
Light Guides When fishing at night these men would have someone on the shore light and tend a fire that would guide them back to shore in the dark.
So, understand that light points, not to itself but to a path. If you were to follow the beam of a light house or a buoy you would be in serious trouble because you’d eventually run into it.
People are looking for the light that the Christian provides, but it shouldn't lead a person to a particular doctrine or person instead it needs to lead past the person to Jesus.
And so, we need to be a light for is the non-believer, the pre-Christian. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
I remember when I was fishing with my dad and we would sail into Yarmouth in the fog.
I can’t remember sailing into Yarmouth without fog but that’s a different story. And we’d use our radar as much as we could, but we would put a man out on the bow to keep a lookout for the light from the buoys.
The pre-Christian may be directed toward Christ by the Bible or a podcast or a book but the Gospel has to come to life in the light of a believer.
I knew the facts of salvation, but it wasn’t until I saw the reality of Christ’s changing power in the life of my best friend that I was willing to trust Jesus with my life.
Let’s go back to Jesus’ promise about his followers becoming the light, Matthew 5:15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.
Unless Light Serves its Purpose, it has No Value
If a light isn’t being a light, then it’s valueless. A burnt-out light bulb is just annoying.
A light is either a light or it’s not a light. But every Christian will be a witness.
They will either be a witness to the changing power of Jesus Christ or against the changing power of Jesus Christ.
And it is a sad commentary about human nature that the negative witness will have more impact than the positive witness. It’s like the pastor who told a colleague “I have 800 members in my church.” “How many are active?” his friend inquired. “All of them” came the reply “600 are active for the Lord and the rest are active for the devil”
Your light will point people to Jesus or away from Jesus, and only you can decide.
And while light will always be light it can be hidden either partly or completely and then it can no longer do its job.
And we cover it up by not acknowledging the light, never acknowledging our relationship with Jesus or by allowing our light to become filtered through our actions or the company we keep.
Paul cautioned the believers in the Corinthian Church 2 Corinthians 6:14 Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness?
The light may still be there, but it’s no longer serving its purpose because of the dark lenses it is being seen through.
So how about it this morning, are you having a positive influence on the world around you because of your relationship with Jesus Christ? It’s not an option, it is a requirement for being a part of the Kingdom of God. Jesus didn’t say you might be light, he said if you are following Him that you will be light.