Summary: This is part 2 from a series on the 7 "I Am" statements of Jesus in John.
May 25, 2003
The Light of the World
Talk about Mission Impossible; picture this: 3 college students, in pitch blackness, walking hand-in-hand-in-hand at midnight, through a huge campground where they’d never been before, trying to link up with the rest of their group for a campout. Been there, done that! It was my best friend Don, his girlfriend, and myself; we had come from a soccer game, and were trying to find his family so we could get some sleep. I will never forget the experience. It was so dark that we could hardly distinguish the dirt road from the surrounding woods. We had absolutely no idea where his family was, and there was not a light on anywhere; all the folks with any sense were already in bed for the evening. And here we were, walking along, trying to find our way, having forgotten the flashlight, not wanting to awaken strangers, tired, and ready to get some sleep. Now understand, Don and I, best friends that we are, have different personalities when it comes to situations like this. Don is getting more and more frustrated by the minute, whereas the further I walk, the funnier the situation becomes! Poor Mary Beth, in the middle, is stuck; Don’s angry, I’m cracking jokes, calling out our friends’ names in a loud whisper (“Al! Martha! Lois!”), and she’s trying not to laugh for fear of making Don more angry!
In pitch darkness, in the middle of nowhere, at midnight, with no flashlight and no clue as to how we are going to find our party. Don remembered a characteristic about the grille of one of the cars driven by someone else in our group, and eventually, miraculously, we get connected by feeling the grille of the car!
My silly jokes aside, darkness can be a distressing, fear-inducing experience, and with good reason: we can’t see what dangers lurk; we can’t determine our path; our minds play tricks on us. Darkness is no condition in which to live. Today we continue in a series begun last week asking the question, “who does Jesus say that He is?” Our focus today: Jesus is the Light of the world!
“Blind guides of the blind”; these were Jesus’ words describing the Pharisees, the religious leaders of His age. These who ought to have been shining the light of the love of God were themselves trapped in a prison of darkness, and had no idea of what it meant to lead others trapped in the same darkness. We see evidence of this in the account prior to our focus for this morning; they eagerly bring an adulterous woman to Jesus, intent on stoning her and putting Jesus on the spot. There is no compassion in their hearts for this woman; there is no respect for Jesus. Instead they use her as a pawn in their game to try to trap Him. To them, the way to please God was to engage in a ritualistic religion, to follow religious rules, to conform to an organized system of religiosity, to follow a pseudo-spiritual checklist. Jesus, of course, won’t play along, demonstrating instead true compassion on this wayward woman, and in the process, putting them and their self-righteousness on the spot. Jesus exposed the darkness in their hearts. Let me remind you, before we head into our passage this morning, that many a “religious” person has a dark heart this morning!
The setting is the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, a yearly festival set aside as a time of thanksgiving at the end of the harvest season. People lived in tents for a week; it was like a big campout, if you will (to continue our theme!) as part of this observance, for this big party also served as a reminder to the people of their forty years of wandering in the wilderness, heir forty-year camping trip, if you will.
An important feature of this observance was the lighting of four great candelabra in the women’s court of the Temple. This light would shine throughout Jerusalem, reminding the people who were engaged in this campout of the great pillar of fire that God had sent to lead them by night during the exodus; it was symbolic of God’s continuing presence with them. Now, picture this great celebration and the beautiful, radiant candelabra as the background as Jesus speaks the words we read today (stand with me if you would). This address is particularly Jewish; the Jewish religious leaders would clearly understand Jesus’ words in a way that we would not today, and that was this: to their understanding, Jesus was clearly announcing that He was the Messiah! READ/PRAY
“The way of the wicked is as darkness; they know not at what they stumble.” These are the words of Solomon in Proverbs 4, and they describe