Exodus 13:20-21; John 8:12-20
As a boy, the Scottish novelist and poet, Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) was intrigued by the work of the old lamplighter who went about with a ladder and a torch, setting the street lights ablaze for the night. One evening in Edinburgh, Scotland, as young Robert stood watching with childish fascination, his parents heard him exclaim, “Look, look! There is a man out there punching holes in the darkness!” With one statement of childish wonder, Robert Louis Stevenson summed up the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus came into this world and accomplished many great and miraculous wonders, yet His primary mission was to punch great gaping holes in the spiritual darkness that shrouded this world. He came to be “The Light of the World.”
During this summer, we are looking at seven statements that Jesus makes about Himself in the gospel of John. Bible scholars call those seven statements the “I am” statements of Jesus. These are seven live changing truths. Here are the seven “I am” statements: I am the Bread of Life (John 6:35, 48); I am the Light of the World (8:12, 9:5); I am the Gate for the Sheep (10:7); I am the Good Shepherd (10:11); I am the Resurrection and the Life (11:25); I am the Way, the Truth and the Life (14:6); and I am the True Vine (15:1). Last Sunday, we spent some time with the first statement in John 6:35 where we see Jesus being the Bread of Life. Today, we will be looking at the second statement found in John 8.
In John 8:12 Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” This is the second statement and it is quite a powerful statement, rich with all sorts of symbolism and meaning. Before I share a couple observations from John 8:12-20, let me very briefly give you the setting of Jesus’ second “I am” statement.
The Setting of the Second “I am” Statement
The gospel of John gives us both the location and the occasion of the second statement. In John 8:20 we read, “He spoke these words while he was teaching in the treasury of the temple.” The temple of Jesus’ day was Herod’s temple—an extravagant complex that was said to shine so brilliantly in the sun that it could be seen miles away from Jerusalem. The treasury of the temple was a Jews-designated area, so Jesus is speaking to the Jews who have come into the temple to worship.
But the location and audience of Jesus’ teaching aren’t all that John tells us. Back in John 7:2, John tells us “Now the Jewish festival of Booths was near.” So Jesus preached the words of John 8 during the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths. What is the Feast of Tabernacles is all about? The Feast of Tabernacles was celebrated by the Jews once a year to remember God’s care for them during their 40 years of wanderings through the Sinai Desert after leaving Egypt.
Each night of the celebration, after the sun went down, two gigantic lamps were lit in the courts of the Temple. These lamps would cast their light over every part of the city of Jerusalem. Not a single quarter in the city escaped their light. These gigantic lamps were meant to recall the pillar of cloud that guided the Israelites on their way and the pillar of fire that gave them light night time, so they could travel by day or night (Exodus 13:21). It gave them shade by day, and light and warmth at night. When Jesus said to the Jews, “I am the light of the world”, He was affirming His Divinity. Those who heard Jesus speak that day in the Treasury of the Temple would have thought immediately of the pillar of cloud and fire that led Israel during their journey to the Promised Land. Jesus affirms here that He is God incarnate. He is God’s equal. In Him, the presence of God, the protection of God, and the guidance of God came to full fulfillment. A couple observations for this morning:
First: The World Walks in Darkness
“I am the light of the world.” Jesus made this statement in a rather dark time in Israel’s history. The Romans occupy Israel. An army of occupation was encamped in Jerusalem. God’s people were oppressed and persecuted in their own land. Roman symbols and gods were seen all over the place. Taxes were forcibly collected for a heathen emperor thousands of miles away. Yes, it was a dark and dismal time. In the midst of Israel’s darkness and despair, Jesus announces that God’s new and glorious age has dawned.
Friends, as we look around us today, we see how terrible our world has become. Our culture continues to push Jesus to the sides more and more every day. Less people do care about God and the things of God in our society everyday. Today we can resonate with the nation of Israel that we live in dark times. Our world has nothing to do with the Light. In John 1:5 John says, “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” In John 3:19 the Bible says, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”
Second: Jesus is Our Light
In the darkness of our world, let’s remember that Jesus is our Light. Listen to those great words of Psalm 27:1-3, “The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked advance against me to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.”
“I am the light of the world.” Jesus declares He is the light that shines in the darkness. When it gets dark around you, you need Jesus. When we face life’s tragedies and difficult situations, we need Jesus. Often times, it seems that a heavy fog of indecision, confusion, and uncertainty surrounds us. Our minds are darkened and we need the Light. As the years go by we remember foolish choices and wrong decisions. If only we had the Light. Jesus does for us what light does to the darkness: He shines. He guides. He enables us to see things as they are.
In Christ’s light we see God as He is. Indeed God makes Himself known in the world He has created, in the commands He has given, but most importantly, in Jesus – the exact representation of God. So when we look at Jesus, we are looking at God – His love, His mercy, His goodness. In fact, without Jesus it is impossible to know God. Listen to these great words from John 1:18, “No one has ever seen God, but the One and only Son, who is Himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made Him known.”
In Christ’s light we also see ourselves as we are. “In your light, we see light” says Psalm 36:9. Jesus is “A light of revelation to the gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel” says Simeon in Luke 2:32. When Jesus shines into our lives, we begin to realize how messed up we really are. But at the same time, we come to understand God’s love, His grace, and His power to transform us. In Christ’s light, we see God as He is, we see ourselves as we are, and we see life as it is.
Friends, in a few minutes we will close our worship service today as we sing “Shine on Me.” May the “True Light” that gives light to everyone shine on you and on us today. May His truth set us free. In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen
First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, June 30th & July 7th, 2019)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor