Rev. Dick is pastor of Grace Protestant Reformed Chruch in Standale, Michigan.
Amazing Teacher, this Jesus of Nazareth!
What other teacher lectures about Himself? What other teacher speaks with such authority? Whose words besides His not only inform, but save? Who may teach, besides Him, and demand for Himself the worship of those who sit at His feet?
Who else might say, would say, could say: “I am the light of the world”?
Was Jesus drawing the attention of the people away from the burning torches of the Feast of Tabernacles which had recently been shedding their glow all over Jerusalem to Himself, the true light of the Feast? (Cf. D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, p. 337.) Was Jesus’ claim to be “the light” a reference to His having exposed the moral darkness of the scribes and Pharisees who had brought to Him a woman caught in adultery (John &l-11)?
Maybe a combination of these things. Whatever connection Jesus was making between Himself as Light and recent events, the Pharisees recognize at least some of the ramifications of what He says, and therefore seek to discredit Him. They debate about the credibility of Jesus’ testimony (vv. 12-20). They show they are from beneath (v. 23). They are proven to be exactly what the light exposes them to be: the children of the devil (v. 44).
But Jesus shines. In the passage before us He boldly declares His authority and its heavenly origin (vv. 12-29). He shows He is the light who is the Truth who sets free (vv. 30ff.). And then, in confirmation of His words, the Light shines upon a man blind from his birth so that he sees (9:1-5)! Jesus, the light of the world! Truly in Him the Sun of righteousness is arisen with healing in His wings!
For Study, Meditation, and Discussion
Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God!
Jesus’ declaration that He is the light of the world is the second of the great “I Am” statements in John. The others are in John 6:35; 10:9, 11; 11:25; 14:6; 15:5. What is Jesus saying in each one? How does each relate to the other?
The concept “light” in Scripture signifies many things, all of them good. It signifies things like truth, purity, knowledge, and salvation. Its opposite, darkness, signifies falsehood, impurity, ignorance, and damnation. Point out from Scripture various texts which mention these important concepts. (Hint: start with I John 1:5!)
Just how is Jesus “light”? In Himself? For us? Confer these and other passages: Exodus 13:21, 22; Psalm 27:1; 36:9; 119:105; Isaiah 49-6; 60:19-22; Revelation 21:23,24. If Jesus is the Savior of His .people only, and that He indeed is, how then is He the light of the world? Confer John 1:4, 5, 7, 9. How does light in creation testify of the true light, Jesus?
In the passage which follows Jesus’ declaration that He is the light of the world, Jesus proves that His testimony is authentic. That is, He shows that what He has said is true, genuine, and authoritative. The Savior does this in response to’ the Pharisees’ objection that since Jesus bore record of Himself, His record could not be true (8:13). In fact, Jesus Himself had said that if He bore witness of Himself His witness would not be true (John 5:31ff.). What is wrong with bearing witness of oneself (cf. 8:17; Deut. 17:6)? Strikingly, in John 8:14 Jesus declares that though He bears record of Himself yet His record is true! How can this be, and not be in contradiction to what Jesus had said in John 5:31?
Jesus confirms His testimony that He is the light of the world, in a threefold way (c f. W.
Hendriksen’s commentary on John).
In the first place Jesus points to His heavenly origin and destination. In verse 14b Jesus declares: “I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go.” Show how Jesus teaches His heavenly origin in verses 16, 18, 23, 26, and 29. How does this fact of Jesus’ heavenly origin (and destination) authenticate Himself and His testimony? Find other verses in John where Jesus points to the same thing about Himself (for example, 3:11-13).
Another way Jesus authenticates His testimony is by claiming for Himself an intimate union with the Father in heaven. He speaks, for example, of the fact that He is not alone, but with the Father (v. 16; cf. also v. 29). Find other phrases in this passage which show the intimacy of Father and Son.
In close connection with the above, Jesus confirms His testimony by asserting that there is perfect harmony between what He says, and what the Father testifies. He speaks, for, example, of the dual testimony of Himself and the Father – each bearing witness of Jesus! Show how verses 26, 28, and 29 also teach this. What does Jesus’ intimacy and harmony with the Father say of the Lord Jesus? Reflect, in this connection, on John 1:14, 18; 10:30; 17:5 and other relevant passages.
That Ye Might Believe!
Jesus speaks of him “that followeth me” (v. 12) as one who is blessed by the light of the world. What is it to “follow” Jesus? Confer texts such as Matthew 16:24; Mark 10:21; Luke 9:23; John 10:4, 5, 27. How is this “following Jesus” related to “thirsting” after God? “Seeking” the kingdom? Other similar expressions? How do we show in our lives that we are followers of the Lord Jesus? Those who follow Jesus are declared to be those who do not walk in darkness (v. 12). Is the “not walking in darkness” here a blessing which the believer enjoys, or a “way of life,” that is, a description of the believer’s moral conduct (cf. Ps. 27:1; Eph. 5:8ff.)? Are all who follow Jesus true believers (cf. John 6:2, 66)?
The Pharisees were “anti-disciples.” That is, they were the opposite of disciples of Jesus, and also opposed to true disciples and discipleship. They show this by not believing in Jesus (v. 24). They show this too by not being able to understand that of which Jesus speaks (vv. 19, 25, 27). They show this by refusing to listen to Jesus’ condemnation of themselves. They show this by attempting to trap Jesus, and destroy His credibility. In connection with this, Jesus blames the Pharisees for judging “after the flesh” (v. 15). What does Jesus mean by judgment when He describes them as being “from beneath” (or “below”), and “of this world” (v. 23)? Is Jesus saying that these religious leaders are from hell? Do we see this kind of anti- Christian leadership in the world today?
In verses 14-29 Jesus authenticates His testimony. Critics might argue that Jesus engages here in circular reasoning. For one might summarize Jesus’ argument thus: My record is true because I say so. And because I (and my Father) say so, my record is true! Now this is not all that Jesus says. But it is essentially what Jesus says. This type of reasoning might not hold up in a court of law. Nor will it ever satisfy proud critics of the Lord Jesus. But Jesus’ testimony is enough.1 He testifies of Himself! And the Father bears witness of Him! People ought ever to take Jesus, the Son of God, at His Word! Comment in this connection on the following: some people think that we can and ought to use “evidence,” scientific or otherwise, to defend our faith and the claims of the Lord Jesus. These people are called “evidentialists.” In light of Jesus’ method of apologetics (the defense of the truth), are evidentialists right? How do such apologetics of the Savior bear upon the preaching (i.e., is it sufficient)? Upon dancing, story-telling, and dramatizations in the worship services? Upon looking for Noah’s ark? What of Paul’s preaching to the philosophers on Mars’ hill (Acts 17:16-32)? What is the relation between faith and understanding?
Having Life Through His Name!
Closely related to the concept “light” is the concept “life.” This is what Jesus alludes to when He says that whoever follows Him will not walk in darkness, but have the light of life (8:12). In fact, in the opening verses of John, where Jesus, the Word, is already introduced as the light, He is also said to be the “life” of men (1:4, 9). So John elsewhere speaks of Jesus as the life, and source of life: 5:26; 6:48, .53; 11:25; 17:3. F r o m t h e above texts and all of Scripture try to give a definition of this mysterious truth called “life.” What is the relation between light and life? And the covenant of grace? How is Jesus our life?
Jesus again announces the doom of the unbelieving Jews in verse 21 (cf. 7-33, 34). Those who do not believe the light of the world shall not have life. They shall die in their sins. They will go on’ seeking. Messiah, but not in repentance and faith. They will continue to go about seeking to establish their own righteousness, but they shall have no blood of the Lamb to cover them; How is the blood of the Lord Jesus that which cleanses us from all sin, and the only sure ground of our life? Do babies have the right to life?
Jesus is the light of the world. But also we, the church, believers, are the light of the world (Matt. 5:14-16). How is this possible? How are we this in the preaching in the congregation? In our personal witness? On the mission field?
In verse 20 is a comment regarding the fact that no man laid hands on Jesus “for his hour was not yet come.” This speaks of the fact that God was/is in complete control of all the history of Jesus’ ministry on earth; God so guided everything that nothing could prevent Messiah from doing the Father’s will of being the light of the world and saving His elect church! Where else in John and all of Scripture do we find confirmation of the fact that God is always in control – that is, that He is always the sovereign King? How is this same God in control now, ruling over all things for the good of those who love Him until the eternal day dawn in heaven?