************ Sermon on John 8:12 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 16, 2003
"I Am The Light of The World"
"I am the light of the world." Don't forget, this is one of the seven "I AM" statements of Jesus. In these statements Jesus claims divinity, He claims to be God's equal, He claims to be part of the eternal Godhead. This is especially clear when we keep in mind the words of the psalmist, "The Lord is my light and my salvation" (Ps 27:1). Jesus is claiming the same thing about Himself that the psalmist says about God.
"I am the light of the world." It is no accident that John echoes the opening verses of Genesis at the start of his gospel. Both start with "In the beginning ..." The first word of creation in Genesis is, "Let there be light." At the start of his gospel, John echoes this when he talks of the light of men that shines in the darkness (Jn 1:4-5).
"I am the light of the world." John's Gospel is preoccupied with light. Of the seventy-two times that the Greek word for "light" appears in the New Testament, thirty-three of them are in John's Gospel.
"I am the light of the world." Think of what these words mean to you if you lived at the time of Jesus. Back then light was something you had during daylight hours. There were no generators producing megawatt upon megawatt of electricity so that a simple flick of the switch would light up a room or a city. There were no batteries, no gas, no Coleman lanterns. At night only the rich would have their way through the streets lit up by some kind of torches. Indoors, smelly candles or small oil lamps or fireplaces gave very limited illumination. Within this setting, all would know and recognize the importance of Jesus' claim to be the light of the world.
I Light of Salvation
A "I am the light of the world." Jesus was sent as a light into the world to save the world from darkness:
(Jn 8:12) "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."In this season of Lent we rejoice that Jesus is the light. In this season of Lent we rejoice that Jesus frees us from the darkness and brings us into the light.
(Jn 12:46) I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
Jesus brings us from darkness into light. But what does it mean to be in the light? The last phrase of our text explains this: the light is the "light of life." And, at the beginning of his gospel, John writes,
(Jn 1:4) In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
"I am the light." Light means life. Light signifies life-giving power. Think, for a moment, of the everyday miracle we know as photosynthesis. In photosynthesis light means life. In the presence of light, green plants convert water, carbon dioxide, and minerals into carbohydrates and oxygen. If there would be no light, there would be no photosynthesis. If there would be no photosynthesis, there would be no more life. Light means life.
Jesus says, "I am the light." Light means life. This means Jesus is the source of life and the well-spring of being. All life comes from Jesus and stems from Jesus. So, if you want to live, to really live, you must be in the light Who is Christ. If you want to live, to live forever, you must come to Christ.
B Yet, says John, this is the verdict – and here we have some of the saddest words to be found in the entire Bible:
(Jn 3:19-21) Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. (20) Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. (21) But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light ...
"I am the light of the world." But, "Men loved darkness." These words are said in a rather dark time of Israel's history. The nation was occupied by a foreign power. An army of occupation was encamped in Jerusalem. Uncircumcised foreigners lived in Israel's cities and walked on its roads. Taxes were forcibly collected for a heathen emperor many miles away. Yes, it was a dark and dismal time. But this is not the darkness Jesus is talking about.
"I am the light of the world." But, "Men loved darkness ... because their deeds were evil." We have to think here of what Paul calls the "deeds or darkness." Paul identifies these deeds as sexual immorality, impurity, greed, obscenity, foolish talk, coarse joking, immorality, impurity, greed, idolatry (Eph 5:3-5). Because of our sinful human nature we love these deeds of darkness; they are what we naturally do. Open the newspaper, watch the TV, and we see story after story and headline after headline that proves the truth of what John says. This past week, for instance, we rejoiced that Elizabeth Smart was returned to her family but we were and are sickened about the self-proclaimed prophet, an excommunicated Mormon, who believes in polygamy and brainwashed her and held her against her will for the last nine months. That, my brothers and sisters, is darkness. Darkness is the unstable dictator of North Korea again starting a nuclear weapons program. Darkness is the threat of new terrorist attacks against America by Osama bin Laden and his followers. Darkness is the possibility of war with Iraq because its crazed ruler is bent on having weapons of mass destruction. Darkness is Laci Peterson, a pregnant woman from Modesto, who has been missing since Christmas. Darkness is the assassination of Serbia's prime minister by underworld gang members. Darkness is abortion and adultery and alcoholism and drug addiction. Darkness is lying and cheating and stealing. Darkness is in your heart and my heart and, without Christ, darkness is what we love to do.
John says, "Men loved darkness instead of light." They loved darkness instead of the light of the world. You need to realize that "world" in John's Gospel has a special meaning. It is not the same as "earth," or "planet." In John's Gospel, "world" means
the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God and hostile to the cause of Christ.The Pharisees, because of their hatred for Jesus, are part of the world. The Jews who rejected Christ are part of the world. The people who mocked and jeered and yelled "Crucify him! Crucify him!" are part of the world. And, if you don't know Christ you also are part of the world.
It is the world that "walks in darkness." It is the world that loves darkness instead of light. To be in "darkness" means to not know God and Christ. To "walk in darkness" means to live for the darkness, to regulate one's life according to the darkness, and to conduct one's life by the darkness.
"I am the light of the world." The world "walks in darkness." So the world wants nothing to do with the light. In fact, it fears the light. It fears the light for where there is light, there is no darkness, there can be no darkness. The world fears the light for light chases the darkness away. So the world hates and rejects Christ and remains in the darkness. And, in that darkness it will be forever lost until it comes to the light Who is Christ.
II Light is a Beacon
A "I am the light of the world." A light draws attention. It is a beacon that we cannot ignore. Watch children at a campground – they are instinctively drawn to the campfire. Watch how a moth comes to the flame or how bugs come to a bug-zapper. Or, think of Moses being drawn to the burning bush. Or, think of the wisemen taking note of a star and following it to Bethlehem.
"I am the light of the world." Ever since the time of Balaam, God's Old Testament people had been waiting for the Star that was to arise out of Jacob (Number 24:17). They fixed on the prophecy of the Star. Herod the Great put a star on the coins he minted, thereby asserting he was the star all of Israel was waiting for. That's why he was so quick to question the wisemen and to kill the baby boys of Bethlehem – he saw the Star of Bethlehem as a threat to his reign and throne and rule. Do you know what that Star was? It was a light to all people – including Herod and the wisemen – calling them to the Savior of the world.
"I am the light of the world." Jesus is calling you and me to come to the light of life.
B "I am the light of the world." A beacon not only attracts, it also warns. I just love the old, old story of a Naval destroyer and a Lighthouse:
Topic: ObedienceJust as a lighthouse warns of danger, so Jesus – as the light of world – warns us of danger.
Subtopic: To God
One night an Admiral on a US Navy Battleship ordered a certain course. The navigation officer, seeing a light in the distance, reported that the battleship now seemed to be on a collision course with another ship. So the Admiral ordered his radio officer to send a message to the on-coming ship that it should change its course 10 degrees to the south. The reply came simply, 'No. You change YOUR course 10 degrees to the south.' After two more unsuccessful exchanges, the Admiral, now quite furious, came thundering into the radio control room, grabbed the microphone, and bellowed into it, 'Do you know that you are talking to an ADMIRAL in the UNITED STATES NAVY!' After a brief moment of silence, the even tempered reply came back, "Sir, do you know that YOU are talking to the lighthouse?"
In this season of Lent Jesus warns His hearers – including you and me – to change course, to repent and believe and come to the light. You see, the choice is clear: choose light and life or choose darkness and condemnation and eternal death.
III Pillar of Fire
A "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness ..." At the time of Jesus those listening to Him would immediately think of the pillar of fire that guided the children of Israel through the wilderness. The pillar – as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night – acted as a guide to the people. It primary purpose was to lead the people on their way out of Egypt and to the Promised Land (Ex 13:18, 20-22). It was their guide for forty years. Every day the cloud would move and the people would follow and every night it would stop and the people would set up camp (Ex 40:36-38). Jesus identifies Himself, in the minds of the people, with that pillar of fire. He is claiming to be their guide and they need to follow Him.
When we look at Exodus we see there were also times when the Israelites traveled at night (Ex 13:21). At those times the Israelites would follow the pillar when it lifted from its place and the pillar not only guided them but it also lit up their path. With that in mind, listen again to the words of our text:
(Jn 8:12) "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."Did you catch that? Jesus is the light. We are to follow Him. And then we will not walk in darkness. Jesus is the guide and lamp for His followers, even as the pillar of fire was light for those marching from Egypt.
B "I am the light of the world." When we look at Exodus we see that the pillar also acted as a defense for the people as it moved between the Israelites and the pursuing Egyptian army. The pillar guarded and protected the people as they made their way through the Red Sea.
The pillar guarded and protected the people all through their wanderings. It guarded and protected them to the border of Canaan. It guarded and protected them as they wandered around the desert for forty years. It guarded and protected them every single step of the way.
"I am the light of the world." Jesus is claiming to be the protector of His people. You know what He says:
(Jn 10:27-28) My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (28) I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.We are safe in the light of His presence. We are safe from the darkness. We are safe from those enemies who hate God and His church. We are safe from the attacks of the evil one. When we are in the light, we are safe from the deeds of darkness – because the darkness cannot stand the light.
IV Light as Glory
A "I am the light of the world." When God's Old Testament people think of light they also think of glory. Think of the glory of God's presence when He appeared to Moses on Mt. Sinai – to the people it looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain (Ex 24:17). After meeting with God, Moses' face shone so brightly from the glory of God that the people requested he wear a veil (Ex 34:29-35). Or, think of the glory of the Lord descending to cover and fill the Tent of Meeting – and Moses could not enter the Tent for the cloud and for the glory (Ex 40:34-35).
B "I am the light of the world." Jesus, like God, is full of glory. Think of how He changed water into wine and how this miracle gave His disciples a glimpse of His glory (Jn 2:11). Think of His transfiguration in front of Peter, James, and John. There His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as light (Mt 17:1-9). There, for a few minutes, the light of the World was properly displayed in all His glory. But especially think of His glory as the crucified and resurrected Lord. How great was that glory? It was so blazing and blinding that it blinded Saul on the Damascus road (Acts 9; cf Acts 22:1-21; 26:12-18).
God's will is that we choose light and not darkness. God's will is that we do the deeds of light and not the deeds of darkness. God's will is that we live as daytime people. "But men love darkness instead of light." God wants one thing but instead we fallen creatures do another.
Now along comes Jesus and says, "I am the light of the world." Jesus accomplishes what we cannot do on our own. In this season of Lent we are reminded that by His death and resurrection Jesus has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and has brought us into the kingdom of light (Col 1:12-13).
"I am the light of the world." I need to ask: Is He your light?
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