John: That you May Believe- Studies in John’s Gospel (14) “The Light of the World”

Sermon by Derek Thomas on January 12, 2003

John 8:12-30

John 8:12-30
The Light of the World

Turn with me to John 8. We are going to pass over
for this week the story of the adulterous woman, the account we find in verses
1-11, there is an enormous textual problem with that story; but that’s not the
reason I’m passing over it tonight. I hope to include an illusion to that next
week in the next passage. This evening I want us to look at the passage
beginning at verse 12 and ending at verse 30. Hear then God’s holy inerrant Word
as we find it in verse 12 of John 8:

“Again therefore Jesus spoke to
them saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in
the darkness, but shall have the Light of life.” The Pharisees therefore said to
Him, “You are bearing witness of yourself; Your witness is not true.” Jesus
answered and said to them, “Even is I bear witness of Myself, My witness is
true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know
where I came from or where I am going. “You people judge according to the flesh;
I am not judging anyone. “But even if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am
not alone in it, but I and the Father who sent Me.” Even in your law it
has been written that the testimony of two men is true. “I am He who bears
witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me.” And so they
were saying to Him, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither Me
nor My Father, if you knew Me, you would know My Father also.” These words He
spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one seized Him because
His hour had not yet come. Then He said again to them, “I go away, and you shall
seek Me, and shall dies in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come.”
Therefore the Jews were saying, “Surely He will not kill Himself, will He, since
He says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” And He was saying to them, “You
are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world.
“I said therefore to you that you shall die in your sins; for unless you believe
that I am He, you shall die in your sins.” So they were saying to Him,
“Who are You?” Jesus said to them, “What have I been saying to you from
the beginning? “I have many things to speak and to
judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and the things which I heard
from Him, these I speak to the world.” They did not realize that He had been
speaking to them about the Father. Jesus therefore said, “When you lift up the
Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own
initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. “And He who sent
Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are
pleasing to Him.” As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him.”

Let’s pray together:

Our Father in heaven, we thank You for Your Word; and
now we pray that by Your Spirit You would indeed bless it to us as we examine it
together. For Jesus sake, Amen.

Jesus is at the Feast of Tabernacles, and the feast
has just ended; and suddenly there is this voice that says, “I am the light of
the world.” The Feast of Tabernacles was one of three occasions where Jews, no
matter where they were–Judea, Galilee, in the Diaspora–would make their way to
Jerusalem–Tabernacles, Pentecost, and Passover.

You remember, at a festival just like this, that
Jesus, as a twelve-year-old boy in the throng in the crowds that filled
Jerusalem, had been lost and His parents could not find Him. Jerusalem was
filled with thousands of people. Perhaps, according to one New Testament
scholar, the population of Jerusalem might even quadruple during one of these
feasts. Tabernacles was a particularly joyful celebration; it was a family time.
You can understand why. It lasted for a week. They would build on the roofs of
their houses these ram-shackled tents made out of sticks and palm trees and so
on, and they would sleep there. The children would go up there at night, they
would eat different kinds of food, and they would have a sleep out on the roofs
of their houses. It was a wonderfully joyful time; children would look forward
to it immensely. It was a time of enormous celebration that looked back to the
days of the Exodus. It talked about the in gathering of the crops; it was like
harvest Thanksgiving; it was like camp at Twin Lakes. If the children wanted to
come home, you only had to go upstairs and bring them down.

The festival had little reminders of the things that
God had done in the past. We read in verse 20, where John gives us a little
clue, and said, “These words He spoke in the treasury.” That is to say, the
treasury of the temple. The temple was divided into several sections. When you
first went to the temple mount, you’d walk into the court of the Gentiles.
Gentiles were allowed into that outer precincts of the temple courtyard, but
they could go no further. Then beyond that was the court of women. It was there,
and I have no idea why, but it was in the court of women that the treasury was
to be found. That is where the trumpet-like receptacles for offerings was to be
found. It was where Jesus heard the tinkle of the coin, the widow’ mite,
dropping into that brass, or whatever it was–that trumpet-shaped receptacle in
the court of women.

The court of women was open to the elements, for
there was no roof in the courtyard, and at tabernacles candles would be lit on
the floor. Perhaps hundreds or even thousands of candles would be lit and they
would be lit for the whole week until tabernacles was over and then all of the
candles would go out. If you came to Jerusalem and you were walking from
Bethlehem to Jerusalem, four or five miles or so over the hills, and you are
coming up to Jerusalem and the temple is on Mount Zion. At night, because it was
open to the elements, you’d see the glow of light. You’d see the glow that
emerged out of the temple; it must have been quite a sight. I’m sure some of the
families might have gone for a little walk at night outside the city just to see
the glow of light that was emerging from the temple. And that’s the point. When
the Feast of Tabernacles is finished, the lights have all gone out, and suddenly
there’s a voice saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me shall
not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life.”

Didn’t Jesus say the most extraordinary things at the
most appropriate times? Just as He had done in chapter 7 of John’s gospel when
the priest had poured the water beside the altar on the seventh day of
Tabernacles; they had taken water in those golden pitchers from the Pool of
Siloam and walked through the streets, gone to the altar, walked round seven
times, poured this water; and then suddenly, in the silence, Jesus says, “If any
man thirsts, let Him come to Me and drink.” Extraordinary! And Jesus is saying
three things.

I. The human condition.
First of all, He is passing a comment upon the human condition.
He is saying, by implication, what He thinks of the human condition; that apart
from Himself the human condition is in abject darkness. Men and women are in
darkness; their minds are darkened; they’re blind and cannot see. By the way,
the next story in John is about a blind man who is going to be healed. Do you
see the connection? It is a recurring theme in John’s gospel. Jesus has come to
dispel the darkness. Actually, it is a theme that John plants right in the
prologue of the gospel in the very introduction in the opening sentences. John
plants the idea that Jesus is coming into the world as the light of the world to
dispel the darkness.

What kind of darkness is Jesus talking about? What
kind of darkness is John talking about as he records this incident? He may have
in mind two kinds of darkness. There is the darkness that describes, relatively
speaking, the old covenant. As they transition from the old covenant to the new
covenant, what have all these feasts been–Tabernacles, Pentecost, Passover?
They’ve been types, shadows, sketches, preparation. Maybe on your coffee table
you have one of these coffee table books of one of the great masters–Leonardo
DaVinci or Rembrandt or Titian. Sometimes in these books there are some of the
sketches. I have one of John Constable and there are four or five sketches of
how he planned the painting before he actually painted it. There is the finished
product that stands out and glows and has an aura about it and then there are
all of these sketches–doodles–some of them. And the Old Testament, the Old
Covenant–the Feast of Tabernacles–was like the sketch as opposed to the full
drawing, the full painting. It was relative darkness as opposed to the light.

Actually, John has been telling us that from the very
beginning right in the prologue. Do you remember what John says? “The Law came
by Moses but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ,” and, “of His fullness we
have all received one blessing after another.” John isn’t saying that there
wasn’t any grace or there wasn’t any truth in the Old Testament. He’s not saying
that. But he is saying that in comparison it’s like darkness and light. There
is the preparation and there is the fullness, there is relative darkness and
there is light, and Jesus is perhaps saying at the end of this Feast of
Tabernacles, “If you put your trust in Me, you’ll never need to celebrate this
feast ever again because it is coming to an end. The temple is going to be torn
down; the veil of the temple is going to be rent into from the bottom all the
way up to the top. I am the light of the world.”

But perhaps more importantly, Jesus is speaking of
darkness in another way–a more personal way, in a more experiential way. There
is a darkness that lies in the human heart; there is the darkness of the natural
man’s mind. Do you remember in chapter3, when Jesus encounters Nicodemus, when
He says, “Unless a man is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” And do
you remember what Nicodemus says to Jesus? It’s a funny thing; you’ve got to
smile. Nicodemus says to Jesus, “I don’t understand what You’re talking
about.” Jesus says, “Unless you come into the kingdom, you can’t understand,”
and Nicodemus is saying, “I don’t understand what You’re saying.” “Unless a man
is born from above, you cannot see the kingdom of God,” and Nicodemus is saying,
“I don’t understand a word of what You’re saying.” And every word that comes
out of Nicodemus’ mouth confirms what Jesus is saying; that the natural man is
in darkness. And here is Jesus now, at the end of the Feast of Tabernacles,
when all the lights of the candles have gone out; and there’s this booming
voice, at least I like to think that Jesus had a booming voice, saying, “I am
the light of the world. I am the light of the world.” And He says, “If you
believe in Me, you’ll walk out of the darkness into the sunshine of new life and
glory and inheritance.”

I wonder if it has ever fully dawned on you that you
are in darkness without Jesus?

II. What Jesus does for man’s
condition.
But secondly, let’s look at this statement that Jesus makes.
Not only does He say something about the human condition, but He tells us
something about His own person, by way of the self revelation that He now gives
when He says, “I am the light of the world.” What does Jesus mean? For John,
light is a buzz word. Like life, and true, and fullness

What’s Jesus saying, when He says, “I am the light of
the world?” He’s saying, first of all, that He’s fulfilling prophecy. Let’s
start there. He’s actually fulfilling prophecy. We read during Christmas from
Isaiah 9, “The people who dwelt in darkness have seen a great light. Upon them
has the light shined.” And Jesus is saying, “I am that light; I am the
One of whom the Old Testament speaks; I am the One about which the Old Testament
prophecies; I am the fulfillment of every promise of the Messiah in the Old
Testament; I am He.” It’s one of the great claims of Jesus that He fulfills the
promises, the prophecies of the Old Testament, that they find their fulfillment
in Him. He is the light.

But He is saying perhaps more than that, because He’s
saying that the world is in darkness; the natural man is in darkness. Look at
verse 13. The Pharisees are incensed and said to Him, “You are bearing witness
about yourself. Your testimony is not true.” They understood that He was
claiming to be the One who led the people of God out of the Exodus into the
wilderness and into the promised land. That’s what He’s claiming to be. You
know, part of what the Feast of Tabernacles was about was the Exodus period when
a pillar of light led the people through the wilderness and Jesus is now saying,
“I am that light.” I’m the one who leads the people of God into the ways of
salvation and into the ways of truth and into the ways of fullness. For those
who are in darkness, He is the One who deals with that darkness.

And do you know how He deals with that darkness that
is in the human soul? Do you remember how the gospels will speak of Calvary?
When they will nail Him to the tree? And there comes a moment in the experience
of Jesus when He is lifted up from the earth onto that cross and there is
darkness for three hours. In the middle of the day Jerusalem was dark. And what
was happening? Jesus was taking upon Himself the darkness of the human
condition. As our sin and the guilt of our transgressions were imputed to Jesus
He cries out in the midst of the darkness, “My God, My God, why have you
forsaken Me?”

And the answer that He did not hear was because He
had entered into the darkness of the human condition and He’d become our
substitute so that you and I by faith in Him, can walk out into the sunshine of
life eternal. “Well might the Son in darkness hide and shut its glories in,”
Wesley said. Until He cried, “It is finished.” And on that glorious resurrection
morning from the darkness of that tomb, He walked out! He walked out into the
sunshine of that garden as a resurrected individual. You remember that we sang
it in the hymn just before the sermon? It is a beautiful allusion to it in the
last verse of that hymn we just sang about the Book of Revelation and it says
that the city of God has no need of light or of the sun or the moon or the stars
because Jesus is that light. It is a picture of course. He is the light; He is
the only light that we need. But he is saying more than that too when He says,
“I am the light of the world” because He is making a claim to absolute Deity.

You understand that? God is what? John, when he
writes his first epistle says, “God is light.” Jesus is the radiance, the
effulgence of the glory of God says Hebrews in the first chapter. “I am
the light of the world; I am the effulgence of the glory of God,” Jesus is
saying. The Pharisees complained. You know talk is cheap, they said. Who are you
to be saying these things. And Jesus goes back to their law and basically, what
He is saying is, “What I am saying is true because I am an expert witness about
Carmarthen. And you say, “What?” It’s the village where I was born and the
place where I was raised. I lived there for 20 years, and I guarantee I know
more about Carmarthen than any of you, because I’ve been there. I can tell you
what it looks like, I can tell you the good things, and I can tell you some of
the bad things, and I won’t do any of them. I’m an expert witness on that.

Do you know what Jesus is saying here? It’s quite
astonishing. He’s saying, “I am an expert witness about heaven. I’m an expert
witness about God. I’m an expert witness about the Father, because that’s My
home. That’s where I live. I can tell you what it’s like. I can give you the
details, because I’m an eyewitness of it. It’s breathtaking.” Not only is He
an expert witness, but He says there’s another witness that backs Him up. What
He’s doing is invoking Old Testament law that, “By the mouth of two witnesses
something will be regarded as valid.” And He says, “The Father testifies of Me.
And He testifies of Me through what John the Baptist said, He testifies of Me
through the miracles that I do, He testifies of Me through the Old Testament
Scripture that I’m fulfilling.” And since we have these two expert witnesses,
that both agree, My claim is valid. I am the light of the world, I am the
effulgence of the glory of God.

Now I want you to think about that for a minute. The
good news, and it’s so astonishing, that in a miserable, darkened world, that
there’s a light shining, a brilliant, brilliant light. Do you remember that
moment when Gandalf the Gray takes off his cloak and it’s Gandalf the White, and
everybody steps back. Well, multiply that by infinity. Do you remember in
Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, when Pilgrim sets out from the City of
Destruction, and meets Evangelist. Evangelist gives him a scroll and on it is
written the phrase, “Flee from the wrath to come.” Christian reads it and he
says to Evangelist, “Where is there to flee to?” And Evangelist says, “Do you
see yonder wicket gate?” And Pilgrim says, “No, I don’t see it. Where is it?”
Evangelist says, “Do you see yonder lamp?” “Yes, I think I can see the light.”
“Well, walk towards it. Go towards the light.” There is a man who was
perishing and he sees a faint glimmer of a light that is shining, and Jesus is
saying, “I am the light of the world. And if you believe in Me you will never
walk in darkness.” Do you remember how Wesley put it? “Long my imprisoned
spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature’s night. Thine eye diffused a
quickening ray, I woke, the dungeon flamed with light. My chains fell off, my
heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.” Have you known that? Is
that your testimony? Can you say that? That you’ve seen the light that shines
in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, and you’ve walked towards that light and
you’ve embraced that light and He’s brought you out of the darkness of your
human condition, to walk in the marvelous light and liberty of the gospel.

III. Unless you believe in Jesus
you will die in your sins.
He’s describing the
wonders and the joy of the way of salvation. Jesus says some very stark things
in the close of this passage. He says to the Jews, and the Pharisees
especially, “You will die in your sins.” You will die, that is to say, under
the judgment of God. Unless your sins are covered, unless your sins are dealt
with, unless propitiation is made, unless a redemption price has been paid, you
will die in your sins. You will die under the judgment of God. Unless you
believe in Jesus. Unless you put your trust in Him.

Isn’t that an astonishing, astonishing statement to
make? Darkness is a terrible thing. I remember once visiting these caves in
northern Ireland. They were underground. You had to get in a boat and go along
this little stream, through the caves, around corners, and it went for about a
mile or so. Stalagmites and stalactites. The guide did this little
experiment. On the walls there were electric lights, bulbs, and when everyone
was gathered in a safe place, there was a trickling stream beside us, he said,
“I want you to stand perfectly still.” And as we stood perfectly still, the
lights went out. There is no darkness like that. There was no ambient light
whatsoever. It was pitch black. You couldn’t see a thing. That’s the human
condition. And Jesus is saying, “I am the light of the world. And if you
believe in Me, you will never, never walk in darkness anymore, and you need
never experience the eternity of darkness.” Yes, the eternity of darkness that
awaits those who don’t trust in Him. Jesus comes when all the other lights are
extinguished. What this passage is saying to us is, trust in that light, the
light that shines in the person and work of Jesus. Let’s pray together.

Our Father in heaven, as we bow in Your presence
just now, we thank You for the light that shines in the midst of darkness. We
thank You for our blessed Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and again we pray have
mercy on those who are with us who are still in darkness. We pray that You
would draw them to the light of Christ. For Jesus’ sake we ask it, Amen.

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