. The light of the World

 

THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD

 


John 8:12 (NIV) 12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

 

Introduction:

We are busy with the ‘I am’ statements of the Lord Jesus Christ, through which He claims to be God. But each of the statements is tremendously significant for us in that they are practical and even though simply metaphors, they are packed with meaning. So, we saw Jesus saying that “before Abraham was, I am”. That is a claim to His pre-existence and pre-eminence. We then spent basically two to three sermons worth on the topic of ‘I am the Bread of life’ and looked at John 6:32-60 that were packed with meaning.

 

Today we will look at the topic ‘I am the light of the World,’ and there are more to come. Now when each of these statements are studied there are great lessons in them for us, but the lessons for the nation of Israel were profound. Remember that Christ spoke these in a context. These words were not written in 2020 especially for Logos.

 

These statements speak of His divine nature. He is the great I am, present at this stage in history walking with men in a bodily form as the God-man.

 

Now for today. There is another recurring theme here that we see in John 8:12 which we read. Jesus says that He is the light of the world. This is not the first time that we see Jesus presented as light.

 

The first time we encounter this kind of statement is in John 1:4-9 (ESV) 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light but came to bear witness about the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.”

 

Now why would John present Him as light? Where did John get this idea from? Well, the reason he presents Him as the light is clear here in verse 12. Jesus said “I am the light...” So, he got this idea from Jesus. There is another time that John talks about Jesus as the light and this is found in John 3:19-21 (ESV) 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

 

So, the reason John presents Jesus as light is because this is how Christ presented Himself. Now the question we need to ask is, just what does Jesus mean when He says that He is the light of the world? What images comes to mind when we think of the light of the world. We need to be careful when we think of a text like this.

 

We might just think of light versus darkness, doesn’t the text simply say that?

 

This is mostly how this text is preached. You live in darkness and Jesus came to expose your deeds, so we have this nice sin bashing sermon. There are other verses in the Bible that you can do that from, sadly or gladly not from John 8:12.

 

You might think of the sun. And you will not be way off because Christ is referred to as the sun in Malachi 4:1-3 where He is called the “sun of righteousness”.

 

Also, we read in Revelation 21:23 (ESV)23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. And then again in Revelation 22:5 (ESV) 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”


Another image we can think of is the image of the lamp.

We are by the way compared to a lamp as the Lord shines through us Luke 8:16 (ESV)
16 “No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light."

 

But Jesus has a different comparison in mind here and at first glance it is easy to miss it.

How do I know that? We see this when we understand the themes or patterns that we see in the Gospel of John. One thing that is interesting is that Jesus is speaking to the Jews and I believe that what He is doing is to take a series of images that look back to the time of the Jews in the wilderness and wants them to see that they are now in a spiritual wilderness.

Jesus had just been preaching during the feast of Tabernacles. If you go to John 7:2 we are told that it was the Feast of Booths, which is the feast of Tabernacles or ingathering. It is one of 7 feasts the Jews held annually. It was called the Sukkot in Hebrew. It was instituted by Moses and is about God’s provision for Israel from the time that they left Egypt till the time they finally entered the Promised Land.

Now in chapter 6 Jesus is presented as the Manna or the bread that has come down from heaven. In chapter 7 He is the one who provides water. He is both the source and the water. It is a reminder how God provided them with water in the dessert.

Now in chapter 8 He is the light of the world. He is now not just the manna from God or the water from God, He is the light from God.

Now, during the Feast of Tabernacles that they had this ritual of fetching water daily from the pool of Siloam and they would sing the Hallel while carrying this water into the temple grounds. They would also chant Isaiah 12:3 (ESV) 3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” However, this was not the only ritual or ceremony during the Feast of Tabernacles.

 

There was a second one. According to the Jewish Mishnah in Sukkah 5:1-4 they would light four lamps in the temple courtyard of women. They say that these lamps would shine their light into every quarter of the city and would be noticed as people would look up. According to the Mishnah men of piety and good works would then light torches and the Levitical band would break loose and they would then dance around the courtyard and bring to memory their great trek out of Egypt and it would bring to memory the pillar of fire and cloud that went ahead of the people in their wanderings throughout the wilderness.

This was the same cloud that appeared on the day that the people left Egypt and stood between Israel and the army of Egypt. It is also the same cloud that spread over them as a shadow by day and then as light and warmth at night. They would during this festival sing Psalm 27:1 (ESV) 1The 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?”

 

We read about this cloud in Exodus 13:21-22 (ESV) 21 And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.”

 

In Nehemiah 9 when Israel recalls God’s goodness to them in sackcloth and with dust on their heads, they recall His provision while they were in the wilderness. Nehemiah 9:19-20 (ESV) serves as such a beautiful reminder of not only the light, but also the bread and the water. 19 you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go. 20 You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst."

I will do a devotion on Jesus as the Living Water from John 7 at the end of the ‘I am’ series, as it is critical in the flow of things, even though He does not say: “I am the water.” So, we see the bread, we see the water and the light all in Nehemiah 9.

 

Jesus says He is the true manna, He is the true water and He is the true light. All of these were object lessons concerning the coming of the Lord Jesus. In fact the very place where He is meeting with them at this very moment when He says: “I am the light” is in the Temple court and it is the place where those four great lampstands were standing.

 

So, I believe this morning that what we need to do is ask ourselves what the pillar of cloud and light will teach us of the Lord Jesus this morning.

 

Point 1. It teaches us of God’s presence.

 

We read it a moment ago in Exodus 13:21 (ESV) 21 And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.” It was the Lord who was present with them in this manifestation of the glory of God. We read in Exodus 33:7-10 (ESV) “7 Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. 8 Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. 9 When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. 10 And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door.”

 

This Pillar was a cloud by day and a fire by night.  The people understood that the presence of God was in that place, that is why they would worship, each at the entrance to his tent. Numbers 14:11-14 (ESV) 11 And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? 12 I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.” 13 But Moses said to the Lord, “Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for you brought up this people in your might from among them, 14 and they will tell the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that you, O Lord, are in the midst of this people. For you, O Lord, are seen face to face, and your cloud stands over them and you go before them, in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night.”

So, you cannot think of this pillar of cloud or light without thinking of the presence of God. Now think about how John introduces the Lord Jesus to us in John 1:14 (ESV) 14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Literally the Word became flesh and ‘tabernacled’ among us meaning God with us. So, when Jesus says that He is the light of the world, he is saying that God is present here with me. John says that the Word had literally pitched His tent among men.

 

Point 2. It teaches us of God’s guidance.

 

In all the passages from the Old Testament we have just read we see that God was leading His people. They had to follow this pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night and so they were led in the pathway that God wanted them to go.

 

Let me give you a good example of what we are talking about here. Numbers 9:15-23 (ESV) 15 On the day that the tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the testimony. And at evening it was over the tabernacle like the appearance of fire until morning. 16 So it was always: the cloud covered it by day and the appearance of fire by night. 17 And whenever the cloud lifted from over the tent, after that the people of Israel set out, and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the people of Israel camped. 18 At the command of the Lord the people of Israel set out, and at the command of the Lord they camped. As long as the cloud rested over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. 19 Even when the cloud continued over the tabernacle many days, the people of Israel kept the charge of the Lord and did not set out. 20 Sometimes the cloud was a few days over the tabernacle, and according to the command of the Lord they remained in camp; then according to the command of the Lord they set out. 21 And sometimes the cloud remained from evening until morning. And when the cloud lifted in the morning, they set out, or if it continued for a day and a night, when the cloud lifted they set out. 22 Whether it was two days, or a month, or a longer time, that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, abiding there, the people of Israel remained in camp and did not set out, but when it lifted they set out. 23 At the command of the Lord they camped, and at the command of the Lord they set out. They kept the charge of the Lord, at the command of the Lord by Moses.”

 

The long and the short of all of what we have just read is that the nation of Israel only moved when the presence of God moved in the form of the cloud by day and fire by night. That is like simply following the will of God for your life today. We can only imagine what this all looked like in reality. But this is the way that the Lord guided them.

So, it is not only the light of God’s presence, but it is the light of the Lord’s guidance. Turn again to John 8. What does Jesus say: John 8:12 (ESV) 12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

 

Jesus says that He is the light and whoever follows Him will never walk in darkness. I think it is appropriate that the story of the Jewish leaders and the adulteress woman were recorded just before this. They were a nation so desperately in need of the presence of God and the guidance of God. Something we must not miss here is that faith in Jesus is nothing less than following Him. Anybody who says that they believe in Jesus, but they do not follow Him is someone who does not believe in Jesus. To follow Jesus is not just to come to Jesus as we saw with the Bread of life, or to look upon Him as your Saviour, but to follow Him as your Lord.

 

One thing we must be careful of is that we do not simplify our walk with the Lord by using terms like a personal relationship without emphasising the fact that we must follow Him. So many times, a concept like that kind of puts us on an equal footing with Christ and we miss out on the Biblical terminology like “Follow me”, “do what I say”, “obey my commands”. As a Christian you are a disciple of the Lord or a follower of the Lord. John 12:46 (ESV) 46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.”

 

Now look again at John 8:12 and what do we see? Whoever “follows me will not stay in darkness.”  So, believing on Christ is nothing less than following Christ. So, faith in Jesus is not just words, it is not just intellectually agreeing that a personal relationship with Christ is a cool thing, no it is following Christ. It is belief expressed in obedience. One of the pillars of our Christian faith is that we are saved by “grace alone”, “through faith alone”, but do you realise that faith is never alone; it joins the hands of following Christ alone.

 

Now where does this light lead us to, where does it guide us to? John 8:12 (ESV) 12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. Only those who receive the life of God in the Son of God have this light. This light belongs to the realm of life for those who have spiritual life. Spiritual death means to be in enmity towards God, and no one at enmity towards God walks in the light. Spiritual death is ignorance or inborn blindness. If you are not a child of God, you belong to the realm of darkness.

 

Remember when Paul was commissioned to reach the gentiles. Look at what Jesus says to Paul when He appoints him to go to the gentiles. Acts 26:17-18 (ESV) 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

 

Is it any wonder that Satan is called the Prince of Darkness? That is why Paul says we are brought out of the Kingdom of Darkness into the Kingdom of Light. Christ as the Light stands opposed to darkness. So, when God saves you, He brings you out of the Kingdom of Darkness into the Kingdom of Light and that is when you are made alive with Christ Jesus. If you are not born again, you do not have this light. If you do not have the Son of God dwelling in your soul in the person of the Holy Spirit or you have not been made a new creature, if you have not been regenerated, if you do not have a new nature then you do not have the light that Jesus is talking about here. Because this is the light of Life. John already told us this in John 1:4 (ESV) 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” Apart from spiritual life there is no spiritual light.

 

So, Jesus is the presence of God, He is our only spiritual guide who says, “follow me”. There is a narrow way that leads to God and the entry point is a narrow gate and that gate is Jesus. If you are not on that way, then you are on the broad way that leads to destruction and there are many on that way.

 

There is a third and last thing the pillar of cloud and fire represented in the Old Testament.

 

Point 3. It teaches us of God’s protection.

 

When the Egyptians were pursuing Israel, the Bible tells us that the Pillar of cloud and fire stood between them. Look with me at Exodus 14 and I love this part of the story. Remember when Moses was allowed by God to part the sea and now the Israelites are crossing through the sea on dry land. What did the Egyptians do? They followed them. But now look at Exodus 14:24-25 (ESV) 24 And in the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic, 25 clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from before Israel, for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians.”

 

So, in this context the pillar represented God’s protective hand. I want you to understand something of the story here; otherwise you might miss out on understanding the protection of God. You have at least 2 million Israelites that need to be moved through the dessert to the Promised Land. The Bible says there were 600,000 men besides women and children. You need miracle after miracle to get this right and these miracles must be seated in God’s protection. Firstly, they were to be protected from the Egyptians, and the cloud stood between the Israelites and the Egyptians. Now you are crossing through the sea and God from the cloud looks upon them, they enter the dessert with temperatures raging above 60 degrees Celsius at day and below freezing at night. They needed water, they needed food and they needed shelter from the sun at day. God allowed Moses to provide water from the rock. God provided manna from heaven and the shelter was provided by the cloud. Without this protection, the people would have died.

 

In John 6, Jesus says “I am the bread”, in John 7 He says that He is the water and now in John 8 He is the Light. In the same way the Lord Jesus is the protector for all who will follow Him. You come to Jesus and you come to the one who gives you safety. He has not only brought you the presence of God, He is not only your guide, but He also is your protector.

 

We see this in Psalm 18:28-30 (ESV) 28 For it is you who light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness. 29 For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. 30 This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.”

 

Psalm 139:11-12 (ESV) 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” 12 even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.”

 

Have you ever come to the Son of God for life? Did you come with the understanding that you were spiritually dead and in darkness, that you were lost in your sins and that you deserved the wrath of God and that there was no hope for saving you but Jesus? What we do know after this morning is this. If you have come to the Son of God, you have come to know God’s presence in Christ. Not only were your sins forgiven and not only was righteousness given to you as a gift but also you were given life and that life consists of union with God’s Son who is your guide and who is your protector through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

 

It is so sad that the Jews in the days of Jesus missed this, they knew their history, but they failed to see ‘His story’ in God’s Son as the light of the world.

That morning on the 8th day of the Feast of Tabernacles, the four large lamps were put out and 6 months later they would try and kill the Light of the world on the cross of Calvary and the light went out for many of them, but for us who believe the light went on and we have the Light of life, we have been saved from darkness and have been brought into His marvellous light and now we have life to the full.

And now we live in the presence of God with the guidance of God under the protection of God, just like He did for the nation of Israel and we are looking forward to our promised land as we walk in the Light.

Amen!

Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church – 5 July 2020