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Loved By Jesus

The Light

Rev. Philip Miller | January 31, 2021

Scripture Reference: Genesis 1:3, Exodus 3:13—14, Exodus 13:21—22, Psalms 119:105, Isaiah 9:2, Isaiah 41:4, Isaiah 42:6—7, Isaiah 43, Isaiah 48:12, Habakkuk 2:14, Matthew 5:14—16, John 1:4—5, John 5:31, John 7:37, John 8:12—30, Romans 6:23, 2 Corinthians 4:6, Philippians 2:15, 1 Thessalonians 5:5, 1 John 1:5—9, 1 John 1:7, Revelation 22:5

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Scripture Reference: Genesis 1:3, Exodus 3:13—14, Exodus 13:21—22, Psalms 119:105, Isaiah 9:2, Isaiah 41:4, Isaiah 42:6—7, Isaiah 43, Isaiah 48:12, Habakkuk 2:14, Matthew 5:14—16, John 1:4—5, John 5:31, John 7:37, John 8:12—30, Romans 6:23, 2 Corinthians 4:6, Philippians 2:15, 1 Thessalonians 5:5, 1 John 1:5—9, 1 John 1:7, Revelation 22:5

Selected highlights from this sermon

As Pastor Miller looks at Jesus’ second “I Am” statement, “I am the light of the world,” he helps us unpack Jesus’ true identity. Light, after all, is a theme that runs across the pages of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, and with this arc of light throughout the narrative, Pastor Miller shows the brilliance of what Jesus is revealing about Himself in John 8.

The Light

“I am the light of the world.” This is the statement that Jesus makes in our passage today. It’s the second of seven “I Am” statements recorded for us in the book of John. What happens is Jesus, in all of these seven phrases, is He’s using this “I Am” and then He adds an analogy to help unpack His identity for us. And here He says, “I am the light of the world.” And light is a theme that is running all through the Scriptures, from the very beginning to the very end. It’s a major theme, so in the beginning God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3). Prior to the creation of the sun, the moon, the stars, there was light, light that radiated from the very being of God Himself because God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). And God’s Word, whenever it comes forth, brings light. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

There were prophecies all throughout the Old Testament concerning the coming of the light. Isaiah 9:2 says, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” The Messiah, God’s suffering servant, was foretold, who would come, who would be the light. Isaiah 42:6 and 7, say, “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;...a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.”

And then the word became flesh and made its dwelling amongst us. John 1:4 and 5 say, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Or as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:6, “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

And so Jesus cries out here in John, chapter 8, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Because to follow Jesus is to walk in the light (1 John 1:7); it is to be children of the light (1 Thessalonians 5:5); it is to shine as light in the world (Philippians 2:15); And we long, don’t we, for the fullness of the light to come as Habakkuk 2:14 foretells the day when “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea”; Revelation 22:5 describes that day in the new heavens and the new earth where the Lord will once again dwell with his people, and night will be no more. And “They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light.”

So it is within this biblical narrative, this arc, if you will, of light, that we begin to see the brilliance of Jesus’ claims here in John 8:12–30. And as we look at this passage of Scripture, and as you open your Bibles with us, we’re going to see three things this morning: We’re going to see a dazzling claim, we’re going to see a piercing danger, and a blazing proof. A dazzling claim, a piercing danger, and a blazing proof.

Let’s pray together as we turn to God’s Word.

Heavenly Father, would You shine the light of Jesus? Help us see Him clearly. Tear off the blinders of our eyes. Let the light in, we pray in Jesus’ beautiful name, Amen. Amen.

First, we see here a dazzling flame. Look down at John 8:12, “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.”

Now, in the ancient world, light was a much bigger deal than it is to us today. I mean when it gets dark we flip on the lights, don’t we, and we go about our business?” But even in a city like Chicago, it’s never really dark, is it? I mean we have light pollution we have to worry about, right? But in the first century, all they had were oil lamps, these little earthenware vessels that they put olive oil in with a wick and then they’d light them and carry them around. To give you an idea of the scale here, a single hundred-watt bulb gives off 31 times the amount of light that a first century oil lamp would have. So they’re not that bright, and without the light, if you didn’t have a lamp, it wasn’t just inconvenient, it was deadly and dangerous.

Imagine, if you will, walking through the Palestinian darkness. There’s no light around you anywhere, except for the stars. It’s unknown. You can’t see what’s out there. There’s darkness everywhere. You might trip. You might fall. You might get very hurt. You have no real good sense of direction. You can easily get lost in the dark, and you’re vulnerable. There are wild animals out there, and maybe enemies hiding in the rocks. And so darkness is a threat, but light, on the other hand, light is full of warmth. It’s full of protection and guidance and hope. And so light was life. To have light was to stay alive. And we have to keep that in mind as we hear a statement like what John makes in John 1:4. “In him (Jesus) was life, and the life was the light of men.”

So Jesus, the Word of God, by whom all things were created, in Him is life itself, and as He comes into the world that life is radiating out as light. And here in chapter 12 [sic; should be 8:12], He offers the light of life. And so do you see the connection now between life and light? Life is full of light, and light is full of life. To have light is to have life. To have life is to have light because light is life and life is light. It’s a package deal, you see.

So when Jesus comes along and He says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life,” He is essentially saying, “I am life itself. And if you want true, full, overflowing, abundant life, the light of life, come follow me.”

“In this dark world, full of pitfalls and false turns and dangers lurking everywhere in the shadows, in a world where everybody is offering light to live by, come follow Me, and I will light your path. I will lead the way. I will give you safety. I will protect you. I will show you the way of life.” And it’s in this sense that Jesus starts to unpack His statement, but we have to dig a little deeper because this verse is in a historical context, and if you will remember from a couple weeks ago, that historical setting of John, chapter 7 and 8, is very particular. Do you remember what it is? Jesus is at a feast, a feast called Booths or Tabernacles or Sukkot. And in the original manuscript, chapter 8, verse 12 follows immediately on the heels of chapter 7, verse 52, which as we discussed last time is almost certain, then this is still the very last and greatest day of the feast.

The Feast of Booths, Tabernacles, or Sukkot was a seven-day feast in the fall where the Jewish people built these little makeshift structures out of branches and leaves, and they lived in them as tents during the week. It was a time to commemorate their journey through the wilderness when they lived in tents and tabernacles on their way to the Promised Land. It was a time when God guided them, you will remember, by a pillar of cloud by day, and fire by night, when He provided for their needs: manna in the wilderness (bread), water from the rock, quail from the skies. He brought life to them by bringing them ultimately to the Promised Land, a land of milk and honey, full of plenty, full of vineyards filled with grapes, and olive trees for olive oil. And so, here at the harvest of grapes and olives, we have this feast.

Now, at the very heart of this feast were two ceremonies. There was a morning ceremony and an evening ceremony. In the morning (We’ve talked about this) there was a water drawing and pouring ceremony. They went and got water and they poured it out on the altar as a thank offering, a drink offering, before the Lord. It was a celebration of God’s provision in particular of water from the rock in the wilderness. The evening ceremony was a lamp lighting ceremony. In the court of the women, near the treasury, stood four giant candelabras, big pillars reaching to the sky, 75 to 80 feet high, at the very top of which were four giant bowls which each held ten gallons of olive oil. And in the evening they would light the torches. And if you could imagine sixteen of these torches in four different columns, blazing, billowing in the night, illuminating not only the temple but much of the city because the temple was up on the hill.

Now, isn’t this fascinating? You have two ceremonies at the heart of this feast–water and light. And Jesus said in chapter 7:37, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink,” and in chapter 8, verse 12, “I am the light of the world.” And can you guess what these blazing pillars of fire in the night represented, from memory? Can you imagine what they were? I think you know what I’m talking about. Exodus 13:21–22: “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. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.”

So there’s a pillar of fire, right? A cloud and fire. It was there for guidance. It lit their way and led the path. It was there for comfort. It warmed them on the cold desert evenings. It was protection for them. It kept predators and enemies at bay. In fact, at one point it moved behind the people of Israel and shielded them from the advancing Egyptian armies. It stood in the gap between the enemies and them so they could safely cross the Red Sea.

Eventually this pillar of fire and cloud led them to Mount Sinai where a fiery cloud descended upon the mountaintop and engulfed it in flames. Exodus 19:18 says this: “Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly.”

And so from the mountain now this fiery glory cloud gives now, they hear the voice of God, revelation coming as God speaks to the people. It is from this glory cloud that the Law will be given, and the covenant will be established, the Mosaic covenant with the people of God.

And so, friends, don’t you see? When Jesus says, “I am the light of the world,” this is no little oil lamp to just help you, you know, to find your way to your door in the middle of the night, no. Jesus is the new glory cloud blazing the way in life. He says, “I am here to guide you through the wilderness of your life. I’m here to comfort you in the cold, dark nights. I’m here to protect you from your darkest enemies, sin, death, and Satan himself, and I will shield you from your enemies. I will stand in the gap so that you might pass through the waters to safety and you might live. I am the fiery glory cloud, bringing revelation, a new law, a new covenant in Myself. I’m here to lead you in the paths of God, in the ways of blessing, and the life eternal. I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

Now, I just spent half of this sermon on one verse. (laughs) Don’t worry. We’re going to pick it up. Isn’t this amazing? Now watch the reaction. The Pharisees don’t buy it. Verse 13: “So the Pharisees said to him, ‘You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.’”

Now, where are they getting that? Well, they’re getting that from John 5:31, where Jesus said, “If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true.” So they’re saying, “Look, you are contradicting yourself, Jesus. You said, ‘If I bear witness about myself then my testimony is not true.’ Look, you’re bearing witness about yourself. Your testimony isn’t true.”

Now if you go back to chapter 5, you’ll remember that what Jesus is saying there is, “Look, I’m not the only one bearing witness to my identity, there’s John the Baptist, there’s God the Father, there’s the Holy Scriptures, there’s the prophet Moses. All of this is bearing witness to who I am. I’m not alone. Others are bearing witness too.” But what they do here is they take His statement from John 5:31, and they flip it around and they use it against Him, and like, “Aha! We’ve got you. You know you said, ‘If I bear witness about myself, it’s not true. And you’re doing it. Here you are doing it. Look everybody. Everybody look. He’s bearing witness about Himself. He’s a contradictor.”

That’s not very charitable listening is it? But verse 14. Look at how Jesus responds: “Jesus answered, ‘Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going.’” He says, “Look, even if I were to bear witness about myself without any support of anybody else, I’m still the most qualified person to speak about myself here, because I know my comings and goings. You don’t. I mean, you’re asking for eyewitness testimony. I’m the best one to speak to this.”

Verse 15: “You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me.”

He says, “You’re full of all these knee-jerk, fleshly reactions here. You’re so quick and eager to judge me, condemn me, dismiss me, and get rid of me, but I’m not here to judge you in response. If I did, I’d call a spade a spade, and my Father would back me up, but that’s not why I’m here.”

Verse 17: “In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” “You want two witnesses?” He says, ”As your law requires? How about me and my Father? That’s two, right?”

Verse 19: “They said to him therefore, ‘Where is your Father?’” (chuckles) “We don’t see Him. You know, where’s 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; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.”

Now, so here’s the logic. Jesus has presented Himself as the light, the fiery glory cloud come from heaven to lead the people, the whole world, into the ways of life. And the Pharisees are standing right there before this blazing torch, and they’re trying to figure out how they can snuff Him out. They’re grilling Him, hoping He can slip up and that they’d have cause to get rid of Him and not have to deal with Him anymore. And Jesus said the reason they can’t see Him (They can’t see the light. It’s right in front of them.) is because they are blinded to who He is, blind to who the Father is. “If you knew me, you don’t, but if you knew me, you would know my Father also.” You have no clue who I am or who my Father is either.” Striking words.

It leads now to a piercing danger, a piercing danger. Verse 21: “So he said to them again, ‘I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.”

Now, at first this seems like a hard shift in the conversation, doesn’t it? It seems like Jesus just changed topics, but there’s a connection here. Let me see if I can show it to you. Remember the pillar of fire and cloud. It led the way. Right? It moved. It was a mobile pillar of fire and clouds. When it moved, the people followed. That’s what they were supposed to do, which is why Jesus says, “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Follow the cloud, follow the pillar of fire, right? That’s how God led them into life. When the cloud moves, when the fiery cloud moves, you have to follow it. But what if you don’t believe in the fiery cloud? What if you actually can’t see it? Or worse, what if you’re trying to catch the cloud in a contradiction? What if the light is standing right in front of you and you can’t see it? What if you are so blinded that you can’t behold the light? Well when it departs, when it goes, all hope is lost. No matter how much you look for it, it’s gone. When the darkness falls, you die in the desert of your sins because the light of life, of hope, of forgiveness is gone. You can’t get it back. And Jesus is saying, “The glory cloud is about to depart, but follow while you can.” That’s the implication. The cloud is leaving, but follow now before it’s gone.

See, friends, because in six months from now, Jesus will die on the cross, and He will be buried and He will, three days later, rise from the dead, and 40 days after that, He will ascend to His Father’s side in glory. He’s here just for a little while. While it is light, while it is day, today is the day of salvation. Follow Him while you can. But, of course, they misunderstand Him.

Again, verse 22: “So the Jews said, ‘Will he kill himself, since he says, “Where I am going, you cannot come?”’ He said to them, ‘You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.’”

He says, “When I say I am going away, I’m talking about going home to where I belong. Above. Beyond the walls of this world, and I’m warning you again, you’re going to die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am—” (And actually the translators have added “he” to smooth out the sentence here. It’s not in the Greek. It shouldn’t be there.) “For unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins.” “Unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins.”

I am what, Jesus? The light, the fiery glory cloud? Who are we to believe that you are? Oh, so much more than just light in the fiery glory cloud. Jesus is referring back to Exodus 3:13 and 14. Let me read those to you. “Then Moses said to God (This is at the burning bush in the wilderness), ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel: “I AM has sent me to you.”’”

So “I AM” is the name that God gave Moses, His personal covenantal name, four characters in Hebrew, yod, he, vav, he, Yahweh. The tetragrammaton means the self-existent one, I AM.

Isaiah 40 through 55, those chapters, 15 chapters, 16 chapters, in those chapters God expounds on His name to Israel. And I’m going to read just a handful of selections to you here, but I want you to watch for these phrases, the I ams, or the I am he, or the capital L-O-R-D. Those are all referring to the same concept, this I AM.

Isaiah 41:4, “Who has performed and done this, calling the generations from the beginning? I, the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he.”

Isaiah 43:1–3, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

Isaiah 43:10–11, “‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior.’”

Isaiah 43:16, “Thus says the LORD, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters…”

Do you see all the allusions to the Exodus and the people of Israel going through the waters, a pillar of fire, all of that?

Isaiah 43:19, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Isaiah 43:20–21, “I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.”

Isaiah 43:25, “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”

Isaiah 48:12, “Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called! I am he; I am the first, and I am the last.”

So what Jesus is saying here, He’s saying not only, “I am the light and I am the fiery glory cloud,” but He is saying more than that. He’s saying, “I am. I am the covenant-keeping God. I am God in all of His manifest glory on Earth. I AM who I AM.”

Verse 25: “So they said to him, ‘Who are you?’ (They don’t get it) Jesus said to them, ‘Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. (chuckles) I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.’ They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father.”

He says, “Look, look, I am exactly who I’ve been telling you from the very beginning. I haven’t changed my message. I’m revealing much about myself to you right now. And I could reveal all kinds of things about you, but I’m not going to. If I were to judge you the same way you are judging me, we could go there, but that’s not why I’m here. I’ve been sent. I’m here on a mission from Him who is true, and I’m going to speak His words.”

Jesus is like a fiery light, blazing in the dark. He’s like a burning bush giving light. “I AM who I AM, and unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins.” It’s a piercing warning. “Come to the light. Follow. Follow me while you can.”

Finally, we see here a blazing proof, a blazing proof. Verse 28: “So Jesus said to them, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am—” Again the “he” has been added by the translators to smooth it out. “Then you will know that I am..., and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just 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.’”

Now, whenever Jesus uses this language of being lifted up, He always is referring to the cross when He is lifted up and will draw all men to Himself. And here’s the irony. They will be the ones that do it. “When you, when you Pharisees, when you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM.” Jesus’ glory will shine in unmistakable radiance. Jesus’ glory will blaze. It will shine in unmistakable radiance. “Do you want to know when the beacon of my light will be lit,” Jesus says, “when I will shine for all the world to see? Do you want to know when the hour of my glory will be at hand? You will do it. You will raise me up when you try to nail me to the cross, when you try to snuff out my life, when you try to end me on the cross, it will backfire because then the glory of who I am will be revealed so that all peoples to the ends of the earth will see and know that I AM. Then you’ll know. You’ll know that I AM, the divine Son of God. You’ll know. You’ll know that I don’t do anything on my own authority. I’m not just bearing witness to myself. The Father is with me. I’m speaking His words, and He hasn’t abandoned me. He is with me. His pleasure rests upon me. Then you will know.”

Verse 30: “As he was saying these things, many believed in him.”

So, don’t you see? They saw the light. They saw the light. They beheld His glory, the glory of the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. They saw the light, and they came and they followed Him.

So as we draw this to a close, three quick takeaways: The first one is come to the light. Come to the light. I guess this one is for those of you who are maybe kicking the tires on faith. You’re not really sure where you stand with Jesus. He’s interesting to you, but you haven’t committed. You’re not all in. You’re sort of on the fence. I want you to see that Jesus’ words here form both an invitation and a warning. An invitation and a warning. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” “Come to me. Come to the light and live.” There’s the invitation. But there’s a warning too, isn’t there? “For unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins.” There’s the warning.

Romans 6:23 says it very clearly. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Friends, Jesus is our only hope. Without Him, we’re simply lost in the dark. Nowhere to turn. But He’s the light. He’s the light.

One of the things that’s most fascinating to me is that when Jesus dies on the cross in our place and for our sake, bearing all our sin and shame on the cross, His life in exchange for ours, there’s a solar eclipse. Everything goes dark. The Light of the world died in the dark. And do you realize that Jesus died in the dark so that you could live in the light? Don’t you see that?

I don’t know if you’ve ever come to the point where you just want to say yes to Jesus. “I want to come to the light. I want to know this life.” It’s as simple as A, B, C.

  1. We admit. We admit that we’re sinners far from Jesus, far from God.
  2. We believe. We believe that Jesus has done everything in His life, death, resurrection to make us right with God, His life in exchange for ours.
  3. We commit our lives to Him. We say, “Come, be my Savior. Be my Lord, be my everything. Be my light and my salvation.”

And friends, if you would pray a prayer, our prayer partners would love to pray with you right now or even at the end of the service. Just call them up. Dial the number, and just say, “I want to pray that prayer.” And if you pray that prayer today and come to the Lord, you too can have the light of life.

For those of us who are following Jesus, I have two challenges for us. The first is walk in the light. Walk in the light. First John 1:6 and 7 say this: “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”

Friends, are you walking in the light right now? Are you open and honest before God? Are you hiding things in the dark places of your life?

John continues in verses 8 and 9, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” So friends, won’t you bring all of yourself into the light? Bad things grow in the dark. It’s time to let the light in.

The last challenge for you is share the light. Share the light. In Matthew 5:14 and 16, Jesus says, “You (you and me—we) are the light of the world— Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” And it’s fascinating to me, but Jesus is the light of the world, but He left. He has gone to His Father, and He says, “You, now you, are the light of the world.”

So friends, who sees your light? Who sees your light? Who, far from Jesus but near to you, needs to see your light today? Won’t you share the light?

Let’s pray.

Father, we want to come to the light. We want to live in the light. We want to share this light to the world. Help us, we pray, in Jesus’ name, Amen.  

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