Jesus: The Light of the World

Two lights in the darkness

Two lights in the darkness


As dark as our post-modern society has become, we Christians have no concept how dark the world was when Jesus was born.  Rome was at the height of its power and upon his death, Caesar Augustus was declared to be a god.  For the Jews, their association with the Roman Empire gave them peace and security at the cost of their freedom due to burdensome taxation.  Their religion became an extension of the Roman government, with high priests being appointed by that government.  Worship services became excuses for even more taxation.

Yes, things were worse than bleak when Jesus came into the world.  No wonder He was called “the light of the world!”  But how was Jesus “the light?”

1.  The light revealed, John 1:4—9; 12

In the stunning prologue to his Gospel, John introduces its main themes:  word, life, light, John the Baptist, children of God, the Incarnation, the Law, and grace.  The concept of “light” is the subject of verses 4—9.

(a)  Shining in the darkness, verses 4, 5

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The Word, Jesus Christ, is the source of life.  The way the word “life” is used here, it refers to the fullest life possible; the highest life that may be attained by any human being.  All human beings have life in the sense that they are living beings.  John is not referring to this life, although it is true that all living beings come into existence by a creative act of the Word.  The context demands that the life in the Word, the life the Word gives human beings, is the blessed life of God; it’s a gift to believers from the Word.

This life, John says, is the “light of all mankind.”  What does that phrase mean?  The Word, Jesus, is God’s personal revelation to all people.  It is personal in the sense that the light proceeds from God and is directed to man.   The purpose of the light was (is) spiritual in nature.  The sun also produces light, and man is able to see and work in the light.  We all know how beneficial physical light is.  In the spiritual realm, Jesus’ life and light is just as beneficial and they go hand-in-glove:

For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.  (Psalm 36:9 NIV)

The purpose of the light is to enlighten man; to teach man the truth of God.  The truth of God is not just intellectual in nature; it is life-giving.  The truth of God affects man’s whole being, spiritual and physical.  Everything about life is made better when one possesses the life that proceeds from Christ, revealed to us by the light.

(b)  Shining in darkness, verses 6—9

The light points man to the life.  John the Baptist, wrote John the apostle, was like a “minor light,” pointing man to the true light, Jesus Christ.  In that sense, all believers are “minor lights,” because we are to point unbelievers to the light as John the Baptist did.

Verse 9 captures the universal nature of the true light:

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.

God did not send His Son into the world for some, but for all!   Naturally, not all would receive that light, but some did.

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…  (John 1:12 NIV)

Man, wandering around in the darkness searching for meaning to his life is able to, thanks to the light, find that meaning in the life that is in Christ, which He freely gives to those who ask.

(c)  A new temple, a new light  8:12

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.”

When we note the context for this verse, it becomes even more powerful than it sounds on its own.  There was a sharp argument among the Jewish leaders that began in back in 7:25.  It was a heated “discussion” about Jesus, who was in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles.  At the start of this Feast, a large candelabra was lit in the busy Temple courtyard.  The Mishnah suggests that the light from those massive burning candles was so bright, it lit up the city.  The burning candles represented God, as the illuminating guide that directed the children of Israel in the desert.  Even as God was their guide then, so Jesus is the I AM of the present – illuminating, guiding and chasing away the spiritual darkness that engulfs, not just the Jews, but of “whoever follows” Him.

2.  Come to the light, John 3:19—21; 12:46—50

(a)  A choice that must be made, 3:19—21

Jesus had been speaking of judgment:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  (John 3:17  NIV)

He did not come into the world to judge it, but then we read in the very next verse:

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.  (John 3:18  NIV)

What was Jesus getting at here?  The answer is verse 19.

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  (John 3:19 NIV)

“Judgment” depends, not on Jesus, but on the decision of people.  If all people loved Jesus and followed Him, there would be no judgment.  But because some men will stubbornly refuse to believe, judgment becomes necessary for them.  It’s man’s decision to make, though.  Man decides if he wants to be judged or not.  If he wants to be judged, then he will refuse to follow the Light.  But if man wants to avoid judgment, all he has to do if follow the light.  This is simplicity itself!

(b)  The finality of unbelief, 12:46—50

There is no cure for unbelief when a person makes up his mind to turn away from the light.

I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.  (John 12:46  NIV)

To not follow the light that is Jesus is to remain in the darkness (of sin).  To reject Him is to choose the darkness of sin.  Jesus’ purpose of coming into the world—the Incarnation—was not to judge the world but to save the world from the judgment that is to come.  Our Lord wants desperately to save men, not destroy them!  But the offer of salvation demands a decision for or against the One making the offer.  To reject the offer is to reject Jesus Christ and that guarantees judgment.

3.  The light gives sight, John 9:1—7, 35—41

Chapter 9 opens with the healing of a man born blind.  While we believe this miracle really did take place, it also serves to illustrate in a practical way the spiritual state of all men:  they are born spiritually blind.  The giving of sight to this blind man is quite literally what the light of Jesus does for the spiritually blind.

(a)  A physical healing, verses 1—7

“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  (verse 2)

The disciples asked this question of Jesus regarding the blind man.  It revealed the Jewish belief of the day that the sins of the parents were visited upon their children.  It also reflects a bizarre notion held by some of Jesus’ time that a person could actually sin the womb or even in some previous existence!   The disciples were positive this man’s blindness was caused by someone’s sin.

Jesus took their ignorance as an opportunity, not to berate them for holding such ridiculous ideas, but to teach them the truth.  This blind man was not blind because any particular person sinned, causing this blindness as a sort of divine punishment.

Now, sometimes sinful conduct does result in the one sinning reaping awful consequences:

Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”  (John 5:14)

But this most certainly isn’t always the case.  Sin always produces unintended consequences in ways we may never fully realize in this life.  It’s not Jesus’ purpose to go into an in-depth treatment of that subject.  What He needed His disciples to know is the foolishness of trying link one’s present state to some sin way back in the past.  What they should have been doing is trying to discover what God’s will was; how God could use this man’s predicament for God’s glory.  In the broader scope, Christians need to understand there is a special, divine purpose in allowing suffering to come upon a person.

…“but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”  (verse 3 NIV)

In our vernacular, Jesus might have said this, “On the contrary, this man was born blind so that…”  The structure of the Greek makes it clear:  this man’s blindness was for the express purpose of a future event—so that all may see “the works of God” displayed in the blind man.  And the works of God certainly included the physical healing, but went way, way beyond merely giving sight to the blind!  The works of God are a manifestation of His grace and mercy to one in need.  According to Jesus, while the blind man would be the recipient of a great miracle, onlookers would receive something too:  God’s light would shine out from him making the works of God obvious for the spiritually blind to see.

(b)  A spiritual healing, verses 35—41

When the blind man received his sight, his whole life changed.  He literally moved from a life of darkness to a life full of light.  When he was confronted by the religious elite, we read one of the most humorous exchanges in the New Testament:

Then they hurled insults at [the formerly blind man] and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses!  We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”  The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind.  If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”  (verses 28—33)

We know that this man knew Jesus came from God—he deduced it.  But he had never actually seen Jesus!  Jesus had told the man while he was blind to go away and wash his eyes and he would be able to see.  Having never seen Jesus, the once-blind man figured out on his own that whoever this man was, he must have come from God.

But then the greatest miracle happened when He met Jesus a second time with his eyes wide open:

Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”  “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”  Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”  Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.  (verses 35—38  NIV)

He had been physically healed, but now he had been spiritual healed!  He was shown the light and that light led him to the Life that is Jesus, which our Lord in turn gave to Him.

This man’s “new life” wasn’t in word only, it was also in deed:  he confessed Christ, then he worshiped Him!


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