Jesus Proclaimed: "I Am the Light of the World!"
O Lord God, our dear heavenly Father, as we meet to worship You this day we pray that You would send Your Holy Spirit to enlighten our hearts and minds. Do not allow our natural foolishness and pride to interfere with the instruction of Your Word. Lead us to a true appreciation of Your truths, a greater love for our Savior, and a heightened determination to follow You with faithfulness. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Isaiah here records a conversation between God the Father and God the Son. The Father identifies the Son as “My Servant” and promises to give Him as “a light to the Gentiles” and “My salvation to the ends of the earth!”
Peter assures us that he and the other apostles did not record fables within their New Testament books, but rather recorded the words and actions of Jesus which they witnessed, just as he personally witnessed our Lord’s transfiguration!
Text: John 8:12-18
Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” The Pharisees therefore said to Him, “You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true.” Jesus answered and said to them, “Even if 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 come from and where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me. It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true. I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me.”
In Christ Jesus, Who sends the Holy Spirit to teach us His divine truths, dear fellow redeemed:
People make many claims, but those claims are not always necessarily true. For instance, at the basketball tournament we will host for the Christian Athletic League later this week no doubt the fans of several different schools will sit in the bleachers and claim, “We’re number one!” That will prove ultimately true, however, for only one girls’ team and one boys’ team. Likewise, a salesperson for the local Ford dealership might claim, “Ford has the best trucks on the road,” but that claim would no doubt be disputed by salespeople at both the local Chevrolet or Dodge dealerships. In the end many of the claims we hear each day can simply be dismissed without much thought. The claims of athletic fans are often nothing more than enthusiastic boasting, while those of salespeople can heeded or ignored without any significant or lasting results. There are claims, however, which cannot and ought not be viewed lightly or dismissed easily. Among those are the spiritual claims made by different religions and different religious leaders. Such spiritual claims often require the acceptance by faith of a particular truth and consequently the rejection of those teachings contrary to it. Such spiritual claims often involve not merely decisions pertaining to this life, but consequences affecting our prospects of everlasting life.
Christianity in general and Jesus Christ in particular make many claims—claims that are serious and cannot be lightly ignored, for faith in those claims or the rejection of those claims will determine our eternal fate. Let us, therefore, examine our text from John’s Gospel which contains one of Jesus’ claims—JESUS PROCLAIMED: “I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD!” We will see that many in our world reject Jesus’ claim and walk in spiritual darkness, while all who accept Jesus’ claim and continue to follow Him have the “light of life!”
The confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees described in our text took place at Jerusalem in the temple about six months before Jesus’ death. By this time the attitude of the Pharisees towards Jesus had hardened into bitter opposition. They rejected His teachings and resented His popularity. They wanted to destroy Him and His ministry. In fact, on the previous day they had sent the temple security officers to arrest Him, but they returned without Jesus and stating how impressed they were by His teaching, which only added fuel to the fire of the Pharisees’ fury.
Jesus was in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, a Jewish festival that commemorated the forty years the children of Israel spent wandering in the wilderness. To add joy and meaning to the celebration it was customary each night during the feast to light four large golden candelabra in the courtyard of the temple treasury. The lighted candelabra served two purposes: first, they were intended to remind the worshippers of the pillar of fire, a symbol of the LORD Himself, which led them safely through the wilderness wanderings (cf. Exodus 13:22); and then, secondly, they were to remind the people of the coming Savior, who would be “a light to the Gentiles,” as foretold by Isaiah (cf. 49:6) and other Old Testament prophets. When Jesus, therefore, standing near those candelabra announced, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life,” the Pharisees knew exactly what He meant. He was claiming to be the LORD Himself—the great “I AM” (cf. Exodus 3:14). He was claiming to be the Christ—the promised Savior! Furthermore, because they did not believe in Him or follow Him, He was claiming that they—the religious leaders of the Jewish nation—were walking in spiritual darkness—a claim they bitterly resented! It was a claim, however, which was absolutely true, for Jesus assured sinners of the grace and forgiveness of God as they led to repent of their sins and trust in Him as their Savior, while the Pharisees taught that individual sinner could and must fulfill all of the requirements of the law in order to gain God’s favor and save themselves!
My dear friends, the Pharisees were not and are not the only people who have rejected Jesus’ claim to be true God and the world’s only Savior. All who embrace religions that teach salvation by works reject the grace of God and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. All who assume that they do not need the righteousness of Christ, but believe they can be good enough for God through their own efforts are deceiving themselves and walking in darkness. The apostle Paul warns us of such work-righteous religions in his Epistle to the Galatians when he says, “If we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you that what we have preached to you—namely the gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith alone—let him be accursed!” (1:8) Those are strong words and necessarily so, for as Paul explained to the Corinthians, if you do not believe in Christ, or if the message of Christ’s resurrection is false—“you are still in your sins!” (1 Corinthians 15:17), and “the wages of sin is death!” (Romans 6:23) Death is the ultimate darkness—a darkness from which Jesus would rescue us, if only we will believe!
Let us be careful, however, at this point. There is a growing movement in our world today—a movement the thinking of which unfortunately all too many professing Christians seem willing to embrace and it compromises the gospel. That movement rests upon the assertion that there is no absolute truth in life, so that no one can claim to know anything for certain. Every belief, therefore, becomes valid only for you as an individual. You can believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior, if you wish, but you cannot insist that other must also believe. You cannot claim that anyone else’s beliefs are false. Consequently, all that is really important is that you believe something—that you believe anything. My friends—a vague belief in something does not save. A vague belief in something means that a person is walking in darkness and will lose his immortal soul! JESUS PROCLAIMED: “I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD!” All too many in our world reject Jesus’ claim and walk in spiritual darkness!
Thank God that all who accept Jesus’ claim and continue to follow Him have the “light of life!” The Pharisees, for fleshly reasons of their own, rejected Jesus’ claims. They said that because He bore witness of Himself, His witness was not true, suggesting that before any claim could be believed there had to be at least two witnesses to its validity. Jesus responded, “Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going.” Jesus came from heaven’s throne. He was, and is, and will ever remain the holy Son of God. We can believe Him, because He is true God, and the Scriptures assure us, “God is not a man, that He should lie” (Numbers 23:19). By His resurrection from the dead He was “declared to be the Son of God with power” (Romans 1:4), and the apostle Paul assures us that right now He is “seated at His (God that Father’s) right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion” and that God has “put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things” (Ephesians 1:20-22). We can have confidence in Jesus’ claims! But should you and I need more evidence, Jesus goes on to say, “I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me…. I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the father who sent Me bears witness of Me.”
Today is Transfiguration Sunday—the last Sunday in the Epiphany Season. The Epiphany Season is dedicated to revealing the true nature of Jesus Christ—to demonstrate that He is both true man and true God. The account of Jesus’ transfiguration certainly demonstrates that fact and reveals also the witness of God the Father. Shortly before the events of our text before Jesus had come to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Tabernacles, He had gone up into a mountain in Galilee together with Peter, James, and John. On that mountain He was transfigured before them. The glory, which was His as the Son of God, showed through His earthly frame. The evangelist Matthew tells us that Jesus’ “face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as light” (17:2). Moses and Elijah appeared to Him and no doubt encouraged Him to continue on until God’s plan for mankind’s redemption had been completed. God the Father spoke and the disciples heard His heavenly witness, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased. Hear Him!” (Matthew 17:5)
My dear friends, when we hear Jesus and believe Him we are accepting His claims to be the light of the world. When we accept Him for who He is and when we believe in what He has done, we will be moved by the Holy Spirit to want to follow Him—not just for a brief time, but to keep on following Him each and every day of our lives. When we follow Him, we have that most wonderful assurance that we will have “the light of life.” What does that mean? Well, what does Jesus say? “He who believes and if baptized will be saved!” (Mark 16:16a) The light of life provides us with certain confidence regarding our eternal future—a future won for us and given to us by the grace of God and through the work of Christ! But our confidence is not to be limited to the hereafter, but is to provide a solid basic for our lives at this time and in this world. God wants us to have the attitude that “I (we) can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (us)” (Philippians 4:13). He wants us to be able to approach each day believing, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32)
This afternoon you are invited to join me and other members of our congregation in discussing what we might do as a congregation to help those among us afflicted by depression. Depression can have many causes and it can result in many complications, but those who suffer from depression often describe it as living in the midst of darkness and that when the depression leaves, the physical feeling is like coming out into the light. Satan wants each of us to live in darkness. He wants us to focus our attention on the past. He wants us to be burdened by the guilt of past sins. He wants us to be angry with others for past wrongs. He wants us to become obsessed with the past, so that our guilt and our anger will cause us to view the future with fear. Jesus is the light of the world!” Whoever keeps on following Jesus will have “the light of life!” Where do we find relief for our guilt? How do we get rid of our anger? We must look to Jesus and follow Him! His precious blood cleanses us of our sins and will remove our guilt. His powerful love can take away our anger and help us to forgive others as we have been forgiven (cf. Ephesians 4:32). He holds our futures in His powerful hands! He promises that He will provide everything we need to deal with all of the issues confronting us today! Let us focus our attention on Jesus and be determined with His help to follow Him today. Then you will find yourself walking in light. Then you will find yourself the recipient of real and lasting and uplifting life! JESUS PROCLAIMED: “I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD!” May we every draw near to and rejoice in His light! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting