Who is the light of the world?

by Mike Ratliff

12 Πάλιν οὖν αὐτοῖς ἐλάλησεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγων· ἐγώ εἰμι τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου· ὁ ἀκολουθῶν ἐμοὶ οὐ μὴ περιπατήσῃ ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ, ἀλλʼ ἕξει τὸ φῶς τῆς ζωῆς. John 8:12 (NA28)

12 Then again Jesus spoke to them saying, “I Am the light of the world; the one following Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

For those who still have issues with the deity of Christ and whether He ever claimed that or not, He made it clear to those who opposed His ministry in vivid terms that he made that claim and they “took up stones” to kill Him for that more than a few times. For the record, he made clear, absolute “I am” statements that made it plain that He equated Himself to be the Son of God in five (5) absolute statements (John 6:20; 8:24, 28, 48; 18:5). He also made seven (7) metaphorical “I am” statements about Himself, one of which we will examine in this post, that referred back to Old Testament prophecies that clearly could be claimed only by the Messiah and the Son of God.

  1. I am the bread of life – John 6:35, 48, 51.
  2. I am the light of the world – John 8:12; 9:5.
  3. I am the door of the sheep – John 10:7, 9.
  4. I am the good shepherd – John 10:11, 14.
  5. I am the resurrection and the life – John 11:25.
  6. I am the way, the truth, and the life – John 14:6.
  7. I am the true vine – John 15:1.

We study these truths because when we know the truth about our Lord and Saviour, we are actually learning His good doctrines. We are doing our part in Romans 12:1-2 by renewing our minds by immersing ourselves in the Word of God. Through this, the Holy Spirit will transform us, maturing us, deepening and growing our faith. This is how we become those living sacrifices who bring glory to God. 

12 Πάλιν οὖν αὐτοῖς ἐλάλησεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγων· ἐγώ εἰμι τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου· ὁ ἀκολουθῶν ἐμοὶ οὐ μὴ περιπατήσῃ ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ, ἀλλʼ ἕξει τὸ φῶς τῆς ζωῆς. 13 εἶπον οὖν αὐτῷ οἱ Φαρισαῖοι· σὺ περὶ σεαυτοῦ μαρτυρεῖς· ἡ μαρτυρία σου οὐκ ἔστιν ἀληθής. 14 ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· κἂν ἐγὼ μαρτυρῶ περὶ ἐμαυτοῦ, ἀληθής ἐστιν ἡ μαρτυρία μου, ὅτι οἶδα πόθεν ἦλθον καὶ ποῦ ὑπάγω· ὑμεῖς δὲ οὐκ οἴδατε πόθεν ἔρχομαι ἢ ποῦ ὑπάγω. 15 ὑμεῖς κατὰ τὴν σάρκα κρίνετε, ἐγὼ οὐ κρίνω οὐδένα. 16 καὶ ἐὰν κρίνω δὲ ἐγώ, ἡ κρίσις ἡ ἐμὴ ἀληθινή ἐστιν, ὅτι μόνος οὐκ εἰμί, ἀλλʼ ἐγὼ καὶ ὁ πέμψας με πατήρ. 17 καὶ ἐν τῷ νόμῳ δὲ τῷ ὑμετέρῳ γέγραπται ὅτι δύο ἀνθρώπων ἡ μαρτυρία ἀληθής ἐστιν. 18 ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ μαρτυρῶν περὶ ἐμαυτοῦ καὶ μαρτυρεῖ περὶ ἐμοῦ ὁ πέμψας με πατήρ. 19 ἔλεγον οὖν αὐτῷ· ποῦ ἐστιν ὁ πατήρ σου; * ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς· οὔτε ἐμὲ οἴδατε οὔτε τὸν πατέρα μου· εἰ ἐμὲ ᾔδειτε, καὶ τὸν πατέρα μου ἂν ᾔδειτε. 20 Ταῦτα τὰ ῥήματα ἐλάλησεν ἐν τῷ γαζοφυλακίῳ διδάσκων ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ· καὶ οὐδεὶς ἐπίασεν αὐτόν, ὅτι οὔπω ἐληλύθει ἡ ὥρα αὐτοῦ. John 8:12-20 (NA28)

12 Then again Jesus spoke to them saying, “I Am the light of the world; the one following Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13 The Pharisees, therefore, said to him, “You testify about yourself; your testimony is not true.” 14 Jesus answered and said to them, “Even if I testify about myself, My testimony is true because I know from where I came and where I go, but you do not know from where I came and where I go. 15 You judge according to the flesh, I do not judge anyone. 16 Even if I do judge, my judgment is true because I am not alone, but I and the Father who sent me. 17 Even in your Law, it has been written that the testimony of two men is true. 18 I am the one testifying about myself and the Father who sent me testifies about me.” 19 They were, therefore, saying to Him,  “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “ You know neither me nor my Father; if you had know me, you would have known my father also.” 20 These words He spoke in the Treasury while teaching in the Temple; and no one arrested Him because His hour had not yet come. John 8:12-20 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Jesus calling Himself “the light of the world” refers to clear references in Genesis, Isaiah, and Malachi. Jesus as the “light” brings to this dark world true knowledge, moral purity, and the light that shows the very presence of God.

Just reading that passage from my NASB or my ESV does not carry the weight of translating it word for word! Those opposing our Lord were “judging according to the flesh.” What does that mean? That means they were not seeking the discernment and wisdom of God, but judging according to the natural understanding and human standards of this world. I used to read this passage and wonder at how Jesus could simply refute these men by saying that His Father was His witness on His side against them. It was as I was translating this that it became clear that our Lord was referring to the fact that those who opposed Him were ignoring all those prophecies that came in the Old Testament era about the Messiah that He clearly fulfilled. Those who believed Him believed God, those who did not ignored Him. This is no different than what we have today when we have ordained church leaders denying the deity of Christ and the doctrine of Hell, et cetera. They disbelieve the clear testimony of God’s Word. It is clear that their hearts are rock hard and unbelieving just like these who were attempting to refute our Lord. Notice also in v20 the clear reference to His sovereignty. No one could arrest Him even if they tried because it was not yet His hour.

21 Εἶπεν οὖν πάλιν αὐτοῖς· ἐγὼ ὑπάγω καὶ ζητήσετέ με, καὶ ἐν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ ὑμῶν ἀποθανεῖσθε· ὅπου ἐγὼ ὑπάγω ὑμεῖς οὐ δύνασθε ἐλθεῖν. 22 ἔλεγον οὖν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι· μήτι ἀποκτενεῖ ἑαυτόν, ὅτι λέγει· ὅπου ἐγὼ ὑπάγω ὑμεῖς οὐ δύνασθε ἐλθεῖν; 23 καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς· ὑμεῖς ἐκ τῶν κάτω ἐστέ, ἐγὼ ἐκ τῶν ἄνω εἰμί· ὑμεῖς ἐκ τούτου τοῦ κόσμου ἐστέ, ἐγὼ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου τούτου. 24 εἶπον οὖν ὑμῖν ὅτι ἀποθανεῖσθε ἐν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν· ἐὰν γὰρ μὴ πιστεύσητε ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι, ἀποθανεῖσθε ἐν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν. 25 ἔλεγον οὖν αὐτῷ· σὺ τίς εἶ; εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς· τὴν ἀρχὴν ὅ τι καὶ λαλῶ ὑμῖν; 26 πολλὰ ἔχω περὶ ὑμῶν λαλεῖν καὶ κρίνειν, ἀλλʼ ὁ πέμψας με ἀληθής ἐστιν, κἀγὼ ἃ ἤκουσα παρʼ αὐτοῦ ταῦτα λαλῶ εἰς τὸν κόσμον. 27 οὐκ ἔγνωσαν ὅτι τὸν πατέρα αὐτοῖς ἔλεγεν. 28 εἶπεν οὖν [αὐτοῖς] ὁ Ἰησοῦς· ὅταν ὑψώσητε τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, τότε γνώσεσθε ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι, καὶ ἀπʼ ἐμαυτοῦ ποιῶ οὐδέν, ἀλλὰ καθὼς ἐδίδαξέν με ὁ πατὴρ ταῦτα λαλῶ. 29 καὶ ὁ πέμψας με μετʼ ἐμοῦ ἐστιν· οὐκ ἀφῆκέν με μόνον, ὅτι ἐγὼ τὰ ἀρεστὰ αὐτῷ ποιῶ πάντοτε.
30 Ταῦτα αὐτοῦ λαλοῦντος πολλοὶ ἐπίστευσαν εἰς αὐτόν. John 8:21-30 (NA28)

21 He said, therefore again to them, “I go away and you will seek me, and in your sin you will die. Where I go you are not able to come.” 22 The Jews were saying, therefore, “Surely He will not kill Himself because He says, ‘Where I go away you are not able to come?’” 23 And He was saying to them, “You are of the things below, I am of the things above. You are of this world, I am not of this world.  24 I said, therefore, to you that you will die in your sins for if you do not believe that I m He, you will die in your sins.” 25 There were saying, therefore, to Him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Why should I speak to you at all? 26  Many things I have to say about you, to judge, but the one who sent Me is true, and I heard from Him these thing I speak in the world.” 27 They did not know that He was speaking to them of the Father. 28 Jesus, therefore, said to them “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. 29 And He who sent me did not leave me alone, because all I do is pleasing to Him.”
30 Many believed in Him as He was saying these things. John 8:21-30 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Here again we see that salvation is only through Christ. There is no other way to the Father. Also, salvation is all about forgiveness of sins my brethren. Let us never forget that. Those who reject the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ are rejecting Him as Saviour. Some will seek another Jesus or will seek to come to Jesus on their own terms, but that is impossible. Jesus says, “…in your sin you will die.” He refers to Himself as “I am He” twice in this passage. Jesus was referring to Himself as the Messiah. When Jesus said that some would not believe until He was “lifted up,” He was referring to His crucifixion. As our Lord was dying on the Cross, He prayed for those who responsible to be forgiven. What happened on the day of Pentecost when Peter preached that sermon? Thousands were saved when Peter reminded them of what they had participated in when our Lord was crucified, however, as we see here, some believed as He spoke the truth right there in the Treasury. All who believe are drawn to believe by the effectual call of God.

For now, digest what our Lord said in these verses. Know for certain that He is still the light of the world and He is still sovereign. The world is still in darkness and the much of what calls itself “christianity” is part of that darkness. However, we who are genuinely in Christ must not remain in that darkness. Yes, God may have us remain at a job in which we work with mostly unbelievers to reflect Christ’s light into that darkness. He may even put us in a local body of believers that desperately needs quiet, mature leadership. I do know that he does not want us on the religiosity treadmill or seeking to try to please Him by the empty works of plastering a thin veneer of piety over our flesh. No, we are talking about learning and applying passages like Romans 12:1-2 and those following.

I used to be surprised, but am no longer, when people I know get an email from me with that link at the bottom to 1 John 3:1-3 and it disturbs them. I know that the disease of Post-Modernism infects them at a much deeper level than they even know or their “religious tradition” means that I am considered one of those “fundamentalists” who probably thinks Chris Matthews is a jerk. Little do they know, I hardly ever watch TV and pop culture and the mass media is nothing to me. I do not consider myself a “fundamentalist” in the sense that those people do, but in the sense that I believe the Word of God is the Word of God and is inerrant, infallible, and complete and that Jesus Christ is Lord and the Son of God, et cetera…then I suppose I am that kind of fundamentalist. But know this, when a ministry changes their version of the Gospel so that it ceases to reflect the Love of God, Christ, and Him crucified in all our relationships, then I am not part of that.

Draw near unto God in prayer and worship and immersing yourself in His Word and He will draw near to You. We may be getting close to the end of this age. If so, then let us prepare by becoming mature Christians with much spiritual depth so that we will not be ashamed to stand before our Lord and give an account.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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