He Is...We Are To Be: The Light of the World - John 8:12-20
Last week we began our series on examining the “I Am” statements of Jesus in the Gospel of John. We talked about how controversial these statements would have been for the Hebrew people that would have heard them coming from Jesus. We went back to Exodus 3 and heard the conversation between Moses and God as God was preparing Moses to go back into Egypt and bring the Hebrew people out of slavery:
Moses questioned God, “If I go back to Egypt and tell the Israelites that the God of their ancestors had sent him, they are going to want to know who this God is and I don’t even know your name. What am I supposed to tell them?” God replied to Moses, “‘I Am Who I Am.’” God continued on, “‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, I Am has sent me to you…The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever and this is my title for all generations.’”[i]
Those listening to Jesus and hearing him say, “I am…” would have heard Jesus equating himself with God. For those of us today, knowing that Jesus is God the Son, and an equal member of the Trinity, that is not an issue. For those in Jesus day, though, it would have been heard as blasphemy.
Last week we also pushed the envelope past Jesus statements of “I am,” saying that just as Jesus is for the world each of these statements that he claims, as we examine them, then Scripture also tells us that we, as the Church, are to be these very things in the world today.
Last week, Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life.” Understanding Jesus to be “the Bread of Life,” the Church, as the living Body of Christ in the world, is to strive to be “the Bread of Life” in the world today. Understanding that Jesus is that which gives nourishment and sustenance to the world, we are to offer nourishment and sustenance to the world…not just in the food we give the hungry, but also sharing with them the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ…introducing them to the love of God that will fill that hole that leaves not their bodies, but their very souls hungering…God’s love being the only thing that will forever satisfy that hunger.
This morning we find Jesus in another encounter with those around him. He had been teaching and folks were questioning the validity of what he was saying. He responds with, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
We need to understand what ha powerful image this is that Jesus has projected when He says, “I am the Light of the World.” Light has always been an important part of the Hebrew culture, and once again takes us back to the Old Testament. At Creation, the first thing that God does as He brings creation into existence is to say, “Let there be light,” and light pierced the darkness of chaos.[ii] Later on, light is seen in Exodus, first as the light of the fire revealing God’s very presence to Moses,[iii] but also as the pillar of fire at night revealing the path of safety as God led them through the wilderness. Light is also depicted as the wisdom of God, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”[iv]
The Gospel of John latches onto the importance of this light image from the very beginning. The first chapter of John reads, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it…The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.”[v]
Later on, as Jesus is talking with Nicodemus, who had come to Him under the cover of night says of the Son of God, “And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”[vi]
What does it mean, then, for Jesus to say that He is the Light of the World? We can pull it all from the passages we have referenced.
As the Light of the World, Jesus brings God’s creative order into the chaos of our world. How often do we feel like our lives are spiraling out of control? Conflict, questions, problems, disease, and death assail us, simply turning our lives upside down. Jesus comes into that chaos and says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”[vii] Jesus says, “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world.”[viii] Jesus lets us know that God’s way is a way of peace, a means of trusting in God, and knowing that He is in control…all of the turmoil will pass away, and cannot lay claim on us.
As the Light of the World, Jesus illuminates the path we are to travel. Many times in our lives, we have things coming at us from all sides, competing for our attention, trying to claim our loyalty, and tell us that they are the answer to all of life’s questions and problems. When all of this comes at us, beckoning us to follow, we are left in the dark, not knowing which way to go. Which way is right? Which way is God’s way? How do we know? We look to Jesus. We are called to walk, talk, and act in the same way that Jesus did…if it is the path of Christ, it is the path God leads us down. Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”[ix]
As the Light of the World, Jesus shines light into the darkness of sin and brings to light the intentions behind our actions. We look at folks and think, well, they sure are good folks, look at all the good things they do. Often times those folks might be the ones staring back at us out of a mirror. Other times we look in the mirror or at those around us and wonder, just what are they up to? I know some of those times have happened with the kids where all of a sudden out of the clear blue they are helpful, courteous, and complimentary. My initial response, “what do you want now?” We are always questioning motives. Jesus confronted the religious folks of his day repeatedly over the issue of motives…suggesting that their “pure” actions were not done to glorify God, live holy lives, or help others draw closer to God, but done out of sinful self-interest to draw attention and praise to themselves. At other times, when folks tried to hide their sin in the darkness of silence, Jesus drew it out…as He did with the woman at the well who said, “I have no husband” to Jesus’ request for her to bring her husband and come to Him. Jesus confronted her with the reality that she had had five husbands, and was now shacking up with some guy. Light reveals what we try to hide in the darkness of our lives, Jesus makes us see our sin…and we have to choose whet her to live in His Light, and receive life, or crawl back into the darkness and die.
As the Light of the World, Jesus gives life to God’s people. The demands on our lives seem to just drain the life out of us—work demands, family demands, social demands. Broken relationships and betrayals leave us gasping for life. We feel like we are alone and dying. Jesus is the one who enters into our world and gives life. We watch as Jesus returns to life a young girl, a centurion’s servant, his friend Lazarus, and others…calling them back from the darkness of death. Yet those who had met physical death were not the only ones that Jesus gave life to—Jesus gave life to those who had died socially, having been made outcasts—the lepers, the demon possessed, the crippled…Jesus touched their lives and returned them to the community.
As the Light of the World, Jesus draws those who love God together. We live in a world that promotes self-sufficiency and independence. We are encouraged to do it all on our own, and we frown upon those who seem to need others. All of this leads to lives where we look around and find ourselves disconnected from others and alone. Others of us find ourselves alone because events of this world have left us alone…a loved one dies, friends move away, families turn their backs. Jesus comes into this darkness and shines His Light. Just as a porch light on a dark night draws all the insects around to it or a light hanging over the water draws the fish to it, so too does the light of Christ draw those around to Him. Jesus, though having moments of prayer and meditation alone to strengthen himself from time to time, was never about living alone. He never called on folks to retreat from the world, but instead gathered the disciples and others around Him. Jesus was about forming community. Even when He sent the disciples out to do ministry, He did not send them alone, He sent them in groups. Jesus’s Light draws folks together.
My brothers and sisters, as the living body of Christ, we, the church, are to do the same thing…we are to be the Light of the World. We are to be that which shines into the darkness of folks lives.
We are to shine into the chaos and bring God’s creative order to those who find their lives in turmoil. We offer a calming, steadying, presence that focuses in on the peace that Christ will bring into their lives.
We are to bring light to those who paths have been darkened by confusion as they seek to discern God’s will for their lives. We help them through coming along side them in prayer, the study of Scriptures, and listening for God’s direction.
We are to be the light that helps folks fully live. We are to help them break free of any addictions or struggles that seek to drag them into physical or emotional death. We are to help them grow and thrive, especially strengthening their relationship with God and their brothers and sisters in Christ.
We are to shine the light of God on sin and bring to light the true intentions of others. We expose sin for what it is, not allowing it to hide in the darkness. We have to be careful here, because we offer this exposure not in a condemning, judgmental way, but helping folks choose to walk in the life and leave that darkness behind…remembering that God sent His Son, and thereby sends us, into the world, not to condemn the world, but in order that those in the world might be saved.
We offer the Light to draw others together. We are to be a place where the Love of God is experienced in such a way that we find ourselves bound to one another through Christ…no longer living alone, no longer living for ourselves, but living with and for one another.
My brothers and sisters, the Light of the World has come into the World…let Him light our lives, so that we may shine it forth into our community and throughout the world.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.