Have you ever been in a room or area where there suddenly was pitch darkness? Most city people reassure themselves that the electricity back up in our apartment complex is going to come on and take away our discomfort. If there is a problem with our electricity back up, we reach out for the flashlight option on our mobile phones. We do not like staying in the dark. There is a fear of the unknown. There is a fear of stepping on our pets. There is a fear of how we are going to go about cooking, eating and cleaning up during the rest of the evening. During Jesus’ day, the problem of darkness was a greater challenge. There was danger lurking along the roads. There was a huge possibility of stumbling over a rock and getting badly hurt. In fact, the people of Israel celebrated the Feast of the Tabernacles to remember how God took care of them for 40 years in the wilderness. There was also a celebration for providing a pillar of fire to grant light and warmth during their night travels (Exo. 13:21).
The coming of Christ the eternal Son of God into this world is the rising of a great dawn upon mankind.
In John 8:12, we find ourselves in the middle of this kind of celebration. The Feast of the Tabernacles had a good response in terms of attendance and Jerusalem would be crowded with visitors. In Chapter 7, we see that there are so many opinions about the identity of Jesus. There is also a rising hostility against Jesus from the religious elite of the day. Most experts tell us that there were huge lamps erected in the Temple area symbolizing the Light provided by God during the dark nights in the wilderness wandering. There was also a sacred dance that went on in the night according to a tradition developed over the years. The huge lights must have been quite a sight as they may have lit up the whole area with brightness.1
The Reformation Study Bible helps us to understand the background of Jesus’ amazing declaration- In Jesus’ time, candles were used as part of the celebration of the Feast of Booths. During this feast, the rock that provided water in the wilderness and the pillar of fire that provided light and guidance were remembered (Ex. 13:21). The rock pointed to Jesus (1 Cor. 10:4), and He also is the light to which the pillar of fire as a type pointed.2
As the traditional things during the Feast of the Tabernacles began to come to a close, Jesus made this amazing declaration “I am the light of the world”. In other words, He was saying “I am God who has come in human flesh to give you that spiritual light to live truly in fellowship with God.” Just because someone is born in a Jewish home or a Christian home, he or she does not automatically possess true spiritual sight. The Apostle Paul describes our sad condition before coming to Christ in Eph 4, “17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.”
So, we come into this world dead in sins and trespasses and unable to have spiritual sight and understanding that would make us treasure and follow after the Light of truth and holiness. But God has not left us in this terrible condition. God promised that “The Sun of righteousness would one day rise upon us with healing in His wings” (Mal 4:2) and when Jesus’ birth was announced, Zechariah praised God saying “because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven79 to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79).
The coming of Christ the eternal Son of God into this world is the rising of a great dawn upon mankind. In this declaration in John 8:12, Jesus calls Himself “I AM”. This is a deliberate way of saying that you know the blessed name of God revealed to Moses. You know that God alone is self-existent and depends upon no one or nothing for His existence. So “I AM” that “I AM”. I am the author of Life and the source of all Life. I am Creator and Sustainer too just like Yahweh is. So, because Jesus is God in human flesh, then He can be “The way, the Truth and the Life”, He cannot lie or deceive us. He cannot go against His own nature. So, we can trust Him when He says “I am the Light of the world”.
When Jesus says that He is the Light of the world, He is announcing a new age. He is not saying that He gives spiritual sight to those only in the region of Palestine but He is announcing that He is going to be proclaimed throughout the world. Because all over the world people are born in that first Adam and in the disobedience of our first father, we have lost that sight and fellowship with God. Jesus now has come as the second Adam to gather His new people who will be an elect people from every tribe and tongue and nation. The Holy Spirit uses the message of Jesus Christ (The Light of the world) to give us new spiritual eyes to behold God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ. In Jesus, by the miracle of new birth from above, our scales truly fall off. This is not a temporary restoration that happens but we receive spiritual sight forever.
Dear reader, why would you sit in the darkness of self-deception and human philosophy? Why would you sit in the despair of confusion and meaninglessness? Why would you sit in the fear of the shadow of death and hopelessness? Jesus the Son of God took on human flesh, lived a life of perfect obedience, bore the penalty of our sins in His body on the Cross and rose again victorious to bring you out of darkness into His marvellous light. Dear child of God, praise God for the miracle of spiritual sight and look to Him daily for more and more understanding in the knowledge of God and His will for your daily life. Open His word and ask for the strength of His Spirit to walk in His ways for Christ the Light of the world is with you always.
1 For more information see notes on John 8:15 here- https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/jfb/Jhn/Jhn_008.cfm?a=10050122 https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/reformation-study-bible/John.8.12