“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
How often have you heard that phrase, “the light of the world,” and thought nothing of it? What does it mean that Jesus is the light of the world?
We know in context of this reading that The Feast of Booths had recently ended or was on its final day. During that celebration, a lamp-lighting ceremony took place in the temple every evening of the feast, during which large lamps were set up in the Court of Women at the temple. Jesus was teaching in the temple treasury directly next to the Court of Women, so His words likely brought to mind the image of those lamps and the great celebratory singing and dancing over God’s salvation that took place in their glow which filled every courtyard in the city.
That light represented God’s salvation and demonstrated it during the week-long festival. Jesus is the eternal representation or glorification of God’s salvation. In Him we have reason to dance and sing praises and thanksgiving forever.
The Old Testament has many references to light. When people read John’s gospel they would connect light to some of these references. They would understand that Jesus was saying something very intense. He was claiming to be God.
Light represents God’s attention toward you, His presence with you.
Psalm 4:6 reads,
“There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”
In Ezekiel Chapter 1 God is described this way,
Verse 4 says, “As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness around it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming metal.”
Verses 27-28 read,
“And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. 28 Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around.”
Light signifies God’s salvation.
Psalm 27:1 says,
“The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?”
Proverbs 6:23 reads,
“For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light,
and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life,”
God’s presence and salvation merged as the pillar of fire by night and the pillar of cloud by day. Exodus 13:21-22 reads,
“And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.”
Jesus told the people, “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” He promises that He is God with us and following Him brings us salvation. He is our guide, His light shows us the way to go.
Jesus isn’t merely showing us light and hope, He is light and all hope is in Him. He is light, the source of light and life. John 1:3-5 says,
“All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Jesus light completely overcomes darkness. Psalm 112:4 says,
“Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.”
Darkness cannot exist in light. 1 John 1:5 says,
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”
What does all that mean for you and me? Jesus is God, the Light of the world. He is our hope and our salvation. He doesn’t leave us alone to wander blindly toward righteousness. He lights the way, guides us and stays with us every step of the way. But there is more. He said, whoever followed Him would “have the light of life.” In Matthew 5:14-16 Jesus said,
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Just as Jesus is the light, the glorification of God, who leads people to salvation, you and I are also the light. We are called to glorify God, to conform to Jesus’ image and lead people to the beauty of a relationship with God through Christ. We can’t do that if we are hiding in a prayer closet. If our light is hidden because we only let it shine in the privacy of home or the comfort of church then it is not shining into the darkness beckoning men to the hope of eternal life. Does your light call people to celebrate the goodness and greatness of the Lord?