“I am the Light of the World”
Jesus as Light – it is important to understand the many implications of this statement in order to have a deep understanding of who Jesus is and the full truth of the Gospel.
This is one of those terms that we see and use often as Christians.
We do understand it. We know well what light is. We live in light all of the time.
In many ways, having just that basic understanding allows us to understand Jesus statement in 8:12 and 9:5.
But if we trace the concept of light throughout the Bible, it opens wide our understanding of all that Jesus means when he makes the short, simple statement “I am the Light of the World.”
Some observations about Light in the Bible:
Light is used in the Bible approx 230 times, depending on what translation you use. That is similar to the number of times the words “faith”, “heart”, “love”, “wisdom”, and “pray” are used. Just a bit of trivia for you.
Light is mentioned in the first chapter of the Bible, Genesis 1:3, and the last chapter of the Bible in Rev 22:5. In other words, the idea of light both begins and ends the Word of God. Yes, this is a bit of trivia also, but its also pretty significant. Especially in light of how the word is used in both of these chapters and how the word is used throughout the rest of Scripture.
Let’s look at this usage a little bit. Don’t worry; we’re not going to go through all 230 examples.
Genesis 1 – The first act of creation is forming the light. God spoke and it happened. Light was created, then darkness, and the two were separate. And the two would always be separate. You have probably heard that darkness is the absence of light. Light is defined as “The natural agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible”. Right from the beginning of Scripture, we are introduced to the stark contrast between darkness and light. Notice too, that God calls the light good. He does not call the darkness good. Make no mistake about it – light is the good guy. Darkness is the bad guy.
Then we move to Exodus and the plagues. The second to last plague is darkness. The Lord made darkness cover the land, a darkness so thick and heavy it could be felt. It lasted for three days. But all the while, the Israelites had light. Those who were God’s chosen people had light, and did not live in darkness.
As the Israelites finally leave Egypt and their slavery, the Lord leads them by night as a pillar of fire to give them light.
Also in Exodus, we see that God gives instructions that the Tabernacle is to have seven lamps that are to be kept burning at all times. The Tabernacle was a representation of the character and presence of God, therefore the light was never to go out.
The Israelites, some of them at least, understood the significance of these lamps being lit at all times. 2 Sam 22:2 “You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.”
Light is then used over and over in the OT to describe the character of the Lord.
• “He is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings the grass from the earth.” 2 Samuel 23:4
• “The Lord is my light and my salvation- whom shall I fear?” Psalm 27:1
• “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” Psalm 36:9
• “You are resplendent with light, more majestic than mountains rich with game.” Psalm 76:4
• “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord.” Psalm 89:15
The actions of the Lord
• He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent.” Psalm 104:2
• “The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine upon us.” Psalm 118:27
• “The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the Lord binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted.” Isaiah 30:26
The Word of the Lord
• “The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” Psalm 19:8
• “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105
• “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands.” Psalm 119:130-131
Light also is used to describe the revealing and judgment of sin:
• “You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.” Psalm 90:8
• “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” Psalm 139:11-12
• “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” Isaiah 5:20
To describe the Messiah:
• “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2
• “The sun will no more be your light by day, nor the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.” Isaiah 60:19-20 (cf Rev 21:23, 24 and Rev 22:5)
• “I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked light glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.” Ezekiel 1:27-28
And to describe the inclusion of Gentiles in the kingdom of God:
• “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” Isaiah 42:6-7
• “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6
So this is a bit of the background that the Jews had leading up to the time of the Messiah. They understood the connection between light and God, and they knew that the Messiah was described as light. This helps us understand the significance of Jesus confession, “I am the light of the world” and why such a statement was so inflammatory.
To believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, is to believe that Jesus is the light.
This understanding of Jesus as the light is so important in understanding who Jesus is and having believing faith in him, that John starts his Gospel by introducing Jesus this way. John 1:3-5 “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” And verse 9 “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” Jesus is the light of the world.
He is the light that is separated from darkness. He is the light that shines on his people and separates his people from the darkness. He is the light that leads the way for his people. He is the light that always shines, always burns, and never lets darkness break through. He makes his light shine upon his people, lighting their way. He is the light that exposes the darkness, that exposes sin and evil.
When we encounter this light, have to make a choice. Will we choose darkness or will we choose light? In the spiritual realm, there is no dusk or dawn. There is no existing in those moments right between light and darkness. We either live in the light or we live in darkness. John 3:19 “This is the verdict: light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
Because we know the rest of the story – the death and resurrection of Jesus, and his ascension into heaven to reign over all – we can look at what the light means for us as believers.
The light of Christ abides in our hearts. 2 Corin 4:4, 6 “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God…For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
We are not slaves to darkness. Eph 5:8-11 “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.”
We look forward to literally living in the light. Rev 21:23-24 “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for their will be no night there” and Rev 22:5 “There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”
This is the man who professed to be the light of the world. He was living as a man, but he was full of light enough to light the whole world for eternity. What a simple statement, but what power it contains.
How should we respond to the Light of the World? We should respond like the blind man did, by believing. And then we should let the light of Christ permeate our lives and our being, overtaking every bit of darkness within us. And then we should radiate that light to others.
“No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead he puts it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body is also full of light. But when they are bad, your whole body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be completely lighted, as when the light of a lamp shines on you.”