Light of the World

Please read John 8:12-20

After exhorting the women caught in adultery to sin no more Yeshua resumed His teaching in the temple.

Yeshua spoke to them again: “I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light which gives life.” John 8:12 CJB

I am the Light of the world” is the second of seven “I AM” declarations of Yeshua that point to His unique divine identity and purpose. In all seven, Yeshua combines I AM with tremendous metaphors which express His saving relationship toward the world. They are: 

  1. I AM the Bread of Life (John 6:35, 41, 48, 51); 
  2. I AM the Light of the World (John 8:12); 
  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); and 
  7. I AM the True Vine (John 15:1, 5).

Light was an important symbol in the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). One ceremony associated with Sukkot was known as The Illumination of the Temple which involved the ritual lighting of four golden oil-fed lamps in the Court of Women. These lamps were huge menorahs/candelabras (seventy-five feet high) lighted in the Temple at night to remind the people of the pillar of fire that had guided Israel in their wilderness journey. All night long the lights shone their brilliance, illuminating the entire city. In celebration and anticipation, the holiest of Israel’s men danced and sang psalms of joy and praise, before the Lord. This festival was a reminder that God had promised to send a light, the Light, to a sin-darkened world. God promised to send the Messiah to renew Israel’s glory, release them from bondage, and restore their joy.

Now, Yeshua took this important symbol and applied it to Himself but He did not just say “I am the light of Jerusalem“, nor even “I am the light of Israel” but applied His statement equally to all peoples in all nations: “I am the light of the world.”

The Hebrew Scriptures spoke of God’s Word as light: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105); “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130); and: “For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life” (Proverbs 6:23). Since Yeshua is the Word (John 1:1) it makes perfect sense that He is also the light. In declaring Himself to be the Light of the world, Yeshua was claiming that He is the exclusive source of spiritual light. No other source of spiritual truth is available to mankind, we can only come to the Father through Christ.

Yeshua’s declaration that He is the light of the world reflected Isaiah’s prophesy of Messiah:

I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations. Isaiah 42:6 ESV

The people were drinking it in, but many of the Pharisees were becoming increasingly desperate to prove Him wrong. Although those Pharisees that set up and accused the woman had absconded, yet there were other Pharisees to confront Christ. Some of their party having been put to such a shameful retreat may have made them even more determined to retrieve, if possible, the reputation of their baffled party and prove to all the people their superiority over this teacher from Galilee. More than anything else, Yeshua’s message of the kingdom of God was a message of Himself as the embodiment of that kingdom.

These Pharisees and Torah teachers understood something that we often miss in Yeshua’s claims about Himself – the implied judgment of those who refuse to believe in Him: ” whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.  This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. ” (John 3:18b-19 NIV). Thus they demand for such a claim the same level of evidence as Torah required for convicting a person of a crime deserving of the death penalty.

So the P’rushim (Pharisees) said to Him, “Now you’re testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid  ( ἀληθής ).”

They claimed that Yeshua’s testimony was not “valid” – ἀληθής (alēthḗs) in the Greek. alēthḗs literally means “what cannot be hidden“, it stresses the undeniable reality when something is fully tested and shown to be fact. This is what the Pharisees were claiming Yeshua‘s words were not. A single person’s testimony was not enough to establish anything in their court of law, it had to be corroborated. They were claiming that Yeshua’s testimony proved nothing about Himself and so should be dismissed as worthless and thus they could not be held to account for refusing to believe it.

Yeshua had answered this when teaching them in this very temple court after healing the lame man some 16 months previously, during the Shavu‘ot of the first year of His ministry (http://blog.renewal.asn.au/category/section-2-yeshua-as-a-jewish-reformer/2-yr1/healing-at-pool-of-bethesda/):

“If I testify on My own behalf, My testimony is not valid. But there is Someone else testifying on My behalf, and I know that the testimony He is making is valid — you have sent to Yochanan (John the Baptist) , and he has testified to the truth. Not that I collect human testimony; rather, I say these things so that you might be saved. He was a lamp burning and shining, and for a little while you were willing to bask in his light.  But I have a testimony that is greater than Yochanan’s. For the things the Father has given Me to do, the very things I am doing now, testify on My behalf that the Father has sent Me.
In addition, the Father who sent Me has Himself testified on My behalf. But you have never heard His voice or seen His shape; moreover, His word does not stay in you, because you don’t trust the One He sent. You keep examining the Tanakh (Old Testament) because you think that in it you have eternal life. Those very Scriptures bear witness to Me, but you won’t come to Me in order to have life!” Matthew 5:31-40 CJB

Not only had Yochanan the Immerser testified to who Yeshua is, Yeshua’s works testify that God has sent Him, and the scriptures also testify as His life fulfils them. This time Yeshua simply states that His testimony is ἀληθής – undeniable reality that has been fully tested and found true. Light cannot do otherwise than bear its own witness. The Pharisees are claiming the need for human proof of that which transcends human knowledge. They claim the need for evidence of a human witness to a truth for which there could not possibly be a human witness, for all the people around had only witnessed that which is on this earth and Yeshua was from heaven.

Yeshua answered them, “Even if I do testify on My own behalf, My testimony is indeed valid ( ἀληθής) ; because I know where I came from and where I’m going; but you do not know where I came from or where I’m going.”   John 8:14 CJB

It was commonly believed among the people, and resonated through these courts when Yeshua was teaching them during Sukkot, that: “ when the Messiah comes, no one will know where He comes from” (John 7:27). He had fulfilled the people’s test, and so His answer was not so much for the Pharisee’s benefit for they had hardened their hearts against Him, but for the benefit of those among the people still questioning who He really was. 

You judge by merely human standards. As for Me, I pass judgment on no one; but if I were indeed to pass judgment, my judgment would be valid ( ἀληθής) ; because it is not I alone who judge, but I and the One who sent Me.  And even in your Torah it is written that the testimony of two people is valid ( ἀληθής) I myself testify on My own behalf, and so does the Father who sent Me.” John 8:15-18 CJB

Yeshua is referring here to Deuteronomy 17:6 and Deuteronomy 19:15 but substitutes “two men” for “two or three witnesses”. This prepares the way for the full thought of the “witnesses” in the next verse. The Pharisees are requiring the evidence of two men but Yeshua is offering them the witness of two Persons, each of whom is Divine – He and His Father. They were willing to accept the testimony of men but rejected the testimony of God as being unproven and unreliable. Do we likewise reject God’s testimony when we read something in the Word which contradicts the reasoning of man or our understanding of our own experiences?

Yeshua had taught the open-hearted Pharisee, Nicodemus, that He had not come to pass judgment on a world already condemned:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.   John 1:17 NIV

Thus, Yeshua is assuring them that He is not now passing judgment on them through His words, but that does not mean they will be declared innocent. They have no basis for complaint if they be punished for their unbelief, since their own law directs them to believe every matter that is confirmed by the concurring testimony of two witnesses, as Yeshua’s mission evidently was. “For I am one that bear witness of myself “— not by words only, but by all the actions of His life, which are agreeable to the character of a messenger from heaven; “and the Father, that sent me, beareth witness of me” — by the miracles which He enabled Yeshua to perform. So the Pharisees were altogether culpable in rejecting Messiah

Still they remained blind and deaf to the intent of what He was saying:

They said to him, “Where is this ‘father’ of yours?”

Yeshua answered, “You know neither Me nor my Father; if you knew Me, you would know my Father too.”  John 8:19 CJB

Yeshua‘s declaration here that they did not know His Father is eloquent testimony of His virgin birth. Our Lord here plainly intimates, that the Father and He were distinct persons, as they were two witnesses; and yet one in essence, as knowledge of Him is knowledge of the Father.

He said these things when He was teaching in the Temple treasury room; yet no one arrested him, because His time had not yet come. John 8:20 CJB

The “treasury” referred to the area in the court of the women that was sheltered by the colonnades and where thirteen brazen trumpet-shaped chests were placed for the reception of taxes and charitable offerings. Each of the chests bore an inscription showing to what purpose the alms placed in it would be devoted. This notice of place is interesting in many ways. The court of the women was one of the most public places in the Temple area. He taught, then, openly and fearlessly. The chamber in which the Sanhedrin held their session was between the court of the women and that of the men. They had on several occasions assembled in that place to take counsel against Him, yet none of their plans could succeed until it was the Father’s time.

We can likewise have confidence in Christ that the time of our departure out of the world depends upon God. Our enemies cannot hasten it any sooner, nor can our friends delay it any longer, than the time appointed of the Father. Every true believer can look up and say with pleasure, “My times are in Your hand, and better there than in my own.” To all God’s purposes there is a time.

Reference List

1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/.
2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998.
3. Coffman, James Burton. Coffman Commentaries on the Bible John 8. Study Light. [Online] [Cited: November 27th, 2021.] https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/john-8.html.
4. John 8:8-15 Commentaries. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: November 27th, 2021.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/john/8-15.htm.
5. Guzik, David. John 8 Bible Commentary. Enduring Word. [Online] [Cited: November 27th, 2021.] https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/john-8/.
6. Henry, Matthew. John 8 Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible. Bible Study Tools. [Online] [Cited: November 27th, 2021.] https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/john/8.html.
7. Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown. John 8 Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. Bible Study Tools. [Online] 1871. [Cited: November 27th, 2021.] https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/jamieson-fausset-brown/john/john-8.html.

In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…

* What is the significance of Jesus’ words: “I am the light of the world whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light which gives life“?
* What is the connection between Jesus being the Word and being the light of the world?
* All the Pharisees and priests danced and sang psalms of joy and praise before the Lord in response to the symbol of His light coming to His people. Why do you think their response to the reality of His light (Jesus) was so opposite to this?
* On what basis does God judge us?
* How do we know that Jesus’ testimony about Himself is ἀληθής – undeniable reality that has been fully tested and found true ?

Author: Anita

"For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption." 1 Cor. 1:26-30 ESV These verses are the story of my life. A shy, introverted woman who didn't know how to relate to others and had a fear of anyone in authority - foolish, weak, low and despised. The most unlikely candidate for any position of leadership. But God delights to choose such, to take those who are not and make them something in Christ, to do the impossible through the unlikely. In 2006 Jesus sent me to the nations with His glorious gospel to set the captives free and prepare His bride for the wedding of the Lamb.

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