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Dec 13 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 11, 2011

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8:12

INTRO: Last week we began exploring the question, What entered world at Christmas?

I said that we would look at four Christmas gifts related to “I am” statements made by Jesus and recorded in John’s gospel
– Last week our meditation was on his claim, “I am the Bread of Life”
– today we will consider his announcement, “I am the Light of the world”

We want to look at this carefully, because the passage is outrageous!
– in the Hebrew Scriptures, God has a name – Yahweh
In time, the people of Israel considered it to be so sacred that they stopped pronouncing it
– translated, Yahweh means: “I am who I am” or simply “I am” – What does this mean?

  • God is the One who exists – absolute being (He. 11:6)
  • the One whose existence transcends time! Eternal
    – never, “I was” or “I will be” or become
  • therefore, the one who is always present
    – whatever exists, exists in him (Jn. 1:3; Acts 17:28)

Three times in this chapter Jesus will say, “I am” — without an object, such as “a teacher” or “the Son of Man,” but simply I am

  1. The first time, in verse 24, his hearers respond, “Who are You?” — i.e., Who are you claiming to be?
  2. In his answer, he repeats it, (v. 28)
    a. “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know I am”
  3. The third time occurs when he claims that “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day and he saw it and was glad” (v. 56)
    – they object that he is “not yet fifty years old” so how could he have seen Abraham (v. 57)
    – his response is, “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (v. 58)
    – this is profound, because it not only puts him beyond time, but it also indicates that he is the same person through time (i.e., he does not say, “Before Abraham was I was,” but I am)
    – at this point, they fully get what he’s saying! — “Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him” (v. 59)

Verses 12-59 depict a typical teaching session

Jesus makes a statement and his listeners raise objections and ask questions

A number of important themes occur and recur through this lesson:

  • true, truly, and truth
    – his testimony is true (14-18), the One who sent is true (26), and they are truly his disciples “if” they keep his world (v. 31)
    – also, if they keep his word they will know the truth and the truth will set them free (v. 32)
  • related to the truth is his word (“My word”)
    – they don’t have any place within them for it (37) !!
    – they have trouble understanding it and hearing it (43)
    – but anyone who keeps it will never see death (51)
  • sin and sins
    – he does not have to argue the fact of their sin (the “first stone” episode preceded this teaching, vv. 1-11)
    – they will die in their sin, unless they believe (“I am”; 21, 24)
    – whoever sins, becomes its slave (34)
    – that no one can prove a case against Jesus serves as evidence that he, unlike everyone else, is speaking the truth (46)
  • a fundamental difference between Jesus and his audience
    – simply stated, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world” (23)
    – Jesus constantly refers to his Father and argues that he is not their Father (38)
    – first they claim Abraham as their father (33), but  Jesus clarifies that they are his descendants, not his children (37-40)
    – next, they claim that God is their Father (41), but Jesus refutes their claim and explains why the devil is their father (42-44)

All of these themes help to develop the lesson, which began with his announcement, “I am the Light of the world”

At the heart of this discussion there is one basic concern

Who is this Person that claims that his word is the truth?

After his opening claim to be the Light of the world, they object
– “You are testifying about Yourself,” which would invalidate his testimony
– his response: he knows who he is, but they do not know (where he has come from and where he is going (14)
– that is to say, history + destiny = identity

He also claims that his Father can verify what he’s saying
– so they ask, “Where is Your Father?” (19)
– we are familiar with his answer from a better known passage; 14:8-9, “Show us the Father” and “He who has seen Me has seen the Father”

“These words He spoke in the treasury . . .” (“treasure chamber”)
– I think this is so profound
– it is not likely that Jesus was teaching in one of the treasure vaults of the temple, but rather in a court with public access and coffers where people could leave donations
– John specifies the location and I can’t help but think he intended a hidden meaning
Here the true treasure of the temple is sitting there teaching — the Father revealed in the Son

We have already seen how the “I am” references in this chapter build to climax
– by the third time he says it, there is no question as to his meaning

Now what can we say about “Light of the world”?

1.) Light, as Jesus uses it, is related to truth
– light is a good metaphor regarding communication of truth
Fiber optics: the amount of information carried by light is millions of time more than copper wire
– light illuminates what would otherwise be hidden in darkness
– what needs to be enlightened for us?

  • God
  • The world – what is in it? The true nature of things
  • Our inner world: thought processes, motives, drives, etc.

2.) This is a particular kind of light – the Light of life
– it enlightens us to life
– like the Bread, it gives life

3.) People, like us, can “have the Light”
– to dispel our illusions (which is sometimes painful, but liberating!)
– to reveal beauty

In junior high school I remember seeing a poster in a classroom that said, “White is the absence of all color”
– now that is true when mixing colors as with paint or crayons
Sunlight (or white light) on the other hand, is the presence of all color – a prism held in a beam of sunlight reveals the colors of the rainbow

Last night, we hosed a Christmas party for therapists that Barbara works with in the hospital. Barb is a wonderful hostess, because she goes all out. She is like a tornado, and, as with tornados, if you get caught in her path you are suddenly flying all over the place too. The last time we hosted this party, I didn’t know anyone and felt really awkward. So after letting everyone see me and engaging in some small talk, I retreated to our bedroom and turned on the TV with the volume low. Our bedroom was supposed to be off limits, because there was a big pile of laundry on the floor and we had thrown everything else in there that we had cleared out from the other rooms. But since I was still afraid that someone might come in while on a self-guided tour of our home, I sat on the floor, hiding behind our bed with a plate of food.
Then my worst fear became reality. I heard the door open and the voices of two women:
Lady 1: “I don’t think we’re supposed to go in here.”
Lady 2: (after a quick glance around the room) “Well, I can see why.”
That seemed to me like a rather catty remark. I kept that to myself for four years. Then, when Barb said she wanted to have the staff party in our home again, I divulged that little episode. And do you know what? Barbara laughed! That was not the reaction I expected. I grew up with sisters and came to believe that when one female makes a catty remark about another female, the wounded female was suppose to come right back with an even cattier remark of her own. But knowing the people she works with, Barbara thought the comment was funny, not catty.
Barbara’s laughter to me was  the rainbow–the Light, the truth, the word of goodness, kindness, and joy.

4.) The Light that Jesus is, is the Light of the world
– I was reading the story of Jonah again yesterday and once again I had to ask why did God have to brutalize him?
– the answer is that Jonah’s prejudice was so strong, he would have never learned the lesson of God’s compassion any other way
– some Christians have no mercy for unbelievers (and there are even Christians who have no mercy for other believers)
– they do not want to believe that Jesus is the light of the world, but that he illuminates only the church
– but Jesus casts his light in places we would have never guessed and will never know this side of heaven

He who sent Me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world (v. 26)

CONC: It is important to appreciate what Jesus means by light

But equally important are the words “I am” — the Person who speaks these words is the Light
– Jesus said, “he who follows Me,” and we need to concentrate our attention on the “Me”
– the challenge here is to trade in your philosophy for Jesus

trade in your worldview, beliefs, and values for Jesus
trade in your religion for Jesus
trade in your confidence, whatever it is, for Jesus
– rather than follow rules or principles or propositions, follow Jesus

He offers himself to us as the Light that will illuminate us,
the Light that will guide us
and the Light that will eventually lead us home

Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians is the pray I say every week for us:

. . . that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. Ephesians 1:17-19

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