“The Light of the World”

17 October 2004

Texts: John 8:12-20

 

            “I am the light of the world: he that followest Me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life. (v. 12)  In this brief statement, Jesus speaks to the universal condition of mankind: we walk in darkness.  And unless something happens, on a spiritual plane such as a soul transforming encounter with the Lord, we will stumble around life like folks at home when the lights go out!  Of course, we know that people get up in the morning and drive to work, or set about their days illuminated by natural light.  But the point is that apart from Jesus, our lives are lived in the dark.  Now the thought “followest Me” can be taken at least two ways: the first, and most natural sense, has to do with allegiance.  We follow Him in that we don’t simply believe the content of His instruction, we trust in Him.  He is the basis of our Hope, the guarantee of our security, the foundation upon which a life of faith is constructed--so we act like and think like Him.  That’s following.  The second sense relates this thought to the verb phrase “shall not walk in darkness.”  Following is the condition, in other words of receiving light unto our path!  In a similar manner, light is vitally linked to life.  Therefore we sense that more is meant than simply not stumbling over the furniture.  Think of breath.  We are much more vitally connected with breathing--it takes only a moment of holding your breath to realize that something is going to go very badly if you don’t breathe again soon.  We are actually tremendously dependent upon light.  Light lifts our mood, changes our body chemistry and while we are not vegetables (most of us anyway), we are dependent on light for healthy living.  The universal condition of mankind is this: that apart from Jesus, we walk in darkness.  But if we believe on Jesus in the manner set forth here, we shall have life. . .life and truth which functions in us much as does the light does.  Both operate from within.  When Christ died for us on the cross, the sun rose which enlightens every soul that belongs to Him.

 

            The passage before us in shot through with a powerful, natural analogy: as the sun in our solar system is to the biosphere, the earth, so is Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness to the spiritual and moral life of humanity.  Rightly considered, Jesus’ “I am the light of the world” is completely astonishing in scope, in depth and breadth.  I want to expand on the analogy a little, playfully I might suggest that because it is as Jesus says, we live by a kind of spiritual photosynthesis.  This is how life gets from out there to in here.  We draw life, warmth and power from the Sun of Righteousness--indeed, we draw our righteousness from Him.  Our righteousness is then both imputed and imparted--it comes to us from outside us; therefore we can take no credit for it.  It pleases Almighty God for His sake to count us righteous.  I know that doesn’t sound very playful but you will see my point when I say that because we are so dependent upon the sun/Son, it behooves us to bask in the light.  Our prayer closet doubles, as it were, as a tanning booth.  Only from this kind of tanning, we don’t get skin cancer, we get health!  There’s this and so much more.  For example in Daniel 2:22 we learn from the rabbis that “light” is the name of the messiah and that the idea of coming from God the Father is not an alien notion:

"It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, And the light dwells with Him.

 

And from Luke 2:30ff we learn prophetically about Jesus Christ, as the light revelation of the world:

Luke 2:30  For my eyes have seen Thy salvation,  Luke 2:31  Which Thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, Luke 2:32  A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, And the glory of Thy people Israel."

 

This is what He is, most excellent and glorious--a bright and shining notion--, in Himself and this is what He is, a fountain of light, to the world!  The fallen condition of mankind, again, is that we are lost, stuck, or imprisoned in darkness.  But the great good news is that upon us, in our desperation, the light has shined.  It has shone in Him and through His revelation, that is, the truth about God’s redemptive heart and plan that He shed as light throughout the ancient known world.

 

            Well, what more can we say about that truth, that light?  That truth/light is threefold: God is holy.  God abhors sin; and God is unwilling to clear the guilty unconditionally.  There simply is no free, unconditional escape from the guilt and penalty of sin.  Therefore we desperately need to know exactly what sin is--this teaching warrants constant instruction and repetition.  Sin is not necessarily wrong doing; it is, more accurately, wrong being.  Unredeemed human nature is sinful, it  possesses a native preference for darkness--this preference for darkness is the main thing.  So we may conclude that sin is the human inclination to “do it my way,” to assert a defiant independence.  To pursue a self-realization which in essence declares that I am a god unto myself, that I need to protect myself at all costs is sinful.  Furthermore, sin can express itself negatively (as in immorality and wickedness), or positively (as in moral, upright uptightness).  The problem of sin is that of our unredeemed human nature--or the remnants of our fleshly way for those who are saved.  It is our fundamental disconnect from God and it is harmful to us both individually and collectively.  SO , in order to deal with sin completely, Jesus makes it clear to us who God is, what He is like.  But knowledge about God is only half of our dilemma.  With the second half, we, sinners, want to know how to relate to this holy God, this absolutely just and righteous God.  Is it even possible to ever stand in His presence, let alone survive His judgments.  How does one relate to the holy, just and all powerful God Jesus reveals??  Carefully.  (Yes, of course.  That’s what the rites, ceremonies and ranks of priests in the Old Testament were actually about!)  For in Himself, He is no one to be trifled with.  Jesus, as the light of the world, builds upon this foundation because we need to know that in Him, by His life and death for us, the justice and the mercy of God can be and have been reconciled.  Sin has been dealt with but certain conditions are affixed to the benefits of this transaction: we must repent and renounce sin.  Furthermore, we must accept peace and pardon in and through Christ and Him alone.  That’s walking in the light

 

            “The Morning Star of Promise gleamed in the sacrifice and rite and prophecy of the early church (meaning Israel, God’s Chosen People).  But it was when He came to earth that the full light shone on our world; and in view of His redemptive work He could say, “I am the light of the world,” etc.  (H.C. p. 233)

 

            I wish to cite now a poem by the 16th century poet John Dryden which further addresses the revelation side of Jesus’ work of redemption:

 

Reason not the light of men.

 

Dim as the borrow’d beams of moon and stars

To lonely, weary, wandering travelers’

Is reason to the soul: and as, on high

Those rolling fires discover but the sky,

Not light as here; so reason’s glimmering ray

Was sent, not to assure our doubtful way,

But to guide us upward to a better day.

And as those nightly tapers disappear

When day’s bright lord ascends our hemisphere;

So pale grows reason and religion’s sight;

So dies, and so dissolves in supernatural light.

Some few, whose lamp shone brighter, have been led

From cause to cause, to nature’s secret head,

And found that one first principle must be;

But what or who, that UNIVERSAL HE;

Whether some soul encompassing this ball,

Unmade, unmoved, yet making, moving all;

Not even the Stagirite (Aristotle) himself could see,

And Epicurus guess’d as well as he.

As blindly groped they for a future state,

As rashly judged of Providence and fate,

But least of all could their endeavors find

What most concerned the good of human kind.

.           .           .           .

 

Thus anxious thoughts in endless circles roll,

Without a centre where to fix the soul:

In this wild maze their vain endeavors end:

How can the less the greater comprehend?

Or finite reason reach Infinity?

            For what could fathom God were more than He.

 

Dryden’s point is that unaided human reason can bring no absolute answer to the deep questions of life.  For instance, the question of life after death.  We may say summarily that Jesus brought both life and immortality to life.  What was dimly known in the age of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) was merely that God was the God of the living, not of the dead.  But with Jesus’ teaching and the object lesson of His resurrection from the dead, both life and immortality were brought to light.  This happens however only for those who have owned Him as their own Sun of Righteousness . . . those who have opened their hearts and by faith have let Him in. 

 

            What shall we do with this knowledge?  It is possible to sun bathe in it.  To stand before it and let it radiate into your being the wonder of this Son of Righteousness.  Stand in the sun and think--this is life, this is how He loves us.  This is His glorious provision for us.  And let your heart be warmed and gladdened.  As you have been forgiven, forgive others.

                                                                        Amen.