This past Sunday I preached on Jesus’ declaration that He is “the light of the world”. You can watch the video here.
When we turn to the news we are confronted with a truth that is simple and at the same time profound. Human beings are terribly inconsistent. We are capable of heroic deeds of justice and good will, and we are also capable of terrible deeds of injustice and terror. A darkness has set in. The world is not the way it is supposed to be.
As Christians we understand that at the root of these inconsistent deeds is the problem of sin. Now, the world will redefine the problem as chemical imbalance, different external pressures, or point to personal history and upbringing. And while those things definitely shape the outcomes of persons and events, the root of it all is sin – both on a systemic level and personal level.
The truth is, only Jesus can deliver us from the darkness of sin. In John 8:12 Jesus declared, “I am the light of the world”.
It is important to understand that He makes this claim during the feast of tabernacles. The Feast of Tabernacles was a time when the Israelites celebrated God’s provision and care for their ancestors as they moved through the wilderness for 40 years. Men and women danced through the streets singing praises with torches in their hands. Every night of the feast, large candelabras were lit in the temple and this light shed its glow all over Jerusalem. In fact, it was said that there was not a courtyard in Jerusalem that did not reflect the light. At the end of the festival, the lights were extinguished. The lights formed a stark contrast to the darkness of the night.
In this context Jesus says, “I am the light of the world”. In 2 Corinthians 4 the Apostle Paul tells us that people are blind to the light of the gospel because of the darkness of sin. Yet, if Jesus is the light of the world, then all may come to Him. To do so, we must admit our darkness and need for salvation.
In the second part of John 8:12, Jesus says, “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” In biblical times “walking in darkness” was used as a metaphor for walking in concealment and deception. It is impossible for anyone who follows the light of the world to find himself walking in darkness. This isn’t to say we will not sin, we will. Walking is in an ongoing pattern of life. If you are perpetually concealing sin, or living in a pattern of deception to cover your sin, you are walking in darkness.
In the Exodus journey, the glory of God in the pillar of fire led the people to the Promised Land. Israel not only had to exhibit faith in God as they traveled, but were also called to faithfully reflect God wherever they found themselves. Just as Israel followed the light of God’s glory to the Promised Land, we are called to walk in the light of Christ.
The difference between us and the world is not that we don’t have sin. The difference is that we fight sin in our own lives to allow the light of Christ shine brighter. As this world seemingly gets darker and darker, let us be a people of the light. Let us remind ourselves of the good news, Jesus delivers us from the darkness of sin. We would be as lost as Israel in a wilderness night without the light of God’s glory revealed in Jesus Christ.