3 Bible Study Talk Notes ‘I Am the Light of the World

This post by christinecoltman was originally published at GRACE PLACE

Behold our God: ‘I am the Light of the World’ by Vicki Kelly

John 8 

It is a privilege to be able to look at who JESUS says he is. We want to Behold our God, to know our God, so then looking at Jesus and who he is claiming to be is the way to do this as we see in the passage we are going to read, the way to know the Father is to know Jesus. We’ve started looking at Jesus and the ‘I AM’ statements he makes. Esther pointed us last month to Jesus’ first ‘I AM’ statement… I am the Bread of Life. She talked about how Jesus offers us eternal satisfaction – in Him. He provides all we need: Him. The Bread of Heaven gives us life once and for all. And whoever believes in him will never go hungry  or thirsty… and we will be raised up with Him on the last day! This is joyful news! I love that Jesus uses these pictures, these images to help us understand who he is as it helps my tired brain really grasp him… And tonight’s I AM statement is no different.  

Tonight, we are Beholding our God – Jesus says ‘I am the Light of the world’.  

The plan: 

1) Looking specifically at the I AM statement and what it means. What does it mean to be the light of the whole world? It is one verse, but SO much in it. 

2) Look at the rest of the passage where the Pharisees argue with Jesus about who he says he is, but whilst it may look like they are taking Jesus away from his original statement where he proclaims he is the Light of the World, it just illuminates further Jesus’ proclamation.  

3) So who is Jesus? What does it mean for us today? Responding to Jesus 

Breakout question: Can you think of different lights and what the purpose is? What does a light do? What does ‘light’ make you think of? How does light make you feel in these circumstances/uses? 

If time allows: What are your prior thoughts of Jesus words, ‘I am the Light of the World?’ 

 John 8:12 ‘I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ 

1)  Jesus: ‘I am the Light of the World’ 

Let’s paint the picture. We are told in Chapter 7 that it is the time of the Feast of the Tabernacles,  a Jewish festival where they remembered their 40 year journey in the wilderness, the great exodus out of Egypt and how God protected, guided and provided for them all those years ago. During this festival there would have been the ‘illumination of the temple’ where giant menorahs/candles were lit to remember the pillar of fire guiding them in the desert. It was supposed to completely light up the court and it was a symbolic event of the festival. But, we are at the end of the festival here in John 8. The party is over. The dancing and ceremonies have stopped. The torches that were lit for the festivals have been put out. It is now that Jesus declares to the people in 8:12, ‘I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’.The Jewish leaders and Pharisees would know their Bibles well, they would know the Feast of the Tabernacles was to remember their time in the desert and how they lived in tents in the wilderness. They would be familiar with Exodus 13:21, ‘By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light,’ That God guided them by his visible presence, and that he provided for them. They would know the Old Testament is filled  with references to the Lord being the light. The book of Isaiah alone is covered with references of ‘the light’, ‘a light’, ‘your light’ as it projects the future hope and covenant of the coming Messiah. So it is no coincidence that Jesus is now proclaiming he is THE light of the WHOLE world: proclaiming his deity at this very moment.  

In the first session, back in September, Sharon drew our attention to John 1:4 where light is defined as life: ‘In him was life and the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.‘ So Jesus calling himself the light, he is calling himself the life. It was clear who he is claiming to be. The light. The life. So in these simple verses where Jesus is claiming to be the ‘Light of the World’, it is identifying Jesus as the illuminating presence of God and life saving gift of God. We’re going to unpack this as we go on. 

What does light do? It shines. Whether it is a soft lowly light of candle flickering, offering a comforting atmosphere to a chaotic day, or whether it is a light bulb that is switched on so you can see clearly and have clarity to what is before you. Either way, the light that is projected, shines and it shines, according to John 1:4, in ‘the darkness’.  

So before we look more at Jesus and who he is and what His light means, we need to identify what this darkness is and why it is important that Jesus shines there.  

What does that mean, to be in darkness? Well, picture yourself in a dark room. What you ‘see’ before you is distorted. The truth is distorted. I often have to stumble across my room as I have sleeping babies on the bed so have to walk around in the dark. I can’t tell you how many times I have stubbed my toe or bashed my side as I creep about. My sight isn’t good in the dark. The darkness lies to me about where the edge of the bed is. And the dark can be scary, the shadows, the unknowns! I don’t think I’ve ever met a child who has not once been afraid of the dark at some point in their life. There is no comfort in darkness. It offers distortion. It offers fear. It offers misconstrued truth and uncertainty… John 11:10 says, ‘It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.” Yes this is true in the physical sense, but what Jesus really means is spiritually we stumble and fall when we walk in darkness. Without Jesus, before we had the realisation of him, we walked in spiritual darkness, we walked in sin. No comfort, but confusion, distorted truth, scary… Paul explains in Romans 5: 12 ‘Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned –’ We are all born from Adam and Eve, where sin entered the world. We are all born blind and in darkness away from the light of Jesus. We live in sin, in separation from God. We are hopelessly enslaved to sin and destined for eternal death. This is the darkness that Jesus refers to. Sounds gloomy does it? That’s because it is. It is serious. To be without the light of the world, to be without the life of the world (Jesus) means we are dead, we are spiritually and inevitably dead. To spend eternity away from the light of Life, Jesus, is to spend eternity utterly cut off from God. Suffering, devastation. Evil. Sadness. Fear. Anxiety. Hopelessness. Godlessness. Darkness. Permanently.  

But there is hope! That hope is the sovereign work of God to enlighten our blind eyes to the light of Jesus that shines in the darkness – and the darkness hasn’t overcome it! Amen! Which means the light has won against the dark. And Jesus is saying in 8:12 that He is this light that has overcome the darkness. This light is now here, presented to those people 2000+ years ago and for us today as well. We don’t have to fear the darkness, we don’t have to stay in darkness. We need to let the light of Jesus shine, because when you put that light on in a dark room, it is amazing how that darkness disappears. Let’s try (TURN LIGHTS OFF IN ROOM). BOOM. As soon as the light has turned on, light has conquered darkness. However, what the light also does is it EXPOSES what is in the dark… 

When we were at university, my friends and I would get dressed up, do our make up and hair and go dancing to clubs. The alluring half-lights dazzling; the sounds of the latest hits blaring out to entice you in; the hustle and bustle would be attractive to us.The scene was set, a seemingly glamorous atmosphere. We would usually be the last ones there, dancing until the very end until the last song was played and the main lights were switched back on. We always nicknamed this the ‘ugly’ light, because when those lights were turned on, the lovely setting that had been created was actually disgustingly horrible. You see the spilt drinks and the sticky floors; the disorganised chairs tipped over; half emptied glasses decorating the place and you catcha a glimpse in the mirror and your makeup has dripped down your face and hair all messy. It was no longer the nice, alluring setting that it was many hours before…It was ugly. When this light comes, it  exposes what is truly there. And this is the same for Jesus’ light. When this light of Jesus is present, it makes sin plain. We have our eyes opened to the lives we were living and the sins we have been enslaved by. It exposes sin as ugly and foreign to what God made. You might not think so at first, but this is actually GOOD news for us! So don’t be disheartened here. I’ve heard John Piper explain it is like an early diagnosis of cancer. It is exposed now so it can be treated and healed! You got it early! It is fixable.This is what you would want the doctor to say to you. It’s not too late, you don’t have to die in your sin when it is too late to do anything about it. Jesus is revealing himself to us now so we still have chance to turn from our sin and have the light of life with Him. Let Jesus expose the messiness of our hearts now with his true, brilliant light of life. Let him shine the light into the cobwebs and those really dark corners that you think are too tricky to reach. Sharon used this analogy when she spoke in the first month… Let’s say you’re cleaning the kitchen cupboards (for me this doesn’t happen often), it’s a bit of a dark day, so you put the light on and you see the marks a bit more clearly. Yep, you got it. You dealt with that little mark and problem. But the next day, the brilliant sunlight pours through the kitchen window and exposes the true smears that were covered up by the shadows of the artificial light. But here is your chance to get rid of them, because the true perfect light is shining on them. Here is Jesus, indicating with his brilliant light the areas of our lives that need fixing, that need healing, where sin needs defeating. He exposes it. But when we repent, the darkness flees, because it isn’t welcome. Jesus expels the darkness. It doesn’t leave a shadow, he fully lights up your life like the sun at noon in the summer, perfectly bright and not capable of a shadow; it cleans us up to bring our lives more into line with His character and he will continue to refine us all the way to Heaven. And now, the light of Jesus reveals the true beauty of the world and enables us to see everything good in its true light. We can now see the world the way it is in God’s eyes, because we have the Light of the world, living in us, should we choose to follow Jesus, to follow the light… 

‘I am the light OF the world’. English hat here –  ‘Of’ is a preposition, showing the relationship between the two things: the light and the world. The two things are connected. The world/creations/us was made for this light, for Jesus to fill it. We were created to RECEIVE this light of Jesus. Notice it doesn’t say, Jesus is one option of light. No, he is THE light. The one light. There is no other option of light for us. If it doesn’t have Jesus as the light it has darkness. So it is Jesus or it is darkness.  

‘Whoever follows me’  – Following Jesus is more than tagging along behind, but following him for who he is, being so taken with him that you join yourself to him. When you follow him, you HAVE him. Whoever follows, will HAVE him as your light. You will have the LIGHT OF LIFE and he says, we will ‘Never walk in darkness’. This is the promise and assurance of our eternal salvation.  Accept Jesus. Let him open your blind eyes to have a spiritual awakening. Seeing Jesus as the Lord and Saviour, the one who will reconcile you to God by taking away the darkness from your life and illuminating you to be like Jesus before our Lord God. You will NEVER walk in darkness when you have Jesus as your light. Why? Because Jesus expels darkness.  

Now hear me here. It doesn’t mean we won’t ever walk through valleys of darkness of difficult times – we will. Loneliness, broken relationships, hurt, illness, death… We are not exempt as Christians to not suffer, BUT, it won’t be without light! The lamp of Jesus’ light will reveal the wise and loving face of God, the glow of Jesus bringing comfort to you during those dark times that currently still exist in the world and will continue to exist in the world, until Jesus comes again. And then we will be raised with Jesus and NEVER walk in darkness. Eternity in Heaven will not have darkness, because Jesus has overcome it. The final battle, when Jesus returns as King, darkness will be forever expelled from what and who belongs to Him. And he will FILL the world and everything in it with light. And he will reign with justice, and he will reign with love and he will reign with peace. Permanently. Revelation 21:4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ 

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but [we] will have the light of life’ – this means we have the life of Jesus in us! Our darkness is expelled through the power of Jesus’ life in us! What is this power? It is the power of his death, conquering our sin, our darkness, our evil on the cross. It is the POWER of his resurrection, his life, rising again to his rightful position at the right hand of God. In HIS death, he took OUR death for us. He held it there. He buried it there. He then covered us with his light so when God looks upon us, he cannot see the darkness because the light of Jesus is so illuminating that it expels darkness from us! The darkness isn’t hidden. It can’t hide… it disappears! The light of Jesus is now in us. We have the light of life shining in us and therefore through us. We reflect Him. We emanate Him. We are no longer a slave to sin and the darkness if we choose to follow him! Until we have Jesus’ life, imparted to us, we are dead. We need to be born from above, we need to be born again. We need a new life that enables us to see that Jesus is light and life. Jesus is the answer, He is the remedy to life to abundant living, to bring true comfort and to bring true clarity and to bring us a new and eternal life with him. 

John Calvin says this: It is the most beautiful title of Christ when he is called the light of the world. We are all blind by nature, but a remedy is offered to rescue us from darkness and make us partakers of the true light. And this blessing is not offered just to one here or there, for Christ says that he is the light of the whole world.’  

Jesus is the illuminating presence of God and life saving gift of God.  

Will the people Jesus is talking to in the passage accept it? Do we choose to accept it? 

BREAKOUT QUESTIONS  

1) How have you experienced the Light of the World, Jesus, entering into your life and bringing victory over the darkness?  

2) How does Christ’s promise that His followers will never walk in darkness give you reason for hope today?  

2. The light of Jesus is confronted by the darkness 

What Jesus has just revealed is good news! The light that has been promised in the Old Testament is among them. The Messiah that is long-awaited is before them. But these people are blind to him, not because Jesus failed to shine, but because they hadn’t accepted what he was saying; they hadn’t been born again to see Him as the Messiah.  

Straight away they challenge him. And what we see in this next section of verses 13-30, is the Pharisees ignoring Jesus’ claims and tripping up over technicalities: v13 ‘The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.” John 8:13 (they are referencing Deut 17:6 where Moses taught that matters of truth needed to be established by two or three witnesses). Jesus makes a great and beautiful statement of positive truth; and they find the text that will have the most negative effect they can think of on Jesus’ claims. What they are NOT doing, is savouring Jesus. They are missing the point. They are missing the ‘indicator blinking’ here showing us the LIGHT of the world standing in front of us. At first glance it seems like they distract Jesus from his original statement and take him on a detour. But Jesus knows what they are doing. He goes with them on these ‘detours’ and he uses their doubts, their questions and their objections to illuminate further his relationship to the father and the fact that he is God.   

14 Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16 But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. 17 In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. 18 I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.” 19Then they asked him, “Where is your father?” “You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 

There is a Trinitarian expression here. To know Jesus is to know the Father God as well. Both are fully God and God is one. Jesus and God are so united, he is saying if you really knew God like you claim to, then you would know me. It doesn’t matter how religious you are coming across on the outside, how well you know your Bible; you don’t know me or the Father and therefore don’t love us. They are tripping over the ‘witness’ element, but come on! There is no higher reference than God himself. But they don’t acknowledge him or Jesus in this way here. But Jesus, God – they fulfil the demand of the law. These Pharisees claim to know God with their Biblical knowledge, but here Jesus is standing before them and they don’t recognise him as the Messiah. Is this the problem with many of us today? We create a god of our own imaginations and what we think God is like, or what he should do for us or bend the words of the Bible a little to suit our needs? Answer all our prayers with a big fat, yes?! The religious leaders wanted their Messiah to come and save them from the dreadful Romans and be a great king with a sword to defeat them! Our King Jesus is MORE than what they could have imagined. Because, as Jesus goes on to say, he is ‘from above’. His rule was not merely for a few years to defeat a tyrant(s) on earth, no, his rule is everlasting to defeat the greatest tyrant of sin so we can live in His Kingdom that is ruled with peace and justice and love – for eternity. The Old Testament reveals to us who our Messiah will be, Isaiah 9: 6-7 And he will be called Wonderful CounselorMighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.’ This is the true King and these are the things we should be seeking from Jesus, but we are all guilty of projecting an idea of God that isn’t real and wanting ‘extras’ from Him. But when we are presented with the truth of Jesus do we accept him as the Light of the World? Well, the Pharisees didn’t. Their ignorance blinded their hearts and are still in darkness.    

Let’s think about it for a minute. Imagine we were standing there in their position. A man claiming to be God… I mean anyone could claim to be God, right? But if I was to stand and claim to be God I wouldn’t do it very convincingly, because you would look at my life and my character and after a quick conversation with me, you would know I am not perfect by any means. But Jesus, CAN claim it because in his perfection of character, he showed the perfection of God. When he performed miracles, he did the works of God. There was plenty of evidence for Jesus to convince them he is who he says he is. But as Jesus points out to them, ‘you judge by human standards’ (v15). Are they looking at his appearance, of the flesh? No standing political power, no wealth, just a man from Nazareth in Galilee (the Old Testament says the Messiah will be from Bethlehem). Surely they are judging superficial things, saying there isn’t enough evidence. But have they actually spent time LISTENING to Jesus rather than trying to piece their own misconstrued, poor-evidential case as to why he CAN’T be the Messiah. Well, we know the Pharisees couldn’t disprove that Jesus was the Messiah, so maybe they hoped that tripping him up with silly questions about witnesses and ‘where is your father’ would mean Jesus couldn’t prove he was the Messiah. Or maybe they wanted to highlight to the crowd that he was an unreliable source, an untrustworthy witness as he couldn’t prove such things.  

So he attempts to explain again, this time describing the situation with devastating distinctions between this ‘world’ and his divine origin ‘not of this world’, how Jesus will go to glory and on their present course they will die in their sins.  

21 Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and  you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.” 22 This made the Jews ask,  “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?” 23 But he  continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of  this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I  am he, you will indeed die in your sins.” 

Jesus is calling for faith. He is reminding them that they have limited understanding because they are of this world. These people are well-educated, high performers, but when it comes to the relationship of God, which is what it is all about they are still in the dark. Their pride and their narrow vision is rejecting the very presence of God before them, who it is they are claiming to know so much about. They need to truly HEAR and SEE what Jesus is saying. The consequence, if we follow Jesus on earth, we will follow Him into Heaven. If we express no desire to follow Him on earth, like the Pharisees, what would make us think we would or could follow Him to Heaven? 

But there is hope in what Jesus is saying. Believe in me and you won’t die in your sins. Refuse me and you will die in your sins. You can then go with me where I go – if you believe. Back to verse 12, ‘you will never walk in darkness, but have the light of life.’  We’re not going to die in our sins if we believe… That’s great news! That’s wonderful news! They/we will be forgiven and won’t have our sins held against us? If they and we believe… we will die in righteousness? The Light awakens our heart to have sight and receive life – abundantly. Here on earth and for eternity.  

But they didn’t get it and they ask again… 

25 “Who are you?” they asked. “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. 26 “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.” 27 They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father 28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up[a] the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” 30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him. 

‘Who are you?’ You get the impression that their questions aren’t deep concerning questions, where they are genuinely trying to understand Jesus, but rather to resist the truth and justify a refusal to believe: Where is Your Father? Will He kill Himself? Who are You? We don’t know what tone of voice they used when asking the question, but based on what John tells us in between ‘they did not understand’ (v27) and how they were questioning after the beautiful words Jesus was proclaiming, you can almost imagine them asking in such an exasperation: WHO are you?  

But has Jesus not been telling them again and again who he is? In this circumstance but over the course of his ministry? But here Jesus goes further to explain his purpose on earth. When you have ‘lifted up the son of man’ then you will know that I am the Messiah and the son of God. He isn’t talking about being lifted up and put on a  pedestal like a celebrity. No. He is referring to the cross. When the cross is raised up, when he is crucified, when he has been killed and then raised again, then they will see Jesus for who he has been telling them he is: The Lord of Glory, the redeemer of our sins, and they will see the power of His word. It is only through the cross that we can be saved.   

3. Our chance to respond to Jesus today 

What Jesus says, it isn’t in bitterness, he says it is love. It is always loving to warn people of danger and plead them to turn from it. He is offering us the chance to follow him and have the light of life. It is offered to everyone of us, where he will enter into our darkness to free us from it. He lit that light that takes away the darkest corner of our hearts. He came to live that perfect life that we can’t, so he can stand and represent us. He allowed himself to be cast out of God’s presence in order that we might never have to be. At the cross he shines most brightly and blind eyes are opened. He shines his light upon the darkness of those before him and see verse 30, what happens? ‘Even as he spoke, many believed in him.’ Jesus wasn’t performing miracles here. He was simply talking; speaking truth. He speaks with sheer power and authority, no one ever spoke like this man… Because he wasn’t a mere man. He was shining His light and revealing His relationship to the father. Illuminating God, and revealing that it is only through Him, people can truly know God. Jesus is the great hope – the ‘light’ which we all need to light up our darkness.  

The light that offers us clarity for our purpose. The light that offers us comfort when we are weary. The light that indicates and points us to God, to lead us home. The light is offered to us now on earth so we never have to walk through the dark valleys alone, but it is also offering us eternity should we choose to follow him. The light and life of Jesus Christ. 

Jesus is the illuminating presence of God and life saving gift of God.