I Am the Light

John 8:12-30

You’ve seen a toddler put her blanket over her head and think nobody can see her. Because she can’t see anybody, she assumes nobody can see her. It’s cute in toddlers, but obnoxious in adults. No, I’m not talking about hiding under a blanket, but when we live with a self-imposed kind of blindness. That will be the subject of the next two chapters in John’s Gospel. Not only that Jesus is the light, but that the religious leaders were blind to the light.

Here in John 8, Jesus makes one of his seven I AM statements that defines who he is and why he is here. In vs 12 he says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

If you’ve been paying attention, it would be hard to miss the emphasis that John’s Gospel has placed on this subject of light: Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it…. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. (Jn 1:3-5,9)

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.  (Jn 3:19-21)

Jesus not only came to give light, he is the light. And everything that light does, Jesus is:

light gives guidance, like a lighthouse on a dangerous stretch of shore;

light gives illumination, like a lamp it helps us see everything clearly;

light exposes, like a spotlight it reveals things that have been hiding in the darkness;

and light gives security, dispelling darkness and reassuring us of God’s presence.

You would think that light would be self-evident. When I walk into a room and flip the light switch, the darkness is gone and the room is filled with light. When I walk outside in the middle of the day, I’m squinting and there is no question whether the sun is shining.

But when Jesus says, “I am the light of the world,” the Pharisees immediately fire back, “No you’re not!” The truth is, everyone could see it but them. Their indictment is pointed toward Jesus, but it comes back on themselves. They couldn’t see that they couldn’t see.

It reminded me of an ancient Persian proverb:

He who knows not, and knows not that he knows not is a fool; shun him.

He who knows not, and knows that he know not, it a child; teach him.

He who knows, and knows not that he knows, is asleep; wake him.

He who knows, and knows that he knows, is wise; follow him.

Listen to what the Pharisees say: “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.” In other words, “Why should we accept your own word for it?”

Here is Jesus’ response: “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. You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two men is valid. I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.” (Jn 8:14-18)

Jesus tells them, “You have no idea where I came from or where I am going.” A few verses later he says, “You do not know me or my Father.” When they challenge Jesus it comes from the worst kind of ignorance. Not only do they not know, they don’t know that they don’t know, and they attack anyone who challenges their ignorance. But Jesus says, “I know where I came from and where I am going, and I know the one who sent me – my Father himself.”

What the Pharisees say next is either bewildered exasperation or an intentional insult: “Where is your father?” I’m pretty sure it’s the second – they reject that God is his father and they all know the rumors about his birth. They imply that Jesus’ paternity was in question – “After all, your mother was pregnant before she and Joseph were married.”

Jesus confronts their ignorance: “You do not know me or my Father… If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”

Jesus brings them to the core of their ignorance, first in verse 14: “You judge by human standards.” And then in verse 23: “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.” Their basic problem is that they only look through the eyes of this world. They looked at Jesus and all they could see was a 30 year old man who said things they couldn’t understand and did things they couldn’t explain. And, worse, he threatened their way of life if he was who he claimed to be. So, whether he was the Messiah or not didn’t matter, he couldn’t be allowed to live.

Let’s not be so quick to look down on the Pharisees, because we often suffer from the same near-sightedness. All we can see is what’s happening to me, and what do I want, and what’s in it for me. And I judge everything’s value in terms of me. We lose sight of eternity and we become spiritually blind. And when we are spiritually blind, we lose the ability to see things the way God sees things. We cannot see the light when it’s standing right in front of us.

And the result of that? Jesus tells them,  “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” (Jn 8:24)

They still don’t get it and they ask, “Who are you?”

And Jesus says, “Just what I have been claiming all along.” 

Who is it that Jesus claimed to be? He said in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” In 14:9, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” The Jews themselves grasped the impact of his claims. In John 5:18 John writes, “The Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”

But, John tells us, they still did not understand. And so Jesus tells them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” (Jn 8:28-29)

Jesus said, only in the cross would he fully and finally be revealed: “When you have lifted me up on the cross, then you will know that I am who I claim to be.” And would you believe it, “Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him.”

The fact is, there are some things you can only know through Jesus. That’s not a slam on education; I believe strongly in education and learning, reading widely and thinking deeply. But there are some things that only through Jesus, the light of the world, can we know. And it’s not that it’s secret and hidden knowledge, but that only through faith – only by acknowledging that we aren’t the smartest ones in the room – can we grasp it.

In vs 19, Jesus said, “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” Only through Jesus can you know God. When Philip asked Jesus, “Show us the Father,” Jesus said, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.” When we talk about knowing God, we’re not talking about having intellectual knowledge about God, but about having a relationship with him. The Pharisees knew a lot about God, but they didn’t have a relationship with him, and so Jesus said, “You don’t know me or my Father.”

If all you get out of my Bible classes and sermons are intellectual facts you can store away, I have failed you. I want you, not only to know about God, but to really know God. And the only way you can know God is through having a relationship with Jesus.

The second thing you can only know through Jesus is forgiveness of sin. In our passage this morning, Jesus said without equivocation, “If you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.”

Throughout the Bible, God connects forgiveness with Jesus.

Peter preached, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” (Acts 2:38)

When Jesus appointed Paul as an apostle to the Gentiles, he said, “I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” (Acts 26:17-18)

In Ephesians 1:7, Paul writes, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.”

The one thing you cannot do for yourself is atone for your sins. You are not good enough to outweigh your sin, you cannot do enough good deeds to make up for your sinful acts. The evil side of your ledger will always be greater than the holy. Only the one who is perfect could make that perfect sacrifice and take your sins upon himself. And so Paul said it this way: God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5:21)

The third thing you can only know through Jesus is eternal life:

In John 4:26, Jesus announced, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”

In John 5:24, he said, “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.” 

In John 5:39, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” 

In John 6:40, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Only in Jesus can you receive eternal life. Don’t buy into the popular secular religion of the day that says all roads, all faiths, all beliefs will lead you to heaven. Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me.”

The fourth thing you can only truly know in Jesus is yourself. It seems we have an infinite capacity for self-deception. When we look in the mirror, we either see ourselves as better than we are, or worse than we are. We are either filled with pride or doubt. We’ll try to find our identity in what others think about us and we’ll buy a new house, drive a new car, climb the career ladder all in an attempt to make others see us as a success. Or we will try to smother our inadequacies by turning to drugs or alcohol or an affair to numb the pain of failure.

 Jesus is the light and he lets us see ourselves as God sees us – as we really are. And when God looks at us, he sees us as sons and daughters whom he loves so much that he sent Jesus to make the way for us to come home to him.