Sapphire Sky

April 19, 2015

Light of the World

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: — Steve Knaus @ 12:03 am

fire-in-the-sky

I try to picture the scene as if I were there in person. The Feast of Tabernacles, one of the biggest celebrations on the Jewish calendar, has been going on for the past week. Jewish people from all over the world have come to Jerusalem to live in temporary shelters and celebrate this occasion.

The Feast of Tabernacles was a time for the Jewish people to remember their ancestors when they wandered in the wilderness (see more details here). The ceremony of water commemorated God’s miraculous provision of water throughout the years of desert wanderings. This feast also looked forward to the Kingdom of the Messiah, when God would again personally lead his people and provide for their needs.

But the Feast of Tabernacles also celebrated the light of the Messiah. God had personally led their ancestors through the desert in a cloud by day and a fire by night. Four giant candelabra in the temple courts (more like giant torches) were lit during the feast, illuminating the entire city of Jerusalem.

But now the feast had ended and people were preparing to leave. The four giant candelabra — no longer burning —  stood as silent reminders of the great celebration. As the people look on, Jesus walks by these great candelabra and speaks to the crowd,

“I am the light of the world.”

 But he does not stop there:

“Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

To roughly translate this, He was saying, “These giant torches that you see are now finished. But I am the real light and I will never go out. Follow me and I will give you light and I will give you life.”

Jesus also uses the Hebrew name of God, “I AM”. He actually refers to himself as “I AM” several times in this passage:

  • “I AM the light of the world”
  • “Unless you believe that I AM you will die in your sins”
  • “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM”

This chapter is very direct, very specific, and very confrontational. Jesus gives the command to “Follow Me” four times in this chapter (John 8). Each time he repeats the command, he makes it more specific and he receives increasingly hostile responses. In each of these four commands, Jesus also gives a motivation for following him:

  • “Follow Me” (John 8:12-20)
  • “Believe that I AM” (John 8:21-30)
  • “Abide in my word” (John 8:31-47)
  • “Keep my word” (John 8:48-59)

We go through the first two commands in this study and will cover the second two commands in the next study.

 

“Follow Me”

In the statement above, Jesus said that he is the light of the world. Jesus is the God that the Jews claim to worship, and he offers the light of life to all who follow him. The Pharisees interjected with, “Who are you to speak like that?” Jesus responded that he was sent by God the Father, and they do not know the Father if they do not know him.

 

Believe that I AM”

Again, Jesus referred to himself as the Hebrew name of God, “I AM”. This time he was very direct to the people: “Unless you believe that I AM” you will die in your sins. You can either believe Jesus or reject him. But if you refuse to believe Jesus you will face an eternity separated from God. The people reply with, “Who do you think you are?” Jesus responded that he speaks the truth that was given to him from the Father who sent him. When they see the Son of Man lifted up (on the cross), then they will know that “I AM”.

 

Remember!

Things to remember from this study:

  • If you are waiting to believe in Jesus, you are running out of time! He is the light of the world who will give you life. But if you refuse to believe, you will die separated from God.
  • If you do believe in Jesus, follow him! Let Him be your counselor, your guide, and your illumination.
  • Jesus always appealed to the Father in these times of conflict. You have a higher authority and you are not alone!

 

Previous Post: Don’t Waste Your Life!


John 8:12-30

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” As he was saying these things, many believed in him.


 

“I am the light of the world.”

 

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

 

The Feast of Tabernacles was a week-long celebration where the people would come to Jerusalem and live in temporary shelters for a week. As discussed in the previous study on John 7, one of the main themes of the Feast of Tabernacles is water. The Jewish people would commemorate their ancestors’ wandering in the desert by living in temporary shelters and by gathering water every day.

 

Another theme of this feast was light. The priests would light four giant candelabras in the Court of Women and leave them burning for the entire week. The light reminded the Jewish people of how God was with them in their wilderness wanderings. He was a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night (Numbers 9:15-23). The Court of Women was used since every Jewish man, woman, and child would be allowed to celebrate. [1]

 

The Temple courts would have been filled to capacity on the day after the feast. The giant candelabras, now unlit, would still be towering over the people when Jesus stepped in and made the second statement about himself:

“I am the light of the world.”

 

Jesus started this scene by using the analogy of light to describe himself. This is the second time in John’s gospel account that Jesus describes himself by analogy, starting with the name of God, “I AM” (See more details here).

 

Jesus is “I AM”. This is more than just a self-description, but is the very name of God that was given to Moses (see Exodus 3:13-14). Jesus referred to himself as “I AM” 7 times in this chapter: John 8:12, John 8:18, John 8:23-24, John 8:28, John 8:58. Most English translations translate these statements as “I am he”, but the “he” is added in the translation. For example, Jesus said in John 8:24, “unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins”.

 

Jesus is the Light of the World. Jesus was standing in the Court of Women, also known as the Temple Treasury (see John 8:20) [2], in the same place where the giant candelabras had been burning for the past week. There are several references to light in Scripture, but Jesus’ statement had two very clear messages to the Jewish people:

  • The prophets described the Messiah as light. In Isaiah 42:6 and Isaiah 49:6, the Messiah is a Light for the Nations. Jesus was clearly telling them that he is the Messiah.
  • The lights during the Feast of Tabernacles reminded the people that God had led their ancestors through the desert in a pillar of fire. Jesus used this analogy to tell them that he would be the their light to lead them to the Kingdom of God.

 

“He presented Himself to them as the Messiah, and hence as the Light of the World. It resulted, that only in following Him would a man ‘not walk in the darkness,’ but have the light – and that, be it marked, not the light of knowledge, but of life. On the other hand, it also followed, that all, who were not within this light, were in darkness and in death.” – Alfred Edersheim [3]

So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”

 

John 5:31 says, “If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true”. But now, Jesus said, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going” (John 8:14). Why the difference?

 

In John 5, Jesus was telling the crowd that they would not have been obligated to believe him if he was the only witness to his claim of being God. However, Jesus produced several more witnesses to his deity, showing them that they are without excuse (See the study of John 5 for more information).

 

But now, in John 8, the Pharisees have demanded that Jesus throw out his own testimony about himself. The Old Testament law required two witness to establish a fact in capital offenses (Deut 17:6; 19:15), but the rabbis had taken this principle further. According to the tradition of the rabbis, self-testimony should never be allowed. Jesus pointed out the following problems with this belief:

  • You need to believe what a person says about himself (i.e. self-testimony) when no one else knows about that person (“you don’t know about me”)
  • This is not a criminal court (“you judge…I judge no one”)
  • When Jesus does judge, his judgement is true because it comes from the Father
  • The Father is a second witness about Jesus

 

The Father was a witness to Jesus both verbally at Jesus’ baptism and through the works that Jesus did.

They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”

 

“Where is your Father?”

 

The Pharisees may have simply been asking for the second witness that Jesus claimed. But there is much more scorn and contempt in theses words. They all knew about Mary’s unwed pregnancy before Jesus was born. In their anger, they resorted to personal attacks. In their eyes, Jesus was an illegitimate child who had no business talking with them.

 

They will repeat this same personal attack two more times in this passage.

 

“If you had known me, you should have known my Father also” (John 8:19). “If you want to know God, get acquainted with Jesus.” [4]

These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

The Temple Treasury was also known as the Court of Women. This was a common gathering place for both men and women, and many teachers would come to this court.

 

Jesus could not be arrested before the right time.

 



“Unless you believe that I AM you will die in your sins”

 

So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

 

Jesus did not “act nice” or soften his words. Unless you believe in Jesus Christ, the I AM, you will die in your sins. You will be eternally separated from God. He says the warning three times in this brief passage: “you will die in your sins”.

 

“You will seek me… Where I am going, you cannot come”. The time was shorter than they knew. In less than six months, Jesus will die, rise again, and ascend to Heaven. It would be too late for those who missed the opportunity to believe in Him.

 

“He was speaking of going back into heaven. It is just another way of saying, if you die in your sins you will never enter heaven.” – H.A. Ironside [4]

 

Sadly, many of the Jews totally missed Jesus’ warning. They were so caught up in their own self-righteousness that the only possible separation that they could think of was if Jesus committed suicide and went directly to Hell (as they believed). Jesus turned their statements around: they are of the world and from below; Jesus was from above. Jesus then repeated the warning two more times: they would die in their sins if they did not believe.

 

Note that the plurality changes across the three warnings. The first warming is that they would “die in your sin”. The singular sin is that of rejecting Christ. But the next warnings designate a plural, “die in your sins”. If they reject Christ, they would continue in the realm of sin. [5]

 

This is the second time in this chapter they Jesus referred to himself as “I AM”. As mentioned above, the “he” at the end of this section has been added for translation. Jesus’ actual words were, “unless you believe that I AM you will die in your sins”.

 

So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.”

 

“Who are you?” Literally, You, who are you?”, or, “Who do you think you are?” Jesus had more to tell them, which would add to their judgement. He was speaking truth because he received it from the Father.

 

They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”

 

Again, Jesus refers to himself by the name of God. “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM”.

 

When he would be lifted up identifies the cross. The cross would reveal that Jesus is God’s Word to man, and that what he taught was just what the Father taught him. Jesus had continual union with the Father (John 5:19-24) and is never alone. [5]

 

As he was saying these things, many believed in him.

 

Many did come to faith, but their faith would need to be tested and refined.

 


 

[1] Stephen Davey, To See or Not to See, John 8:12-20, John 9:1-41

 

[2] The term “Temple Treasury” was a designation for the Court of Women, because it was there that the offerings were gathered.

 

[3] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus The Messiah, Book IV, “The Descent”, CHAPTER 8

 

[4] H.A. Ironside, Address 27,THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD, John 8:12-20;

Address 28, IS THERE A SECOND CHANCE FOR SALVATION AFTER DEATH?, John 8:21-32

 

[5] John F. Walvoord & Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, John 8, pages 303-307.

4 Comments »

  1. Thanks Stephen! What a wonderful reminder that Jesus is our light and salvation. I hadn’t seen the “I am” statements clearly before. Thanks for helping us wrap our minds around this difficult chapter.

    Comment by Sam Knaus — April 19, 2015 @ 7:07 am

  2. […] the previous study on John 8, we had covered that Jesus commanded the listeners to “Follow Me” four times in this chapter. […]

    Pingback by The Truth Will Set You Free | Sapphire Sky — April 24, 2015 @ 1:34 pm

  3. […] chapter (John 8:12) where he publicly announced that he was the light of the world. See the study here for more […]

    Pingback by Are you blind? | Sapphire Sky — May 3, 2015 @ 2:42 pm

  4. […] warning to believe in him while they still have a chance (John 12:35-36). As discussed in the post here, Jesus warns the people that “Unless you believe that I AM you will die in your sins” (John […]

    Pingback by The Final Message | Sapphire Sky — July 13, 2015 @ 1:52 pm


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: