“I AM the Light of the World” (John 8:12)
Sun has been worshipped as the sustainer of life in many civilizations and in Yoga a set of exercises, ‘Surya Namshkar’ are designed to worship sun alongside the physical exercise in an attempt to connect the physical and the spiritual. Man in his ignorance turned towards the created things while moving away from the Creator. The Scripture reveals the Creator and the whole process of creation itself and the first event is the revelation of Light on the “formless and void earth”. During the first ‘three days’ of creation, it is this Light that illuminates the whole earth so that the process of creation could commence. On the fourth day God created sun, moon and the stars “to give light upon the earth” (Genesis 1:3-18).
What is the meaning of “Light”? – The Hebrew word used in Genesis 1 is owr and is translated as light while in the Greek language word ‘phos’ has been used for light (John 6:12). Greek like the English language is not specific and ‘phos’ could be used to refer to, physical or natural as well as spiritual light. However, Aramaic and Hebrew are specific in definition and these were the languages used by Lord Jesus in His teaching and preaching. There are three words in Aramaic for light – ‘qal’ to mean a light smaller in size and intensity or flickering light; the second word ‘lampa’d’ implies light from a natural source like the sun and finally, ‘noohra’ and is used to represent the light of God. Prophet Daniel used the same word ‘noohra’ to describe God’s light “He (God) reveals the deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness and the light dwells with Him” (Daniel 2:22).
“Noohra” is spelt as Nun, Hei and Resh while ‘owr’ has Aleph, Vav and Resh. The Aramaic word “noohra” has the Hebrew word “owr” contained in it and represents the light of the wisdom and knowledge of God. On the other hand the Hebrew word “owr” implies a link between the natural and the supernatural or between God to man through the Holy Spirit. Lord Jesus meant “noohra” when He claimed to be the Light of the World containing the wisdom and knowledge of God as also providing a connection between God to man. This Light then reveals God the Father to mankind, leads them to Him from darkness to Light or from death to eternal life in Him.
What is ‘Light of the World’? – When Lord Jesus made this claim, He was defining His role also the listeners, especially the “learned scholars of the Scripture – The Pharisees, Sadducees and the Jewish elders”. As ‘noohra’, He reveals the wisdom of God through His teaching and preaching in fulfillment of the prophesy, “And all your children shall be taught by the LORD” (Isaiah 54:13). And the second part is to provide a connection between God and man – this was established in the Garden of Eden; reestablished 2000 years ago and will be made permanent in the millennial rule and beyond. He as Son of God is the link between the natural and the supernatural thus shining the Light of the glory of God on His people through His person and later after Pentecost through the Holy Spirit.
Lord Jesus made this statement to the Pharisees and the Jewish leaders while defining the blessing that He was offering “He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12). Apostle John in the beginning of his Gospel first reveals the true identity of the Messiah about whom he was going to write. The true identity of Lord Jesus is the Word – ‘logos’ and with the Father He is the Creator for “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and He was the light of men” (John 1:1-4).
This is exactly in sync with the initial creation process where the Holy Spirit reveals this Light at the express command of God the Father so that the earth could be given a form and shape to sustain life. This same Light is again revealed to be providing illumination in the New Jerusalem after it ‘comes down out of heaven from God’ and this city “had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light” (Revelation 21:2; 23). In the beginning God reveals His glory in His Son for the creation process and the same Light of the world shines after removal of sin and darkness from the new earth.
Is this Light for the whole world? – Lord Jesus commanded the disciples to love even their enemies also to be identified as “sons of your Father in heaven, for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:43-45). And “God so loved the world” that His only begotten Son was sent to be the ‘Lamb of God’ to redeem His creation. The Light is available for the whole world but not all will receive this Light and many will remain in darkness, which is in their hearts, blinding them. At His second coming the darkness will finally be bound and only the light will remain. But until then the two remain separated.
In conformity with His other statements, Lord Jesus teaches about His availability to only the “chosen ones” – “He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12). Only the followers will have the light of life and not others. Nicodemus receives the instruction – “He who is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is of the spirit” (John 3:6). Lord Jesus’ light was/is invisible to only those “whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God should shine on them” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Prophet Isaiah had received this declaration directly from God, while being assigned his prophetic role, years earlier in Isaiah 6:40. Until one has spiritual life by being born again, it is impossible to perceive the reality of the Light of the world.
Why should we receive this Light? – The Lord reveals His true identity of having ‘come from the Father and eventual return to Him’, thus establishing His Divine origin. He then teaches the implications of rejecting Him, “I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sins. Where I go you cannot come” (John 8:21). The choice is very clear – He provides redemption through forgiveness of sins, and without Him we would die in our sins to eternal death and damnation. Without Lord Jesus providing the way to His home, none can enter that abode in heaven and without that Light of the world perish forever in darkness. One may not know Him initially but as we meditate on His teaching like those who heard Him then and believed, we shall also be made privy to the mystery of His coming as the Messiah (John 8:30).
At the initiation of the process of creation the Holy Spirit “moved upon the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2). The power of the Holy Spirit did not become operative till the Word of God was received and His Divine glory was revealed as ‘Light that was good’. Our Lord promised “whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you” (John 16:23). Lord Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father with total authority over everything on the earth and the heavens. In this empowered and glorified state He is our Great High Priest in heaven and intercedes for us (Romans 8:34). We are provided right to be the ‘children of God’; to have a Comforter – the indwelling Holy Spirit and to ask in prayer anything in the Savior’s name, who then intercedes for us with the Father to cancel out the charges leveled against us by “the accuser – Satan”. How can we expect to receive these blessings without acknowledging the source of these blessings?
Lord Jesus came from the Father, returned to the Father after His death and resurrection and is one with God as God Himself. This union He makes available to us by lighting up that Light in us to lead us into His Light and become light ourselves to shine on others (Matthew 5:14).
While teaching about His crucifixion and resurrection Lord Jesus cautioned believers, “A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you, he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going” (John 12:35). The world is in darkness and needs light – Light than cannot be overwhelmed by darkness and Lord Jesus alone is that Light. It is either the Lord or total darkness which means that the whole world and everyone in it needs Him as their light and life. Right from creation this light was shining and will eventually shine as the only light in New Jerusalem, this is not an alien light but the glorious countenance of the Creator. Those who are not in this light “will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12) to eternal death and damnation.
How do we receive this Light of the world? – The key to receiving this Light is provided by the Lord Himself – “Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). We can follow someone only if we know that person and consider him worthy of our trust in him. The first step is to get to know the Light of the world through study and meditation upon the Living Word revealed in the Scripture. Multitudes then came to the Lord for various reasons but many left Him for fear of the Jewish leaders and other concerns. And the same state is there in the church today – many come out of curiosity, to seek Divine help to overcome a crisis in life – financial, family, social or spiritual. Knowing Him is to develop an intimate relationship with Him as ‘Sovereign Lord’ of our lives who then exercises total control. It is then that the second step of following Him will take place. Following Him would then be oneness with Him in Spirit to do His will for His glory.
We receive Him and make Him our own by thus following Him to make Him our Shepherd, the Light, Sacrifice, Lord and Master who then gives us ‘the light of life’.
What is the connection between light and life? – While introducing Lord Jesus, the Living Word, Apostle John in his Gospel account states “In Him was life and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). As Light of the world He first makes us change to receive life by shining His Light on us and then the life that He has is given to us to become our light – to lead us away from darkness. The change is from being dead to our sins through being impervious to the same to being ‘convicted of the same’. The light first gives us a new birth and then a new life to enable us to see by opening our spiritual eyes to provide eternal sight to the blind soul by the opening of our hearts to welcome within “the One who stands at the door knocking”.
“Now it was about the sixth hour (mid day), and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour (3 PM)” (Luke 23:44). In the beginning of creation command of God was “Let there be light” and “God divided darkness from the light” (Genesis 1:1-4). During the process of redemption on the cross, darkness attempted to overcome the ‘Light of the world’ and it deemed itself to have succeeded by covering the whole earth but the Savior Messiah overcame all evil through His resurrection on the third day. God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). To free mankind from the clutches of darkness, the Son of God, after defeating death, “breathed on them (disciples), and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). The reconciliation was complete and man was given new life – eternal life of union and oneness with God.
Martin Luther King Jr. rightly said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that”. Without coming to the Light of the world we can neither escape nor overcome darkness and eventually this darkness will totally engulf us to eternal separation from God. Who do we desire to serve – the prince of darkness or the Light of this world, would decide our life today and forever. But as bearers of this Divine Light in us, we are to shine for others revealing the ‘love of this Light’ to others to lead them into this glorious blessed state.