What does it mean for Jesus to be the Light of the world?
Light and God have long been associated. In the OT this was frequently expressed, as in Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” Jesus is now launching a major discourse in which he claims to be the Light of the world.
The irony is that those who consider themselves to be spiritually enlightened cannot see Jesus for who he really is. They are in the presence of the Light of the world, but are in the dark.
Jesus is without darkness
It’s hard to imagine a human who has never done anything wrong by their own or others standards. But Jesus is perfect even by God’s lofty standards. He is from above, he is not of this world (v.23), he is God (v.24). And it’s because we are born into sin that we are blind to Jesus’ light (see John 9).
Jesus is our guiding light
Just as the headlights on our cars guide us through the darkness, Jesus guides us through the darkness of our sin. That feeling we’ve all had of being lost in this life, even when things couldn’t be more on track, is the result of being enslaved to sin – living life without God’s guidance. Just as God guided the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt with the pillar of fire (Exodus 14), so Jesus is our guide out of the slavery of sin.
Jesus is the Light of Life
Jesus guides us out of the darkness of sin – not knowing God, and to life to the full (John 10:10); the best life now and forever! Just as the earth needs the light of the sun for life, so we need light of the Son of God for life.
Jesus is claiming to be God
In v.24 and v.28, Jesus says that we have to believe and know that, ‘…I am he’. Jesus intentionally says this clunky phrase, because by it he is somewhat subtly claiming to be the only God and Saviour of Isaiah 43. Later in v.58, Jesus is not as subtle and for making this claim those listening try and stone him.
Throughout John’s gospel it’s Jesus’ claim to be God that creates the most controversy and which leads the Jews to have him crucified by the Romans.
Jesus lifted up
It’s on the cross where Jesus is literally ‘lifted up’ and in the other sense of the phrase ‘exalted’. Jesus, and John, speaks about his crucifixion, not as a low-point or a failure. Rather, it’s the moment of glory for Jesus and the moment where what he has come to do is finished (John 19:30).
The sun shines brightest during the middle of the day. And Jesus, the Light of the world, shines brightest on the cross. That’s why Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he”. Interestingly, Jesus was crucified around midday, but the sun wasn’t at it’s brightest, it wasn’t even shining at all (Luke 23:44-45). The Light of the world shone brightest by taking the darkness of our sin – the wrath of God that our sin deserves.
We will all die in the darkness of our sin, if we do not believe that Jesus is the Light of the world that we so desperately need.