Monday, October 31, 2016

Introduction

The last time I spoke to you, I talked about the first of seven “I Am” statements of Jesus in the book of John. That was about Jesus saying he was the bread of life. Today, I want to talk about the second of those sayings: I Am The Light of the World”. So, let’s look at John 8:12. (Read it)

When I was in college, the Baptist Student Union director used to take me with him when he preached at little churches in the area. He once said “I know you are used to 3 points and a poem, but I have 9 points and a duck story”. I am a lot like him. 

But today I will spare you 5 points and only give you 4 instead of 9. And instead of the duck story, I made up an illustration for you. 

Today I want to talk about: (1) the context; (2) the claim of Jesus; (3) the command of Jesus; and (4) the consequences. 

The Context

The context here is the Feast of Booths. You might know it as the Feast of Tabernacles. It called the Israelites to spend a week remembering the journey of their ancestors from Egypt to Canaan. That observance lasted for a week. It is described in Leviticus 23. 

Over the centuries the Jews added a few things to the celebration. One was a ceremony called “The Illumination of the Temple”.  At the first of the week, the priests lit large lamps in the court of the women outside the temple. They burned all night long. They lit up the whole area.  If you will, they turned darkness into light. 

This is the context for Jesus’ claim.

The Claim of Jesus

Jesus said “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

As we talked about last time, when Jesus says “I am” at the beginning of his claim, he echoes the words of God in Exodus 3:14. There, the Angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a burning bush. God identified himself to Moses as “I Am Who I Am”. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the words are the same as here where Jesus says “I am”. Jesus is claiming deity. He is claiming to be God. 

Jesus also said he was the light of the world who could lead men and women out of darkness. He was saying, these lamps are nice, but they will burn out and leave you in darkness. Only I can give you light forever.

Darkness is a physical reality. You see it every night. But in the beginning, that is all there was. Look back at Genesis 1:1-2. (read it) the earth was completely dark in the beginning. God changed that. How did he do it? He spoke it into existence. (Gen. 1:3) And, this was before the creation of the sun and moon. God lit up the world. 

Who did this? Jesus did it. The same Jesus giving this sermon at the temple. John 1:3 tells us “all things were made through him and without him was not any thing made that was made”. 

But darkness is also a spiritual metaphor. It symbolizes the lack of spiritual understanding and, ultimately, the lack of eternal life. For example, Romans 1:21 says sinful people became futile sin their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened. 

We use this metaphor today. Horror movies happen at night. Vampires come out only at night. The good folks try to survive until daybreak. Darkness is where evil resides.

Jesus said he is the light that can lead us out of darkness forever. Only Jesus has the power and authority to change us from creatures of darkness to creatures of light. We will not walk in darkness if we have the light of Jesus.

Jesus also says this light is the light of life. Jesus not only gives spiritual understanding, he gives spiritual life. Only Jesus can give us eternal life living in God’s light. 

The Command

The command of Jesus is to follow him. He said “whoever follows me will not walk in darkness”. The word for follow was originally used in the context of a soldier following his leader into battle. The soldier went wherever the leader commanded, no matter how hard or dangerous it was.

It Jesus’ time, it was also a picture of discipleship. In those days, a teacher would travel around teaching in various places. His disciples would follow him everywhere he went, hearing him, learning from him and obeying him. When Jesus called his 12 disciples, he said simply “follow me”. 

Here is the thing, though. Following means giving up everything else that might be more important to you than Jesus. Peter and Andrew left their fishing business to follow Jesus. Matthew gave up his job as tax collector. Nothing was more important to them than following Jesus. 

Why was Jesus more important to them than fishing? Because they believed he was the one who could bring salvation to his followers. When Jesus asked them if they would abandon him as others did, Peter said “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life and we have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God”. (John 6:68)

Jesus issues the same command to each of us today: follow me. He calls us to believe he is the Son of God who died for our sins and to begin a life of learning about him and obeying him. 

The Consequence

Jesus made an offer of salvation conditioned on a demand for discipleship. That called for a decision. There really is no neutral gear with Jesus. You follow him or you reject him.

Way down in verse 30, it says “As he was saying these things, many believed in him”. They believed his claims, the followed his command. Believing Jesus to be the Son of God who offered them salvation, they received him and followed him. 

Sadly, the passage shows us that the Pharisees rejected Jesus. They basically called him a liar. They challenged him on legal grounds, saying he witnessed to himself and the law required two witnesses. That is a distortion of the law. Two witnesses were only required in a legal setting. 

No matter what Jesus said, they came back with arguments. The fact is, they did not believe in Jesus. They rejected him. Their arguments were just a cover for their unbelief. Since they did not believe, they waned to discredit Jesus with their arguments. We see this today as well from non-believers. Atheistic historians, philosophers and even some who call themselves theologians try to discredit and demean Jesus. 

The end result of this is that Jesus is still Jesus, the Son of God, the Savior, who will reign forever and ever. But unbelievers, like these Pharisees, will not participate in that glorious reign. They will instead remain in darkness forever; not here, but in the place of punishment we call hell. In fact, Jesus called it the “outer darkness”. There is no light of life there. 

The Illustration

Suppose that we are all in a completely dark room. It is like Carlsbad Caverns when they turn out the lights. You literally cannot see your hand in front of your face. I know; I tried.

Suddenly, a door opens to reveal a room next door, full of light and beauty. The door closes, but we realize a light remains. It is Jesus. He is not carrying a light; he is the light. He glows with glory.

Jesus says to us, follow me and I will give you the light of life. You will never be in darkness. He opens the door and many of us follow his light to the door and enter the beautiful room.

However, some of us doubt. We ask “how do we know he is telling the truth?” We say “what right does he have to tell us what to do or where to go”. And that group stays in the dark room.

The door to the room of light closes and it closes forever. Those who follow Jesus live with him in the room full of light forever and ever, enjoying fellowship with him and each other, marveling at the beauty of the room and praising Jesus for leading us there.

The rest stay in darkness forever, cursing the darkness, having no hope of deliverance and suffering for eternity. 

So, what will you do? Follow Jesus into light and life? Or stay in darkness forever? 

The choice is yours. 

My prayer is that you will follow Jesus and join him for eternity. 

Thanks and Godspeed. 
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