Have the Light
I’ve been enjoying my time in John chapter eight. We’ve worked our way through the first eleven verses. We’ve covered the encounter in the temple between Jesus, an accusing group of scribes and Pharisees, and a woman caught in adultery. We ended last time with Jesus offering forgiveness to the woman. Let’s see what we can discover together as we pickup with John 8:12.
12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (NKJV)
The word “then” not only indicates the next occurrence in the sequence of events, but when combined with the word “again” in the same sentence, assures us that what follows next is a continuation of the same encounter, with the same group of people. Jesus is still instructing the scribes and Pharisees that accused the woman, the woman herself, and the original group who had come to the temple that day to hear Jesus teach.
We aren’t going to look at each word individually, although that might be fun, but I want you consider the first phrase in verse 12.
“Then Jesus spoke to them again,”
The word “again” caught my attention. I noticed that between verse two and verse thirteen it appears three times. In verse two it says, “…He came again into the temple…”, repeating where He went. In verse eight it says, “… again He stooped down and wrote…”, repeating what He did. And in verse twelve it says, “…Jesus spoke to them again…”, repeating with whom He had conversation. If you read these three instances where the word “again” appears, in context, it reveals the perspective that Jesus wanted His audience to understand the truth. He wanted them to know who He was, and what it meant to believe in Him. These encounters with the scribes and Pharisees were not intellectual contests. Jesus wasn’t putting them in their place, He was attempting to set them free.
When you read this chapter, what is your impression of Jesus? Do you see Him as a cold, calculating, intellectual, exercising supremacy over the inferior religious leaders? Or do you see Him as a loving saviour telling the truth, no matter how painful, to the people He encountered? Whatever your initial perspective, let the details of the passage influence how you see Jesus.
Let’s look again at John 8:12.
“Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
The Bible is full of figures of speech. They are used to help the hearer relate the truth being proposed to something familiar. Jesus used a figure of speech, in the form of a metaphor, when He said, “I am the light of the world.” He’s not really saying He is light in the scientific sense made up of photons, with a full spectrum of various colors, and traveling at 186,822 miles per second.
To help us understand the metaphor of light Jesus introduced, let’s consider darkness. When an environment is dark, one’s ability to perceive the truth about that environment is limited, or even impossible. The darker it is, the less truth you can know about your surroundings. The tricky thing to understand about darkness is that it isn’t something, it is actually the lack of something, namely light. Scientists can define light by its composition and properties. Darkness in contrast, is only defined as the absence of light.
When Jesus said He was the light of the world, we need to understand light was not the only metaphor He used. The word world is also a metaphor. It does not mean our physical world, but rather the world system we live in. In other words the political, cultural, philosophical system of people inhabiting the world.
This being true, when Jesus said “He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”, we know that He is still using metaphor to communicate truth. Jesus is telling His original audience, and us, that if we are in fellowship with Him (follows me), we will not proceed through life in deception (walk in darkness).
It’s interesting to me that the next part of the verse, “…have the light of life.” is a slight shift in how Jesus uses the metaphor. Here’s what I mean. When Jesus said “He who follows me shall not walk in darkness…”, one would expect the contrast to be, “but walk in the Light”, however, that’s not what He said.
The contrast to, “…not walk in darkness”, is “have the light of life.” If we remain in fellowship with Jesus, we can actually take possession of the light. We can fully embrace the truth, and benefit by it, not simply walk in enlightenment.
I think a point of distinction should be made here. Jesus is not talking about becoming a believer. Remember the words He chose, “follows Me”? He’s talking about believers choosing to actively continue in relationship with Him.
Step one is putting your faith and trust in the person of Jesus Christ for salvation. But don’t stop there. Enjoy the benefits of continued relationship with Christ. Read His word, obey His commands, pray to Him. In other words, “follow Christ Jesus”. To become a follower of Jesus simply takes a decision.
Matthew 11:28-30 encourages us. It says,
“28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (NKJV)