Powerful Yet Threatening
I admire people who consistently read the Bible from cover to cover in a year. It requires great discipline, and the rewards of regularly being exposed to the word of God are incalculable. I know several people who engage in the practice year after year. Not one of them however, makes their devotional reading of the Holy Bible their only encounter with the scriptures.
If your only exposure to the word of God is devotional, then you are being cheated. Learn to dig for the Gold in the Bible. In other words, learn to study the Bible. Let’s practice together. The first step to going deeper is to slow down and observe the text. Think about it – mull it over (oh and keep it in context).
John 8:12-13 “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.”13 The Pharisees therefore said to Him, “You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true.” (NKJV)
If you think about it, there are really two parts to what Jesus told the crowd. First, He revealed something powerful about His nature. Second, He offered them the opportunity to partake of, and benefit from that nature.
When Jesus said, “I am the light…”, He was using a metaphor to communicate that it is in His nature is to expose the truth – the very truth the darkness conceals. This is a perfectly clear statement.
Notice the next sentence. “He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness…”. This is a powerful invitation to whosoever will. In other words, the only qualification for not walking in darkness is to follow me [Jesus]. The promise is conditional, but the condition is a simple one. If you choose to follow Jesus, then you will have the light and will not walk in darkness. Powerful!
This is wonderful news for those seeking truth, yet an incredible threat to the Pharisees! These men have spent their lives studying the law. They have commanded the respect of the people as the intellectuals uniquely qualified to “shine the light” on the law of Moses. In their minds, they are the light givers, Jesus should be validating them, turning the people’s attention to what they have to offer. You want to understand truth, then consult a Pharisee! I think the Pharisees saw Jesus as a sheep stealer, snatching people from their flocks.
Pride consumed the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. As scripture so clearly demonstrates, every liberating truth Jesus shared about Himself, was met with contempt by those leaders who refused to believe.
Let’s consider the Pharisees response to Jesus’ claim about Himself.
John 8:13 says,
”The Pharisees therefore said to Him, “You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true.” (NKJV)
Consider an excerpt from The Bible Knowledge Commentary.
“The Law required two witnesses to establish a fact in capital offenses (Deut. 17:6; 19:15; John 8:17). Rabbinic tradition rejected self-testimony.” 1
Hang on a second! Capital offense? Jesus wasn’t being accused of a crime, right? Or was He? Remember the first sentence of verse 6? It says, “This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him.” (NKJV)
In the minds of the Pharisees, Jesus had been on trial from the very beginning of the encounter.
You can see their duplicitous thinking if you consider John 1:19-28. If you have a chance, turn back a few pages and read the passage. I’ll try to summarize. The religious leaders sent their representatives to John the Baptist. They wanted to hear John’s testimony (legal term) about himself. Who are you? They were not looking for more than one testimony, they were asking John to give testimony about himself. Notice the double standard? Here they are telling Jesus that He can’t give testimony of Himself. They went so far as to call Jesus a liar (“your testimony is not true”).
In John 1:19-28, we also discover that John did give testimony of Jesus. So by the time we get to chapter 8, Jesus’ testimony about Himself is not the only one. Interestingly Jesus does not appeal to the testimony of John the baptist, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Maybe we will discuss it more next week.
So how can we apply the truth of this passage to our own lives? I think we need to recognize that absolute truth is found in the person of Jesus Christ. He does not conceal truth, He reveals it. If we want to walk in truth, we must walk with Jesus. We must choose to follow Jesus.
1 Blum, Edwin A. “John.” The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck. Vol. 2. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985. 303. Print.