In The Light
“While I was ministering at [a church] in Anaheim, we had a blackout during one of our services. An automobile accident knocked out the power line to our building. There were approximately three thousand people in the room and close to a thousand children in the area behind the sanctuary. For a reason I cannot remember, the emergency lights failed, too.
Sitting in the front row of the church, I was only a dozen steps from the hallway leading to the children, but the darkness was so overwhelming and disorienting that it was difficult groping my way there.
When I finally reached the door that led to a long hallway, I saw that a mother who had a small flashlight on her key chain had beat me to the door and was making her way to her children. Her small light didn't illumine the whole hallway, but it reoriented the whole scary moment for me. Soon others found emergency flashlights in the classrooms, and still others shined their car headlights through the classroom windows. We got all the kids out to safety.
After about five or ten minutes I made my way back to the sanctuary. It looked like a 1960s rock concert, as all the baby boomers had gotten out their Bic lighters and were waving them around as if ‘Hey Jude’ was being performed by the Beatles. As funny as that was, what I still remember twenty years later is the enormous power of that mom's flashlight to bring hope and orientation to a seriously unnerving moment.”
Todd D. Hunter, Giving Church Another Chance (IVP, 2010), p. 78
I believe I was in the upper elementary grades when this story happened to me
A group of boys from my class were invited to another classmate’s house for his Birthday
It was a sleepover party on a Friday night, if I remember correctly
After the celebration, we all got ready for bed and set up our sleeping bags on the floor of the finished basement
At some point in the middle of the night, I woke up and had to go to the bathroom
The bathroom was upstairs
As you can imagine, it was completely dark with no lights on anywhere
It was like being in a cave or cavern when they turn all the lights off, so you can experience complete darkness
I groped around in the darkness and started crawling around on my hands and feet
I thought I had found the stairs, but I wasn’t making any progress
I had to go to the bathroom so bad at this point
I had to regroup and begin feeling for the stairs in a different location
I finally found the stairs and the bathroom! What a relief
The next morning when there was light in the basement, I realized that the initial “stairway” I was trying to climb on my hands and knees was stacked firewood beside the fireplace
Here’s a couple of life lessons for sleepovers
Don’t drink too much before going to bed
Make sure to use the bathroom before you go to bed
Always take a flashlight with you when you go to a friend’s house for a sleepover
Take a moment to remember a time when you experienced complete darkness
How did you feel?
How did you cope with it?
Imagine for a moment what it would be like if that darkness lasted for a couple of minutes . . . a couple of hours . . . a couple of days . . . a couple of years . . . or for eternity. We would probably lose our minds. We want to be able to see what is around us. We don’t want to continually walk around with our arms outstretched in front of us to protect us from running into something. While none of us want to do this on a physical level, some of us are fine doing this on a spiritual level. We are fine walking around in darkness – stumbling around, groping around to find the light. John shares Jesus’ words about being the light of the world. Jesus was speaking on a spiritual level. As we’ll see today . . .
BIG IDEA – Jesus brings God’s presence, protection, and guidance.
GOD (John 8:12-20)
Proclamation (v. 12, 20)
Jesus is still in Jerusalem in the temple courts
We know this because of verse 20, He spoke these words while teaching in the temple area near the place where the offerings were put.
Perhaps the Feast of Tabernacles had ended, but this narrative probably happened while the feast was still taking place
Here is why it probably happened during the feast
Several weeks ago we learned that during the Feast of Tabernacles there was a water ceremony that the priests did every day and then seven times on the last day of the feast
This ceremony marked the beginning of the drought season
It also was a reminder of how God provided water from a rock, on two occasions, for the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness
There was another ceremony that took place during this same feast that was centered around light
This was the time of year when the autumn equinox happened (night and day are of equal length) [Burge, The NIV Application Commentary, John, 255]
It was also a reminder of God’s presence, protection, and guidance while the Israelites wandered in the wilderness
God’s presence was evident through the pillar of cloud during the day and the pillar of fire at night
God’s protection came when the Israelites were stuck between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army that was pursuing them – the pillar of cloud/fire moved from in front of the Israelites to the rear, and blocked the Egyptian army until the Red Sea was parted
God’s guidance happened through the movement of the pillar of cloud/fire
When the pillar moved, the Israelites broke camp and followed it until it stopped
When it stopped, they set up camp until it moved again
The light ceremony
It took place in the Court of Women
[Show the three pictures while talking about the lamps]
There were four stands that held four golden bowls – each bowl had four parts to it, making sixteen lamps
These golden bowls “were filled with oil and used the worn undergarments of the priests for wicks.” [Burge, 255]
These lamps were lit on the first night of the Feast of Tabernacles
It is probable that they were lit every evening instead of burning continuously from the first day to the last day of the feast
Just imagine what it must have been like to see these lamps burning at night and illuminating the walls of the temple courts – it must have been magnificent!
It was definitely a visual reminder of God’s presence, protection, and guidance for His people
We don’t know exactly when Jesus made His proclamation about being the light of the world, but just imagine if He said that right after the priests extinguished the lamps on the last night of the feast – how profound would that have been
Jesus is saying to the crowd, gathered in the Court of Women, “You don’t have to celebrate the light ceremony anymore. I am with you. I will protect you. I will guide you.”
Jesus brings God’s presence, protection, and guidance.
PRINCIPLE #1 – Jesus is our salvation!
The Prophet Isaiah foretold the coming of the Messiah when he said, The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned (Isaiah 9:2)
John 3:19-20, This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
We are all born loving the darkness (Read Romans 3:10-12)
Romans 3:19-20, Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.
The Ten Commandments were given so that we would be aware of our sin
Keeping the Ten Commandments does not make us righteous, because no one can keep all of the Ten Commandments perfectly
James tell us that if we keep the whole law and yet stumble at just one point, we’re guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10)
If we die in the state of loving darkness, we will spend eternity in darkness (Rom. 6:23)
Our eternal home will be hell
That’s what we are being saved from
Imagine for a moment that someone comes up to you and tells you that another person has paid your speeding fine of $25,000
You would probably tell them that you don’t have a speeding fine of $25,000 (you’re not aware of any violation on your record)
Imagine that they came to you and told you that a police officer clocked you going 55 mph in an area designated for a blind children’s convention. There were ten clear warning signs telling you that the speed limit was 15 mph, but you ignored all the signs and kept going 55 mph. The penalty for doing that is $25,000
You would understand the significance of having someone else pay your penalty when you realize that you are guilty
That is what the Ten Commandments do for us – they make us conscious of our sin
When we know we have broken God’s law, then we realize and accept the fact that we need a Savior – someone to pay our penalty
God knew from the start that human beings would turn away from Him and follow darkness
Out of His great love for us, He didn’t turn His back on us and allow us to die in our sins, separated from Him in eternal darkness
Instead He fulfilled His plan of redemption and reconciliation by sending Jesus from heaven to earth to die on a cross to take our punishment for sin, to pay our penalty of sin
John 3:16-18, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
That’s what Jesus is saying to the crowd, when He says, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life
The light of life is eternal life
“If Jesus is the light, walking ‘in the light’ is a description of discipleship (1:7).” [Burge, 256]
My Next Step Today Is To: Believe in Jesus and become His disciple, so I will never have to walk in darkness but will have the light of life (eternal life).
When you believe in Jesus and follow Him, you will experience God’s presence, protection, and guidance
Deuteronomy 31:8, The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
1 Corinthians 3:16, Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?
Isaiah 41:10, So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
2 Thessalonians 3:3, But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.
John 16:13, But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.
Proverbs 3:5-6, Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
Psalm 32:8, I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel (guide) you and watch over you.
You can claim these promises for yourself, every day!
My Next Step Today Is To: Claim God’s promises, through Jesus, that He will be with me, protect me, and guide me.
So, Jesus is sharing the good news of the Gospel with the crowd – He is the light of the world, but not everyone was happy about that
The Pharisees were already angry and upset with Jesus, so it didn’t matter what He said or did, they were going to challenge Him
Protest (v. 13)
The Pharisees challenge the validity of Jesus’ proclamation by saying that He is appearing as His own witness
Jesus’ statement, that He is the light of the world, isn’t valid in their reasoning, because He is saying it about Himself
He does not have any witnesses to support His claim
Unfortunately, the Pharisees have forgotten what Jesus said after healing the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath
Jesus gave the religious leaders not only one witness, but four
John the Baptist (John 5:33)
His miraculous works (John 5:36)
The Father (John 5:37)
The Scriptures (John 5:39)
It wasn’t going to matter what Jesus said, because the Pharisees were living with self-righteous attitudes that were wrong – they had made up their minds about Jesus
In this last section, we see Jesus pleading with the Pharisees to acknowledge and accept His claim to deity – He wants them follow Him, so they won’t walk in darkness
Plea (vv. 14-20)
Jesus’ deity (v. 14)
“Words which in a human being would inevitably look like exaggerated arrogance, can take no other form in the mouth of the eschatological revealer.” [Schnackenburg cited by Köstenberger, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, John, 255]
Jesus is God, which means that He is perfect, without sin
His sinlessness is why He was able to take our punishment on the cross, to pay our penalty of sin
So, His testimony would have been valid even if there were no other witnesses
Jesus knew where He came from and where He was going
Jesus was confident in His deity
He knew He had come from heaven – from the right hand of God the Father
He knew what His mission on earth was – to die on a cross as the perfect Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world
He knew that after His perfect sacrifice on the cross He would be buried and God would bring Him back to life as proof that His sacrifice was acceptable and met God’s standard for redemption
He also knew that He would return to heaven after providing redemption for humanity
The Pharisees did not know where Jesus came from or where He was going
It wasn’t that Jesus was hiding His deity from them
He had told them multiple times that He was from God the Father
The Pharisees had their preconceived ideas of how the Messiah would come and what He would do on the earth
Jesus did not fit any of those preconceived ideas
Their false ideas about the Messiah and His ministry on earth blinded them to the truth
They did not want to believe that Jesus came from heaven, therefore, they definitely wouldn’t believe that He would be returning to heaven
The Pharisees were judging based on human standards and not Godly standards or Scriptural standards
Judgment (vv. 15-16)
The original Greek can be translated as “according to the flesh”
The Pharisees knew that Jesus was from Nazareth in Galilee
As we saw in John 7:41 some believed that Jesus was the Christ
In verse 42, others disagreed that Jesus was the Christ, because they knew that the Christ would come from David’s family and from Bethlehem
As mentioned there, the crowd and the religious leaders were not aware of Jesus’ birthplace – Bethlehem
So, the Pharisees are judging from a human standard based on Jesus’ known place of origin – Nazareth in Galilee
They are also using the human standard of needing two witnesses
“. . . Jesus’ point is the one he will make again here, that his witness is not by himself to himself, but for the Father to the Father, and crucially with the Father.” [Milne, The Bible Speaks Today, The Message of John, 128]
“They see his ‘flesh’, as it were, but never contemplate the possibility that he could be the Word made flesh (1:14).” [Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Gospel According to John, 339]
John 1:14, The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Since Jesus came from heaven and the Father, He is deity and can judge correctly
Jesus states that He doesn’t pass judgment on anyone
We know from Scripture that Jesus will be the final judge of humanity (Matthew 25:31-33)
We will all stand before Him and give an account of what we did while on earth (Romans 14:12)
What Jesus is saying here is that He doesn’t judge anyone by the human standard that the Pharisees were judging Him by
PRINCIPLE #2 – God’s judgement is right.
Jesus says that if He does judge that His decisions in judging are right
He is able to make this statement, because He is not judging in a void
He stands with the Father who sent Him
God and Jesus are perfect, so they can judge perfectly, righteously
We are not perfect, so our judgments are not always perfect or righteous
We know this is true when some people are falsely accused and convicted
Some individuals have maintained their innocence for all the years they’ve been imprisoned
DNA evidence has enabled the court system to reverse some convictions that were done incorrectly
Only God knows the heart of man, but sometimes we pass judgment on others based on several things
Preconceived ideas that are incorrect
Perhaps we’d be better served if we spoke directly with the individual instead of passing judgement
It may help us to forgive and extend grace, just like God has done for us
My Next Step Today Is To: Recognize that I’m judging someone unfairly and imperfectly, and extend grace and forgiveness to them instead.
Jesus then expands what He has already told them
Witnesses (vv. 17-19)
While He is not bound by their human standards of judgement (testimony of two men is valid), He explains that He is still in compliance with that standard
He testifies for Himself
His other witness if the Father who sent Him – God
The Pharisees are struggling with the natural and the supernatural, with the human and divine
That’s why they ask Jesus where His father is?
Notice that “father” is not capitalized
They want to know where Jesus’ earthly, human father is
“In the present instance the Jews, of course, expect witnesses whose statements can be heard and compared with each other, so that it can be determined whether they agree.” [Köstenberger, 256]
It doesn’t matter that Jesus has already called John the Baptist, His works, God, and the Scriptures as His witnesses
John would have been the only one who could have physically stood before them
Joseph, Mary’s husband, could have stood before them, but His testimony about Jesus would not carry the same weight as His Father, God
This simply tells us that the Pharisees are not comprehending who Jesus is – He’s the Messiah
Jesus’ response helps us know that He is aware that the Pharisees don’t know or acknowledge Him as the Christ, the Messiah
He tells them that they don’t know Him or His Father
If they knew Him, they would know His Father, and it wasn’t Joseph
Jesus’ is pleading with them to turn away from the darkness and follow Him, as the light of the world
If they would accept Him as the Christ (Messiah) and follow Him, they would know God, the Father
The sad truth was that they already thought they knew the Father
They thought they had God’s presence, protection, and guidance, but they didn’t
Jesus brings God’s presence, protection, and guidance.
He is the only way for us to not walk in darkness
John gives us the location of where Jesus was, in the temple courts, during this exchange with the Pharisees
Location and protection (v. 20)
He was teaching in the temple area near the place where the offerings were put
The offering containers were in the shape of a shofar (a ram’s horn trumpet)
There were thirteen of them stationed in the Court of Women (each one was marked with what the offering would be used for in the temple)
This is the same place where the ceremony of lights took place
We see God’s protection over Jesus again
No one seized Jesus, even though they had been looking for Him and challenging Him, so they could find grounds to arrest Him
God’s timing for His redemption plan would not be dictated or determined by any one, but Him
I pray that your desire is to follow Jesus and be His disciple – to walk in the light instead of the darkness
“I want to be in the Light
As You are in the Light
I want to shine like the stars in the heavens
Oh, Lord be my Light and be my salvation
Cause all I want is to be in the Light
All I want is to be in the Light”
[In The Light by DC Talk]
Our purpose as disciples of Jesus Christ is to point others to the Light, to Jesus
“One weekend, author Paul Tripp gave his teenage son permission to spend the weekend at a friend's house. But during the weekend Paul received a call from the friend's mother, informing him that Paul's son was not at her home. (Her son had felt guilty about covering for Paul's son and confessed to his mom.) After Paul told his wife about their son's deception, Paul said, “Luella could feel my anger, and she said, ‘I think you need to pray.’ I said, ‘I don't think I can pray for him right now.’ She said, ‘I didn't mean for you to pray for him; I think you need to pray for you.’”
I went to my bedroom to pray for God's help, and it hit me that, because of his love, God had already begun a work of rescue in my son's life. God was the one who pressed in on the conscience of my son's friend, causing him to confess to his mom. God was the one who gave her the courage to make that difficult call to me. And God was the one giving me time to get a hold of myself before my son came home. Now, rather than wanting to rip into my son, I wanted to be part of what this God of grace was doing in this moment of rebellion, deception, hurt, and disappointment.
After giving his son a couple of hours to relax upon his return, Paul asked him if they could talk.
"Do you ever think about how much God loves you?" Paul asked his son.
"Sometimes," he answered.
"Do you ever think how much God's grace operates in your life every day?"
His son looked up but didn't speak.
"Do you know how much God's grace was working in your life even this weekend?"
"Who told you?" his son asked.
‘You have lived your life in the light. You've made good choices. You've been an easy son to parent, but this weekend you took a step toward the darkness. You can live in the darkness if you want. You can learn to lie and deceive. You can use your friends as your cover … You can step over God's boundaries. Or you can determine to live in God's light. I'm pleading with you: don't live in the darkness; live in the light.’
‘As I turned to walk away,’ Paul wrote, ‘I heard his voice from behind me saying, ‘Dad, don't go.’ As I turned around, with tears in his eyes, he said, ‘Dad, I want to live in the light, but it's so hard. Will you help me?’’”
Paul David Tripp, Forever: Why You Can't Live Without It (Zondervan, 2011), pp. 151-153; submitted by Van Morris, Mt. Washington, Kentucky