Bible Study Commentary on Jesus the Great I AM
I AM the Light of the World - Who is the second light?
By I Gordon
Last time we looked at the tasty topic of bread. Warm... straight out of the oven or bread maker... little bit of butter... Mmmm. Actually that introduction doesn’t help a lot because all it does is focus your minds on lunch and your bellies! So before you start salivating, it is important to remember that we are talking about spiritual bread. And that is Jesus who made that wonderful statement saying ‘I AM the bread of life. He who eats of me will never go hungry.’ Jesus promised that that He can satisfy the deepest longings and needs of the human heart. This morning we are moving onto another essential requirement for life... and that is light. Jesus said ‘I AM the light of the world.’ So we will explore three things today:
1. We will look at the context of Jesus' statement that He is the light of
2. We will compare and contrast this with the Old Testament picture of light at creation
3. We will look at the second light of the world. ‘What?’ you say’. A second light of the world? What is this blasphemy? Jesus is the only light of the world. Well He is... and He isn’t. There is a second.
Somewhere to begin... What do we think of when we talk about light in the Bible?
John 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
Light, and its opposite darkness, is a HUGE subject in the Bible and there are some great verses right throughout God’s word on this important topic. But what is the Bible meaning when it speaks of light and darkness? What type of imagery does it present? I’ll read some scriptures and you tell me what it means:
1 John 1:5 ‘God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.’
Speaks of God Himself, His purity and holiness.
Psalms 36:9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.
Speaks of God’s light as revelation for our life helping us to see things as God does.
John 3:20-21 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. (21) But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."
Speaks of God’s light as a spotlight, exposing what we are – for better or worse!
Isaiah 60:1 "Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
Speaks of the very nature, character and glory of God
Matthew 4:16 The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
Speaks of light as a new hope, a way out for those living in the darkness of the shadow of death.
Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.
Speaks of light as understanding1 especially for the way in which we should walk and the way we should go.
So light in the Bible speaks of purity, holiness, truth, revelation, understanding and life... the very character and nature of God. Darkness in the Bible speaks of the opposite – sin, evil, ignorance, confusion and hopelessness. With that as a definition it is fair to say that this world is a very dark place. Darkness always brings confusion because you cannot see. And the Bible warns that in that confusion man substitutes one for the other and mixes it all up. Light becomes dark and dark becomes light.
Isa 5:20 ‘ Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness...’
So how confused in darkness are people in this age? Pretty confused! I recently watched a video where a short white guy went and asked questions of the students at the University of Washington. He said to them "If I tell you I'm a woman, what would your response be?" They replied, "Great, if that's who you are." Then, he asks, "And if I say I'm Chinese? What would you say?" Some were a little surprised but were happy to embrace him as Chinese. He then asks what their reaction would be if he said he was 7 years old. Many were willing to accept that he is a 7 year-old if that's what he truly believed. Finally, he says "If I told you I'm 6' 5", what would you say?" Again some were willing to accept that but some paused. One young lady who was willing to say that he was a 7 year old Chinese girl couldn’t quite bring herself to say he was 6’ 5”. Confused? You bet people are. But Jesus’ statement is as true today as it was then – "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
Now the timing of this statement is interesting. It came during an important time in Israel’s calendar. John 7:37 tells us it came on 'the last day of the feast...' But what feast? John 7:2 tells us 'Now as the feast of tabernacles drew close...' John chapters 7-9 were spoken during the Feast of Tabernacles. During this feast they did two specific things to symbolise the coming Messianic reign:
1. ‘The pouring out of water’ – The Priests would go and fetch water from the pool of Siloam and return to the Temple area reciting Psalms 120-134. There they would pour it out with joy to symbolise the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon Israel when the Messiah comes. John 7:37-38 On the last and greatest day of the Feast (Tabernacles), Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."
2. ‘The festival of lights’ -.Each year at the feast of Tabernacles
they would light four huge lamps (75 feet high) to illuminate Jerusalem.
Because Jerusalem is upon a hill, the city would literally shine out against
the backdrop of a darkened night sky. This light, according to the Jewish
rabbis, was symbolic of the God's Shekinah glory that led them through the
wilderness and also looked forward to the promised glory to return to Israel
with the coming of the Messiah. A modern 'festival of lights' at the Damacus
gate can be seen to the right along with an image of what the 1st century
temple may have looked like with these lights.
So this is the background to the timing of Jesus’ statement. He was essentially telling them, ‘you light up Jerusalem to look forward and celebrate the future coming of the Messiah yet I am here! I am the light...not only of Jerusalem but of the whole world! Follow me and you will never walk in darkness.’ Can you imagine how frustrating it would have been for Jesus? It is frustrating enough when we try to help someone see the Lord and they cannot. But He was the very light of the world. He knew that His people kept performing these outward symbols year after year but were blind to the reality of whom they point. They could not see it then and on the whole mankind will not see the truth now. What was that earlier verse?
Light and wisdom from creation
John 3:19-21 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. (20) Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. (21) But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."
Sometimes the smallest of God’s little creatures are smarter than men. I was reading my Bible in bed the other night and before long came several taps on my window. It was moths! They would bump into the glass, back off and then do it again. Now I'm not saying that the moths are smart for repeatedly banging their little faces into the same object... but they are smarter than man in this one regard – they are fascinated and attracted to the light! They don’t run from it. How is mankind dumber than a plant? Plants may not have a brain or neurons but they still sense and respond and will turn towards the light. They lean towards the sun. They know what is best for them. You can turn the pot away from the light and they will turn their leaves and flowers if possible to face and open themselves up to the light. Believers in Christ, having that nature of God, are attracted to the light... or should be unless they are unwell!2
So back to Jesus - if you were going to make the statement that you are ‘the light of the world’ how would you back it up? How would you prove it? We saw last time that when Jesus said ‘I am the bread of life’ He had already given the great crowds following Him an outward visible, practical demonstration of this statement by taking 2 loaves of bread, breaking it, giving thanks, and feeding the masses with more left over for whosoever wanted to come and eat. What Jesus did with that bread, He would do with His own life - feed as many as come to Him. But what about being the light of the world? How would Jesus give an outward, visible, practical demonstration that He really is the light of the world? How about by restoring light to one who had been in darkness his entire life?
Jesus' demonstration of being the light of the world
John 9:1-5 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. (2) His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (3) Neither this man nor his parents sinned, said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. (4) As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. (5) While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
Arnold Fructenbaum and others teach that the Jewish Rabbis of old said that there were three miracles that only the Messiah would be able to do. The first was the healing of a leper. The second was casting out of a demon from someone that was dumb. The third and final miracle that the Rabbis said only the Messiah would do was to restore the sight of someone born blind. Well… here is someone born blind... and Jesus has just said He is the light of the world! The disciples were just interested in who caused the blindness. Like Job’s friends they thought that it must be someone’s sin… Did his parents cause this? Did he do it? There must be someone to blame! Given that the man was actually born blind it seems a stretch to actual blame the man himself. But the disciples would have been thinking of the Jewish thought of the time that a baby in the womb could sin and therefore the blindness may have been caused by his actions in the womb. Maybe booted Mum in the belly one time too often! If it wasn’t that then it must have been the sin of the parents they thought. That was their thinking... and very limited thinking at that. Jesus said ‘no’. We need to be careful when we subscribe to the theory that misfortune or problems are simply the result of something wrong that someone has done (like the Hindu concept of karma). Jesus said ‘No… nobody sinned. He was born blind for a far greater purpose and that is to be a living testimony and light to God’s work in his life.’
I don’t want to leave this passage without mentioning verse 4. That is an important verse for all of us. The Lord realized that He had three years of public ministry to minister. This was His ‘day’ before the night of the cross came. The ‘day’ in this context seems to be the time God has appointed for our lives in which we can choose to serve Him. Our ‘night’ is the end of our lives or the end of our ability to serve, whichever comes first. The night is coming for all of us and none of us knows how long we have in this day. Make the most of your time. Notice that Jesus didn’t say ‘As long as it is day, I must do the work of Him who sent me’. No. He said ‘WE must do the work.’ Jesus was also emphatic here; ‘While it is day, we MUST do the work of Him…’ And I can assure you that no one, when the Lord returns or we return to Him, will be disappointed that we spent time doing the work of the Father. But we will be disappointed if we fritted all our time away doing nothing of eternal consequence. I think about these things often. Time goes quickly. Even this week we heard the news that our cousin Shirley has cancer. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves for we don’t know how bad it is yet and the temptation is often to think the worst. But it is a sobering reminder that nothing, not even life itself, is to be taken for granted and how important it is to be living for the things that really matter. Make the most of your time while it is still your ‘day’.
John 9:6-11 Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. (7) Go, he told him, "wash in the Pool of Siloam" (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. (8) His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, "Isn't this the same man who used to sit and beg?" (9) Some claimed that he was. Others said, "No, he only looks like him." But he himself insisted, "I am the man." (10) How then were your eyes opened? they demanded. (11) He replied, "The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see."
We don't have time to go through this whole story as it results in an argument with the Pharisees who are simply not happy that this man has been healed by Jesus. You see Jesus not only healed him on the Sabbath but he even had the audacity to do it by making some mud! I have read that there was a Jewish thought at the time that on the Sabbath it was ok to spit on a rock, but not ok to spit on dirt. No work was done spitting on a rock but spitting on dirt would make mud and that, as we all know, is obviously doing work on the Sabbath! But all that aside... think about this man for a moment. Can you imagine what it would have been like for him to wash at the pool of Siloam and suddenly be able to see! Light entering his eyes for the first time ever! For his entire life when he opened his eyes there had been only darkness. I can tell you from partial experience that that is a very weird experience to open an eye and see nothing different! As you know I lost the sight in my left eye in a surfing accident 10 years ago and it was very strange, for a long long time, to wake up in the morning, open that eye and see only darkness. Odd. But I can still see. This man had never seen. Imagine saying to him 'Boy the sky is blue today!' And he says 'what is blue like'? 'Argh, um... it's... hmmm how do I describe blue to one who has never seen it?' He has never seen green grass or the orange-red of a brilliant sunset. Try to grasp the wonder that this man experienced in being able to see for the first time because He obeyed Him who said He was the light of the world.
Now this is a true event, a true story. But it also a picture of the greater miracle that the Lord does and that is the miracle that occurs when someone who was born blind spiritually, born into darkness, again obeys the Lord Jesus Christ and has the light of life flood their darkened spirit, soul and experience once again. That is God’s greatest miracle.
'Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.' (Col 1:12-13)
The Old Testament Picture
Genesis 1:1-5 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (2) Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. (3) And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. (4) God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. (5) God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning--the first day.
As well as a literal account of the creation of the world, God gives us a picture in these verses of what He would do in the new creation in the hearts of men and women all over the globe. The Apostle Paul, speaking of this passage in Genesis 1 and comparing it with what God does today, wrote:
2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
In other words, just as there was darkness over the initial planet and it was empty and void yet with darkened troubled waters, so our lives too were like that. It is a picture of mankind’s darkened fallen heart. But we read that the Spirit was hovering over God’s empty, darkened creation! And so He did with us. Up until I was 19 I was in darkness, not knowing God and not wanting to know. If anyone tried to tell me anything it was fingers in my ears saying ‘la la la la laaa... I cannot hear you... I don’t want to hear you!’ But through the prayers of others the Spirit began to hover over this darkened soul and the word came from the Father saying ‘Let there be light in that barren dark soul of Iain Gordon!’ And there was light. And it was good. The Spirit and the Word, seen here in Genesis 1, are the two agents God again uses in the new creation. Scripture tells us that we need to be born again of the Spirit (John 3:5-8) and born again of imperishable seed through the living and enduring word of God (1 Pet 1:23). So God separated the light from the darkness and I became a new creation in Christ!
The two lights
Genesis 1:14-19 Then God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; (15) and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth"; and it was so. (16) God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. (17) God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, (18) and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. (19) There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.
There are also some obvious pictures in the creation of the sun and the moon which give light to this world. Just as the sun shines it’s light upon this world so the Son does spiritually.
The sun’s/Son’s uniqueness: Our solar system has only one sun. There are many planets, many moons but only one sun. This pictures the uniqueness of the Son of God. There is only one Saviour!
The sun’s/Son’s importance:
The sun provides light, life and warmth. Without it life on this planet
would eventually cease. All life reliant on photosynthesis would die off
first and the planet would obviously become very cold. The oceans would
freeze and our darkened planet would fly off it normal orbit in its own
direction. None of that sounds that good! Thankfully the true Son holds all
things together and is therefore far more important that our sun!
The sun’s/Son’s prominent position: The sun is the center of our solar system. All the planets orbit around the sun. Mankind used to think that everything orbits around the earth. Many people today still think that everything revolves around them. Sadly, they are wrong. It all revolves around the Son.
The second light
But, as mentioned in the introduction, there is a second light for this world. Just as the sun pictures the Son of God, so the moon pictures believers. Jesus, speaking to those following Him, actually said ‘You are the light of the world.’ Now that’s kind of scary. The second light is seen in Genesis in the moon. The moon was created to give light to a darkened world during the night BUT IT IS A REFLECTED LIGHT! The moon has no light of its own. It can only reflect as much of itself that is exposed to the light of the sun. God has given us this great picture for our own lives. How much of your life is exposed to the Son? We are called to be a light in this world but do you remember that it is written ‘In Him (Jesus) was life and that life was the light of men!’ (John 1:4) The light is reliant upon the life – God’s life.
Avoid the dreaded blackouts (eclipses)!
There is both a solar and a lunar eclipse when the light from the respective bodies can’t be seen. This too is instructive for us. Solar eclipses occur when the moon gets in direct alignment between the earth and the sun, blocking out the light from the sun (seen in the top diagram to the right). This pictures the effect when the church or believers start placing themselves in the position that the Son alone should be. ‘Look at me and my ministry’, ‘Look at the great things I am doing’ ‘Look how I am building the kingdom’ ‘You will be blessed if you give to my ministry.’ Whenever man starts taking the glory that is Jesus Christ’s alone and start broadcasting their own achievements, look out!.. a solar eclipse is not far away and then you’ll be left with the moon exposing itself for what it really is – an old dry rocky barren object with no light of its own!
But we also have lunar eclipses where the moon has no light to shine (seen in the diagram to the bottom right). This is when the reflected light of the moon is blocked because the world has got between the moon and the sun. I’m sure I don’t have to spell this one out but what the heck... This points to the fact that believers can’t reflect any of God’s light because they are overtaken with the things of the world. Worldliness is proving to be an effective blocker in today’s Western Laodicean church. Those on this planet can still see the sun but don’t think that this type of church or Christian is going to be any help in that regard... It’s a blackout!
We are living in dark times. The light of the world will return to light up this world but expect things to get darker until then. Giving a picture of what things will be like in the last days, Isaiah prophesied:
"For behold, darkness will cover the earth And deep darkness the peoples; But the LORD will rise upon you And His glory will appear upon you. (Isaiah 60:2)
We have been called to be the light of this world during this age. But remember that, like the moon, you have no ability to shine in and of yourself. It all depends on how much of your life is turned and open to the light of the Lord. John expressed it like this:
John 1:4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
The light depends on the life just as the light of the moon depends on the light of the sun.
So don’t be an eclipse but like God’s little creature, the moth, be attracted and drawn to the light.
We still use ‘light’ and ‘dark’ regarding understanding in our every day speech. You may say ‘Argh, Iain, I was wondering if you’ve got that $150 you owe me?’ ‘Ummm, $150? Sorry I’m a bit in the dark... what $150 is that?’ ‘Well, it’s the $150 I lent you yesterday!’ ‘Oh, that $150! Thank you for shedding some light on that. Yeah, naaa I don’t have it!’ ↩
If we were going to state this comparison further, we could say that natural man is like cockroaches that run for the nearest place of darkness when the light is switched on! ↩