I Am the Light of the World
“I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
This is a beautiful verse on its own. It brings joy and peace to your heart. You might assume that the light Jesus said here is the glory of God. I know I’ve thought that. I picture His light to be blinding, like that of the sun. But could it mean something else as well?
Let’s look at the text in John 8 just before Jesus said this, “I Am,” phrase, starting at verse 2.
“At dawn he went to the temple again, and all the people were coming to him. He sat down and began to teach them.
3 Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, making her stand in the center. 4 ‘Teacher,’ they said to him, ‘this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. 5 In the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?’ 6 They asked this to trap him, in order that they might have evidence to accuse him.
Jesus stooped down and started writing on the ground with his finger. 7 When they persisted in questioning him, he stood up and said to them, ‘The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.’ 8 Then he stooped down again and continued writing on the ground. 9 When they heard this, they left one by one, starting with the older men. Only he was left, with the woman in the center. 10 When Jesus stood up, he said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’
11 ‘No one, Lord,’ she answered.
‘Neither do I condemn you,’ said Jesus. ‘Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.’
Jesus spoke to them again: ‘I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.’
Jesus was teaching in the temple complex when the religious leaders brought this woman to Him.
They tried to accuse and condemn two people here – the woman and Jesus. They didn’t really care about the woman. They wanted to take Jesus down because He spoke the real truth, God’s word, not man’s traditions that the religious leaders held everyone in contempt with.
If Jesus told them to stone the woman for committing adultery, the accusers would call Him a hypocrite because Jesus taught that the Law was about to be fulfilled and a new one would come. So, they would have said He believed in the Law and not the one He spoke of. If He didn’t condemn the woman, they would blame Him for being an enemy of God and a promoter of sin. They thought they had Him either way.
Jesus was patient in responding, taking time to write something in the dirt. This made the leaders angrier and they became even more persistent in finding His answer.
It is not written what Jesus wrote in the dirt. Some think it is the sins these leaders had committed. It could have been that, the laws about adultery, or the various sins within the law. Each leader, beginning with the oldest and most respected, started shamefully retreating after Jesus spoke to them. Though they were witnesses of this woman’s adultery, none were able to cast the first stone. Perhaps they were adulterers themselves and the things written in the ground were the names of the women they had slept with.
Either way, Jesus brought truth to light and made the accusers flee from Him. The only one in the case left was the woman. Though Jesus had every right to cast the first stone, being pure and holy Himself, He had compassion on her instead and freed her from her sin, with a warning to stop sinning. He saw her softened and ashamed heart and led her to repentance and restoration, whereas, the leaders left in their sin. An interesting twist in outcome.
Unhindered by this event, Jesus continued to teach all those who remained declaring Himself as the light of the world.
How does this statement fit with this event, or with the conversation that took place afterwards? Jesus continued to call Himself, “I Am,” to the people in the crowd and the other Pharisees stating He was not from this world, but from another one. He didn’t speak by Himself, but from the Father. Confusing words to those who didn’t know Him, yet life-giving to those who did or were searching, as many came to Christ that day.
This reveals that the light Jesus describes is His truth. God’s light brings truth to the darkness.
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light— 9 for the fruit of the light consists of all goodness, righteousness, and truth— 10 testing what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Don’t participate in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what is done by them in secret. 13 Everything exposed by the light is made visible, 14 for what makes everything visible is light. Therefore it is said:
Get up, sleeper, and rise up from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:8-14
This woman’s sin done in darkness was brought to light. The sins of the religious leaders condemning her were brought to light, because Jesus is light and truth. By His very nature, He exposes them. The difference of outcome depended on their hearts. The woman remained instead of trying to run away with the rest of them. She acknowledged and confronted her sin before Jesus. He forgave her and restored her because of it, warning her to, “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” However, the religious leaders remained condemned because instead of confessing and repenting of their sins, they turned from Jesus and left.
Nothing is hidden from God’s sight. He is light and truth. He exposes all that is done in the darkness. Nothing is too dark for Him.
“Where can I go to escape your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
9 If I fly on the wings of the dawn
and settle down on the western horizon,
10 even there your hand will lead me;
your right hand will hold on to me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me,
and the light around me will be night”—
12 even the darkness is not dark to you.
The night shines like the day;
darkness and light are alike to you.” Psalm 139:7-12
To those living in the practice of sin, this passage is heavy. You feel the weight of truth and judgement bearing down on you. However, to those who live in Christ and understand the gift of His salvation, freeing you from the weight of sin and death, this passage offers hope and comfort. You are never out of God’s sight. He is your, “ever-present help in time of need.” Psalm 46:10. He is there with you always. He is your protector and shield. Death isn’t too dark or far from Him. Night doesn’t hide anything from Him. You can’t go anywhere in the world where He doesn’t see you or go with you. This is an amazingly beautiful thought and the difference between light and darkness, truth and evil.
If you are a child of God and are feeling heavy reading these passages, perhaps God is convicting you of sin. Ask Him to expose it to you, and then confess and repent of it before Him. Stop sinning and choose to be in right relationship with the Lord. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, offering His gift of salvation, you can have peace that you will be set free from it. Jesus’ gift wasn’t just an entrance into eternity with Him. It is a constant intercession and atonement for you, before God. You are set free every single moment of your life both now and forever. But the closer you draw near to Jesus, the less you should desire sin. The Spirit will convict you of it, never condemn. Condemnation is for those, like the religious leaders, who chose not to believe in Jesus and continue in their sin.
One day, God’s truth and glory will join together and shine brighter than the sun we see now, because no darkness or evil will dim it in our sight.
“The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because the glory of God illuminates it, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.” Revelation 21:23-24
There is coming a day when evil will be cast out. As a Christian, you will join with God and all His family in His new Kingdom. Sun and moon will be no more. Death and darkness will be no more. You’ll live in the eternal light of Christ, comforted and enlightened by His truth and glory for all of eternity. Oh, what love and grace He gives!