‘I am the light’
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer
Background text: John 1:3-5, 10-13
Devotional text: John 8:12
During this time of Lent, I have been focusing on the “I Am” statements made by Jesus in the gospel of John. This week, I am continuing with his statement found in John 8:12: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
We will discover the importance of this statement, both for the people living at the time of Jesus as well as for believers today. First, it’s helpful to go back to John 1:1-5. In this chapter, the Apostle John referred to Jesus as the “Word.” From verse 1 to verse 5, John wrote to the new believers that “the Word was with God, and the Word was God, he was with God in the beginning.”
Verses 4 and 5 continue, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it … ”
Returning to chapter 8:12, we find Jesus speaking to the Jewish people in the temple. The spot where he is found speaking to them also becomes significant. You see, it was in a part of the temple known as the treasury.
This was the place for offerings to be left. It was also illuminated by candles that symbolized the pillar of fire that led the Israelites out of Egypt. The pillar of fire, as the candles in the treasury, represented the presence of God’s protection and guidance.
Jesus, and all those around him, knew the significance of this candlelight. And so, when Jesus stated, “I am the light of the world,” his meaning was evident. He was saying that he was (and is) the living God; and the people could believe in his protection and guidance (as we do today).
Returning to the early chapter of John, we find in 1:6-9 a definition of John the Baptist as a “witness to the light.” He was not the coming light but had been called to give witness “to the coming light,” and he clarified that light as Jesus, “the true light coming into the world,” and “it is the true light, light that gives light to every person.”
What are we to do with these words? Jesus brought the light of God into the world when he was made flesh and lived upon the earth. If he gives the same light to believers, does that mean we also have the light of Christ within us?
We do carry his light within our hearts, and, like John the Baptist, we are witnesses. John came to bear witness to the truth of the coming Messiah. Christians today bear witness to the love and grace of God given to all who do believe that Jesus has saved us.
Having God’s light means we no longer seek to live in darkness (that is, in the sinful nature), but in the righteousness of Jesus. Does that mean we are now perfect and make no mistakes? No, it does not. No one is perfect; we all make mistakes. We all are tempted and have desires that are not good for us.
What it means is that we lean toward doing the good. We want to do what is right. We no longer are blinded by the darkness of living sinfully. We know the light of Christ, which brings light to the darkness, shows us it is not good or healthy to continue living in ways that harm us and replaces those ways with the desire to follow the goodness of Christ.
It’s helpful for us to understand the difference between the darkness and the light as written in the Bible. I have chosen two of many scriptures which help us to understand this difference.
In John 3:19-21, he has written: “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 his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so it may be seen plainly… ”
In Ephesians 5:8-21, Paul wrote, “For you were once darkness, but now are light … The fruit of the light consists of goodness, righteousness and truth … Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them … ”
These scriptures go on to tell us that it is “shameful” things that are done in secret. Instead, as Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus, he encouraged them to live wise and not foolishly, to stay away from things like drunkenness and immorality.
Instead, his words from verses 19 to 20 tell us to “be filled with the Spirit, speak with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs … always give thanks to God the Father for everything.”
The fruits of the Spirit — all those good things we should live by and take into our lives — are found in Galatians 5:22: “love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control.” As believers, we can call on God to help us with these fruits anytime and in any circumstance.
To sum up today’s hope we find in the light of the Lord, we see that the light is the clear and true light that comes from God. There is no darkness in the light of the Lord because it makes visible all things, including those things that are done in secret and hidden in the darkness.
God’s light shines a beacon on the evil of the world so no one can hide. When we believe in Christ, we are witnesses to his goodness and his light reflects off our being. We do not become perfect human beings, doing no wrong. However, with Christ with us, we seek to do what is good, and our desires draw toward the will of God as we leave the not good things of our past behind us.
Believing in Christ grows faith within us, helping us to turn from former evil ways and things that are bad for us and helping us to do good. Belief in Christ takes us from our sinful nature and shows us a whole new life based on righteousness, peace and kindness.
This is the new life we find in Christ, a life in which God wants us to prosper and not be harmed, a life of hope and a future.