“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.” The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.” Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two men is valid. I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.” Then they asked him, “Where is your father?” “You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” He spoke these words while teaching in the temple area near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his time had not yet come. Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.” This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?” But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” “Who are you?” they asked. “Just what I have been claiming all along,” Jesus replied. “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is reliable, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.” They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him. To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” (John 8:12–31, NIV)
As we read this account, the words of Jesus are familiar to us but likely do not have the same gravity as they would have in the context in which they were spoken. On the first night of Tabernacles and apparently on each night of the feast except on Sabbath, the worshipers awaited the signal of the special lighting of the festive golden lamps in the court of women. The lamps were intended to remind worshipers of God’s leading the people of Israel through the wilderness at night by a pillar of fire. The lighting of lamps also signaled Israel’s recommitment to the God of light, and it was accompanied by festive music of the Levites and special dancing by chosen men of piety.
It is within this context that Jesus speaks to the crowd and announces, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
OK…you tell me! Does he have your attention?
I suspect that all of the people (and if we were there, that would include us as well), have their eyes fixed on Jesus. And you don’t just hear His words…He is speaking to a need inside your heart. In the midst of the water ceremony, He says, “If you are thirsty, come to me and you will never thirst again.” And now, in the midst of the lighting ceremony, He says, “If you want to find your way to God, follow me. I am the way. You will never walk in darkness again.”
These are people who have come to worship God. Some have traveled hundreds of miles on foot. They are thirsty to know God. Their heart longs to be satisfied in Him. But they have done this ritual year after year and they still haven’t found what they are looking for.
And now Jesus stands before them and announces, “I am what you are looking for.” As a gentle, yet clear invitation, he calls on those who are searching to find their way to follow Him in faith. And on that day, many chose to take that step of faith.
But yet there were others who stood in opposition - those who had satisfied their thirst for God with religious routine. Those who did not need to know the way because they had created their own path to God…or so they thought. They did not hear the words of Jesus because they had convinced themselves, they did not need the words of Jesus. And until a person recognizes that they are lost, they will not accept the invitation to follow someone who says they know the way.
Consider today how you approach God. Have you created your own path to spiritual satisfaction or do all roads lead to Jesus?
Now be honest! The best way to answer this question is to examine your life. How do you begin your day? Do you start by centering your heart on God and His truth or do you fall out of bed thinking about the things you need to get done that day? Once your day is started, do you look to see where God is at work or does your work keep you from seeing God? When you close out your day, do you thank God for His faithful provision or are you anxious about tomorrow and what the day will bring?
Remember, Jesus is the light of the world. When we follow Him, we will never walk in darkness. Sometimes His light at our feet only reveals the next step or two. But choosing to walk without Him will always lead us into a path of destruction. Follow the Light.