The Light of the World (John 8:12-19)

Jesus spoke to the Pharisees again. “I am the light of the world,” he said. “Whoever follows me will have the light of life and will never walk in darkness.”

The Pharisees said to him, “Now you are testifying on your own behalf; what you say proves nothing.”

“No,” Jesus answered, “even though I do testify on my own behalf, what I say is true, because I know where I came from and where I am going. You do not know where I came from or where I am going. You make judgments in a purely human way; I pass judgment on no one. But if I were to do so, my judgment would be true, because I am not alone in this; the Father who sent me is with me. It is written in your Law that when two witnesses agree, what they say is true. I testify on my own behalf, and the Father who sent me also testifies on my behalf.”

 “Where is your father?” they asked him.

“You know neither me nor my Father,” Jesus answered. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” (Good News Translation)

Light has many uses and a lot of facets to it. The sun’s light gives life; without it we wouldn’t survive. In the form of a fixture or flashlight, it illumines the way so that we can function. The gift of light allows us not to remain in darkness.

The Son, Jesus, is also the Light which gives life. Throughout Holy Scripture, light represents awareness and deliverance; it represents God’s ability to guide us and save us. Jesus helps us find our way in this world.

The Apostle John talked a great deal about light in his Gospel and Epistles:

The Word was the source of life, and this life brought light to people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out. (John 1:4-5, GNT)

Jesus said, “The light will be among you a little longer. Continue on your way while you have the light, so that the darkness will not come upon you; for the one who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. (John 12:35, GNT)

Now the message that we have heard from his Son and announce is this: God is light, and there is no darkness at all in him. If then, we say that we have fellowship with him, yet at the same time live in the darkness, we are lying both in our words and in our actions. But if we live in the light—just as he is in the light—then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from every sin. (1 John 1:5-7, GNT)

Light is life, and Jesus, as the Light of the World, is eternal life.

As our Light and our Life, Jesus fulfills the prophetic role, as described by the prophet Isaiah:

“I, the Lord, have called you and given you power
    to see that justice is done on earth.
Through you I will make a covenant with all peoples;
    through you I will bring light to the nations.” (Isaiah 42:6, GNT)

As people of the Light, we are to let that light shine in the darkness so that others can also find direction and deliverance:

“You are like light for the whole world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead it is put on the lampstand, where it gives light for everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16, GNT)

Not everyone, of course, buys into this distinctively Christian way of seeing things – which is why it’s important for all Christians and Churches everywhere to be characterized by the Light and not by the darkness.

Humanity is a strange alchemy of both light and dark, hopefulness and hopelessness, awareness and ignorance, love and hate. We must acknowledge the light, bring it out, let it shine. Hiding the light only gives the dark forces of this world an opportunity to grip people in the shadows of guilt and shame.

Light must be respected. Long exposure to the sun brings a nasty sunburn to the skin. Being drawn to the fire’s light will also get you burnt if you get too close. And some light masquerades as good when it really isn’t.

False apostles lie about their work and disguise themselves to look like real apostles of Christ. Well, no wonder! Even Satan can disguise himself to look like an angel of light! So it is no great thing if his servants disguise themselves to look like servants of righteousness. In the end they will get exactly what their actions deserve. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15, GNT)

The deception typically happens whenever one lacks awareness of their own light, or forgotten, like a misplaced sock under the bed. Then, there’s no means by which to discern the bogus righteousness.

There are many ways of becoming more self-aware and recognizing the light of Christ, such as:

  • Keep a daily journal. Answer for yourself questions like, “What did you do well today?” “What didn’t go so well?” “Why?” and “How will you be and do things differently next time?”

“If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.” Lord Byron (1788-1824)

  • Debrief with others about your experiences. Merely interrogating yourself all the time leads to twisted thinking.

“We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.” John Dewey (1859-1952)

  • Fight evil. Read books. Meditatively read Scripture. Reading not only helps one to become more knowledgeable and well-rounded, but it also builds empathy and emotional intelligence.

“To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting.” Edmund Burke (1729-1797)

  • Practice gratitude. Giving thanks illumines the path. A critical spirit makes others small and limits your own spiritual eyesight. So, be gracious, all the time, every day, no matter what.

“Gratitude, like faith, is a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it grows.” Alan Cohen

O Lord, your Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Give us grace to receive your truth in faith and love, and strength to follow on the path you set before us; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

Make Room for Jesus (John 8:39-47)

Christ and Pharisee, by Russian painter Ivan Filichev, 1993

“Abraham is our father,” they [the religious leaders] answered.

“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the works of your own father.”

“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 

Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (New International Version)

Glass-half-full or glass-half-empty? I confess I really don’t like those binary categories for people. That’s because I believe it misses a very important aspect of being a human. What’s most necessary is to have glass-fully-empty people.

While the religious leaders of Christ’ day were debating the subject of whether Jesus is of God, or not, they failed to notice something significant about themselves:

Their glasses were so full that they had no room for Messiah, even when he was standing right in front of their faces.

You cannot be full of God and full of yourself at the same time.

Only an empty vessel can be filled. Half-full or half-empty people only end up being in conflict with each other. They cannot find any room for Jesus in their lives.

Jesus had been dealing with these sort of shenanigans even before he was born. His poor parents had a dickens of a time finding a place for him to be born. There was no room in the inn. All the places were full. God was about to break into the world, and everyone was scuttling about as glass-half-full and glass-half-empty people.

In his earthly ministry, the religious leaders viewed Jesus as a competitor, not a compatriot – pitting themselves in conflict with him, even to the extreme.

“You are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word.” (John 8:37, NIV)

Conflict is inevitable. Put a bunch of sinners together in one place, add a few grumpy curmudgeons, some know-it-alls, then fireworks happens. I’ve always thought that every human institution is about one or two knock-down drag-out fights away from being non-existent.

At the heart of all the conflict is either an inability or an unwillingness to make room for another’s point of view. Where there is no room for mystery, there’s no room for Jesus.

How many settled beliefs and behaviors do you have? So many that your head and hands have no room for Jesus to do the unexpected?

Are you full of thoughts, opinions, and convictions? So much so that your interpretation of everything leaves no room for the contrary, even if it comes from Jesus?

Here’s how we get full of ourselves:

  1. Desire arises within. Options are considered in meeting the want or need.
  2. Conflict enters because there are others with competing desires.
  3. Expectations are formed when the desire is unmet. 
  4. Demands are made because of missed expectations.
  5. Judgment is meted-out to those not complying to the demands.
  6. Separation occurs with the intent of hurting another through a withdrawal of relationship.

You end up not making room for the other in your heart and life. You don’t make room because you’re already full of yourself and don’t want to change.

We, however, are to make room for Jesus and others because Jesus made room for us and expects us to do so for others.

My Father’s house has room to spare. (John 14:2, CEB)

Make room in your hearts for us. (2 Corinthians 7:2, NRSV)

Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. (Colossians 3:16, MSG)

Finding true and lasting satisfaction in Jesus as the Way is how to realize forgiveness, peace, and reconciliation. There is room at the foot of Christ’s cross for both me and you.

There’s Room at the Cross for You, by Billy Gaines

The cross upon which Jesus died
Is a shelter in which we can hide
And its grace so free is sufficient for me
And deep is its fountain as wide as the sea.

There’s room at the cross for you
There’s room at the cross for you
Though millions have come, there’s still room for one
Yes there’s room at the cross for you.

Though millions have found him a friend
And have turned from the sins they have sinned
The Savior still waits to open the gates
And welcome a sinner before it’s too late.

The hand of my Savior is strong
And the love of my Savior is long
Through sunshine or rain, through loss or in gain,
The blood flows from Calvary to cleanse every stain.