I imagine that most, if not all of us, have been in a tunnel. What’s the best thing about a tunnel? It’s the light at the end of it, right? And the best thing about a cloudy day is when the sun peeks through those clouds and often spreads a rainbow across the sky. Most of us enjoy the light and prefer it over the darkness. This earth would be a cold, dark, lifeless planet if there were no sun in the sky to give it light. In John 8:12, Jesus makes a statement about Himself, and He couldn’t have picked a more appropriate setting to make His announcement.
I. THE SETTING (verse 20)
Before we examine His announcement, let’s first skip down to verse 20 for a moment in order to learn the location of Jesus and to find out what is happening around Him. The apostle John writes, “These words He [Jesus] spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple.” This treasury was located in the Court of the Women. Thirteen treasure chests were there for the various kinds of offerings. This was a very busy place, with a constant flow of worshippers coming in and going out. The Mishnah, which is a lengthy Jewish commentary on the Law of Moses, states that, on every night of the Feast of Tabernacles, the Court of the Women was to be brilliantly lit up. Historians tell us that four large candelabra burned brightly in the temple area to commemorate the pillar of fire which led the Israelites through the wilderness.
II. JESUS’ DECLARATION (verse 12)
It’s in this setting that Jesus declares loudly, “I am the light of the world.” Another event may have been happening outside the temple at that very same moment. John 8:2 says that it was early in the morning when Christ came to the temple. He may have made that claim just as the sun was rising that morning. The Courtyard of the Women was an open courtyard so the brightness of the sun, dispelling the darkness, would have been observed and welcomed by all who were there. When Jesus shouted out His claim at that moment, He was comparing Himself to the rising sun. This would have caused the people to think that Jesus was once again claiming to be God. For the Jew, the sun was the symbol of Jehovah God. Psalm 84:11 says, “For the Lord our God is a sun and shield.” This planet of ours has only one sun and it is the source of our light. The word “light” is an Old Testament image for the Messiah. Isaiah 9:2 says, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in the dark land, the light will shine on them.”
The Lord Jesus not only said that He was the light but “the light of the world.” He and His light were not just for the Jews only. It’s interesting that the Court of the Women, where Jesus is speaking, is the only court in the temple that was designed with large openings or windows so that the light could be seen outside by people in many parts of the city of Jerusalem, I wonder if that thought came to the minds of some of the people who were there and heard Jesus make that claim.
Jesus goes on to say, “he who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life.” He’s drawing the attention of the people back to the image of the pillar of fire. In the exodus from Egypt, God didn’t put the pillar of fire in the sky as something for the people of Israel to look at and admire. It was a light to lead them through the wilderness to the promised land. Jesus is saying that He is the light who leads them out of the darkness of sin to a relationship with Himself.
In Benjamin Franklin’s day, the streets of Philadelphia were dark after sunset. Night time pedestrians had to walk cautiously to avoid rocks and holes. Franklin decided to set a good example for his fellow citizens by placing a lantern outside his home. As people stumbled down his street at night, they would come to that oasis of light and realize what a blessing it was. Soon other Philadelphians were setting out their own lanterns. After sunset, the whole village became a place of illumined safety. In a spiritual sense, this world of ours can also be a very dark place. Have you found that to be true at times? There is a need for the Light to guide our way.
III. THE RESPONSE (verse 13)
As expected, the Pharisees make their reply and give their judgment. Verse 13 says, “The Pharisees therefore said to Him, ‘You are bearing witness to yourself. Your witness is not true’.” Their reference is to Deuteronomy 19:15 and they are using it out of context. That verse says, “A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.” The rest of that chapter refers to witnesses in a criminal case. Two or three witnesses are required in court to settle a dispute or pass judgment on a crime. That command was expressed earlier by God in Deuteronomy 17:6, which says, “On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness.” That law didn’t apply in this situation. The Pharisees were either unfamiliar with that law or were purposely making up their own rules of evidence in order to gain the approval of the crowd.in the temple.
IV. JESUS’ FIRST REPLY — I AM MY OWN WITNESS (verses 14-15)
Rather than point out their mistake, the Lord Jesus responds to their objection. He begins by saying, “Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true; for I know where I came from and where I am going; but do not know where I come from, or where I am going.” He’s telling them that He has the authority and qualifications to talk about Himself whereas they do not. If they had recognized the true identity of Jesus, they wouldn’t have made that statement. They asked the question because they refused to acknowledge His true identity. Did the Old Testament prophets need witnesses to confirm that they were prophets? No. Their words and their actions were proof enough. Does light need a witness that it exists? No. Light provides its own witness as we see it and feel the warmth of it. In this verse, Jesus has stated His credentials. A famous surgeon doesn’t need witnesses to testify to his competence every time he performs a surgery. A well-known and respected judge doesn’t need witnesses to affirm his ability to judge a case in court. The skills of these two professionals speak for themselves; they are a matter of public record. Jesus is telling these Pharisees to come out of the darkness of their unbelief and into the light of reality, and then examine His credentials clearly and thoroughly.
In verse 15, the Lord Jesus makes a charge against them when He says, “You people judge according to the flesh; I am not judging anyone.” He’s comparing their attitude and their perspective to His own. They make their judgments based upon externals, relying upon their own human knowledge and personal biases. Rather than judging on the basis of God’s Word, which reveals the thoughts and intents of the heart, they want to make their own rules and exalt themselves in the process of enforcing them. Jesus, on the other hand, is not judging anyone. His purpose for coming to this earth was not judgment but salvation (John 3:17-17; 12:47). We have already seen that purpose exemplified in Jesus’ response to the woman in John 8:1-12. He said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go your way. From now on sin no more.”
V. JESUS’ SECOND REPLY — THE FATHER IS ALSO MY WITNESS (verses 16-18)
CONSTRUCTION SITE: a work-in-progress
Welcome to this recently-opened construction project: John 8:12-20. Now that you know the location, you are welcome to join in on the work right along with me. There’s always a need for more construction workers, and working in God’s Word is a labor of love.