Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
Jesus said “I am the light of the world.” This is the second of Jesus’ seven metaphorical “I AM” statements contained in the Gospel of John. The first was “I Am the Bread of Life” (John 6:20). The phrase “I Am” is from the Greek words ego eimi. This particular phrase is found 23 times in the Gospel of John (John 4:26; 6:20, 35, 41, 48, 51; 8:12, 18, 24, 28, 58; 10:7, 9, 11, 14; 11:25; 13:19; 14:6; 15:1, 5; 18:5, 6, 8). It refers the reader back to Exodus 3:14 and is an explicit statement by Jesus that He is God. It is also here, as in John 6, that Jesus will join His “I Am” statement with a metaphor, or a comparison, which expresses His redeeming relationship to the fallen world.
It is important not to forget the immediate grammatical context in which we find John 8:12. We have noted that John 7:53–8:11 was more than likely not originally found in the location where it appears in most of our English translations of the Gospel of John. That additionally means that John 8:12–20 may occur right after John 7:52.
The importance of this observation is that Jesus’ “light of the world” discourse would have occurred at the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles. During the seven day festival, except for the last day, the great candelabras in the temple were lit, resulting in much rejoicing under their light.
Dr. R. C. Sproul explains that this information, “gives us additional background for today’s passage, which records words that Jesus would have spoken on either the last day of the Feast of Booths or shortly thereafter. By proclaiming Himself the light of the world, Jesus was announcing that He fulfills the Feast of Booths. He is the light under whom people can rejoice truly, the presence of God who guided the people of Israel in the wilderness, the journey that the festival commemorated (Ex. 13:21; Lev. 23:33–43).
What does the word “light” biblically mean? The word “light” appears in the Old Testament as representing several different things. It is a metaphor for the salvation that the Lord provides to His people (Psalm 27:1). It also symbolizes the guidance the law of God offers (Psalm 119:105). Isaiah 42:5–9 uses light as a representation of Israel and, preeminently, the Servant of Israel, who are given to the nations for the sake of blessing.
All of these Old Testament usages for the word “light” are fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Therefore, as the light of the world, Jesus Christ is the only source of salvation, the only true guidance for His covenant people, and the only source of blessing to the fallen world.
John Calvin comments that, “It is a beautiful commendation of Christ, when He is called the light of the world; for since we are all blind by nature, a remedy is offered by which we may be freed and rescued from darkness and made partakers of the true light. Nor is it only to one person or to another that this benefit is offered, for Christ declares that He is the light of the whole world; for by this universal statement He intended to remove the distinction, not only between Jews and Gentiles, but between the learned and ignorant, between persons of distinction and the common people.”
I’m sure you remember these familiar words. Reflect on their truths, especially your former blindness and your need for the light which only Jesus brings.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see.
Soli deo Gloria!