Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 August 14, 2016
“Jesus: The Light of the World”
Text: John 8:12
Many years ago, I was a high school varsity distance runner—cross-country in the fall, and distance events in track and field in the spring. It was a pleasurable season in my life—the pain notwithstanding—and I learned much from the experience. One thing I learned about night running, even though I loved it, especially during the warm seasons of the year, is that bad things can happen in the dark—especially to distance runners.
Every runner, especially those running in low light, needs to heed cars themselves. Beginning runners learn to run facing traffic when no sidewalk is present—in order that they may face the traffic closest to them. Alas, it is not only the cars that need heeding. Sometimes certain folks of the baser sort fling objects from their cars at the unsuspecting runner. I have been struck by an empty Fazoli’s paper drink cup at about thirty-five miles per hour—plus the seven and a half miles per hour at which I ran into it.
Also, in low light, the very terrain underfoot becomes a problem. The smart runners avoid cross-country, trail, and the like in the dark—but even on paved surfaces a runner must observe in dim-to-dark conditions things like potholes, low shoulders, and the like. Another chief concern of the road runner—during the day, to be sure, but especially at night, is the loose or wild animal that elects to set off in hot pursuit of said runner. I had many of these as well, but one such instance—on a seasonably cool, moonlit night in early January during my sophomore year of high school—stands out to this very day.
I planned an eight-mile out-and-back run from my parents’ house up Parkertown Road all the way to Hartwell Road in Lavonia and back. I crossed then-GA 366 (now GA 77) at the mile mark and set off in earnest to town. Three of my classmates lived on adjacent lots another quarter-to-half mile farther along. I approached the first classmate’s house when I heard the most terrifying sound I had encountered in my young running career to date. Out of the brush and field to my left bounded the biggest dog I had even seen.
I froze in my tracks and turned around slowly. The moonlight, from a moon nearly full, revealed what appeared to be a slobbering St. Bernard—who, though I knew it not at the time, belonged to my friend in that first house on the right. I, not knowing much about St. Bernards except what they allegedly do for stranded mountaineers in the Alps, figured the slobbering must mean rabid dog. I spoke very gently to the dog, and began to run again. The sound of the dog’s heavy nails on the tar-and-gravel pavement, and the sound of its heavy, lumbering, slobbery breathing reduced me again to a very nervous walk.
At the first house on the right the St. Bernard exited, and I submit to you that, had the state cross country meet been held that instant over two miles, I would have been the runaway champion. For the next two miles, to quote Waylon Jennings, I straightened the curves and flattened the hills. I ran uneventfully, yet easily, until I got back to the area where I saw the St. Bernard initially. I was nearing the seven-mile mark of my run. My eyes scanned the terrain as I reduced the pace slightly to pass the first classmate’s house, then the second, and at the edge of third classmate’s yard—the St. Bernard’s home—I hit the extended release jets and never let off the accelerator the final mile and a quarter between there and home. The dark can be filled with bad things for a distance runner.
It occurs to me, over the decades since that night—most of them lived in Christ—that bad things happen in the spiritual dark too. Evil lurks there, and evil occurs there. Dim vision and ignorance concerning the Lord, His ways, and His things occurs there too. The end result of remaining in the spiritual dark is, alas, eternity in the spiritual dark in that place of unending, conscious, personal torment reserved for the devil and his associates. We need a clear antidote for this condition. As you may expect, we find such an antidote in the Person of Jesus Christ. Let us look, then, unto Him Who is the light of the world—Him Who dispels the darkness without fail—the Lord Jesus Christ, in this portion of God’s Word.
(HEAR READ THE TEXT)
Jesus declared to His initial hearers, and declares to us today, “I am the light of the world….” We covered the exposition of I AM in greater detail last week than is possible this week, but suffice it to say that, when Jesus says, “I am the light of the world,” He both implicitly compares Himself to light (via a metaphor) and explicitly declares Himself to be God (cf. Exodus 3:14). Now let’s see more of Who He is and what He is like.
Jesus says that He is the light of the world. Isaiah, that evangelical prophet, prophesied concerning this some seven hundred years before Christ. Isaiah told of a great light to those walking in darkness (Isaiah 9:1). Later in that book, Isaiah prophesies concerning a suffering Servant, Whom we know to be Jesus, Who was made a light to the nations (Isaiah 49:6). Hence, God’s people may arise and shine, for their light has come (cf. Isaiah 60:1). Truly, light is inherent in our triune God—including Jesus, the Son. After all, God is light, and there is no darkness in Him (1 John 1:5), and—as John earlier declares in his Gospel—Jesus, the fulfillment of copious prophecy, is the true light coming into the world (John 1:9).
Moreover, Jesus, the light of the world, dispels the darkness. When John says, in John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness overcame it not,” one may also translate, “…and the darkness understood it not.” This is an expression with multiple layers of meaning; John, through the Spirit, is fond of these. Jesus, being the light of the world, also draws people to Himself. Just as light draws naturally, so also it does supernaturally. Jesus’ life is the light of men (John 1:4). Yea, His life is the light of the world, as our text declares today.
Jesus is the light of the world—and as such, He shines. He shines into all creation. He shines into our present world system—a system estranged from and hostile to God, crooked and twisted indeed (cf. Philippians 2:15). Jesus shines also upon elect souls from every nation and people (Revelation 7:9)—and they respond in faith unto Him and continue in Him by His grace. Just as a bit of light can dispel total darkness from a surprisingly wide area, much more widely and intensely does Jesus, Who has inestimable glory, shine upon our world today.
Jesus, the light of the world, utters precious promises in today’s verse. The one following Him will not walk in darkness. The Greek text has two negative words before the verb. A double negative is a usage error in English, but in Greek the effect is emphasis. In our case, we may translate, “The one following Me surely will not walk in the darkness.” That is to say that the disciple—the student-follower of Jesus—surely shan’t walk in ignorance of Him and His things. Nor shall the healthy Christian disciple walk in willful, habitual disobedience toward His written Word. The present-day ministry of the Holy Spirit will effect these works in the growing Christian disciple.
The one following Jesus not only will avoid walking in darkness, but he or she will have the light of life. As noted earlier, Jesus’ life is the light of men; hence, Jesus Himself, the living Word, is made real by the Holy Spirit. Additionally, Scripture, the written Word, is illumined by the Holy Spirit—and in the light of the Lord alone do we truly see light (Psalm 36:9). As was the case last week, so again is the case this week: the phrase translated from Greek as light of life may be translated as light of the life—abundant, eternal life in Christ.
Jesus, God incarnate, is the light of the world—hallelujah. Note that we, by extension, are the light of the world—as Jesus declares (Matthew 5:14). We are not the light of the world intrinsically, as Jesus is, but we are thus both derivatively and reflectively. Any apparent light in us derives from Him, and any apparent light on us is but a reflection of His unoriginated light.
Hence, because the Light of the World has shone upon us and drawn us savingly to Himself, let us shine as stars in the universe (Philippians 2:15), holding forth the Word of life—both living and written, as noted above. Let us also recall that in His light alone shall we see light (Psalm 36:9). This, then, is Jesus, the light of the world. Come to Him, and bask in His glory forever.