The Light of the World (John 8:12-20)
By Andrew E. Courtis
The hypocritical religious leaders had condemned (for their selfish purposes) the adulterous woman. Why? They loved darkness rather than the light. Earlier in this gospel account we read,
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God” (John 3:17-21).
There is an obvious difference between light and darkness. These two terms serve as meaningful metaphors of the differing conditions of a believer and unbeliever.
Everybody outside of Christ is in spiritual darkness. This explains why you can find the most reasonable and rational individual, who has a great upbringing and education, and then suddenly, when it comes to the truth of the gospel, they reject it. Their condition of darkness blinds them to the light of the gospel.
It is amazing that as the world advances in new scientific discoveries and breakthroughs, mankind left to himself is still in moral darkness. There is only one way in which the darkness of man’s soul can be removed. It is not through behaviour modification, outward religion, or education. The only way is by the power of salvation.
As sad and depressing as all this sounds, it is important to note that it wasn’t always this way. When the Lord created Adam, his soul was not darkened. This meant that his reason and conscience were both sensitive to the truth of God’s Word. However, at the moment his choice to resist temptation was overcome, his soul became darkened. He died spiritually. It was at that precise moment, that by virtue of his headship, all mankind that would follow would be born in darkness. The only hope of lost sinners is the Light of the world.
John Bunyan, who is known for his classic “Pilgrim Progress”, also wrote another amazing allegory called “The Holy War”. In this book, he describes a city called “Mansoul”. This city was beautiful and bears the image of her Creator – Shaddai. However, Mansoul was deceived and then rebelled against her Creator. Her loyalty was now directed toward Diablos. Under his corrupt rule, the bright shinning light of Mansoul became darkened. This city was now a corrupt city. However, by Shaddai’s grace, He sends His Son Emmanuel to recover and redeem this city.
This is what brings us to John 8:12. In this verse we see the second of the seven “I am” statements in the gospel of John. Here Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (8:12). To follow Christ means to entrust yourself to Him completely. It is to come to the point where you acknowledge that you are sinner, and that your only hope is found in the Lord Jesus Christ.
After Jesus has revealed that He alone is the life giving light, the Pharisees respond in such a way that unmasks the reality of their darkened souls. This passage gives us an insight into the dark and devastating reality of every unbeliever.
Sermon Summary: After Jesus reveals that He alone is the life giving light, He unmasks two devastating realities of every darkened soul
1. THE IGNORANCE OF A DARKENED SOUL (8:13-18)
In response to the powerful claim of Jesus Christ (8:12), the Pharisees object by arguing that His claim is not valid. They said, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true” (8:13). They were right in their first statement but wrong in their second. By avoiding the truth Jesus just announced, they are trying to silence Him by saying that His message is not credible.
As bold as this statement was by the Pharisees, it actually unmasks the fact that their darkened soul is ignorant. They think that Jesus is speaking with independent authority – just another person claiming that his teaching is right. However, this assessment is ignorant of who Jesus truly is. His primary witness is the Father (5:32, 37, cf. 1 John 5:9). The Father provides testimony by means of three witnesses. The witnesses specified in this passage bear testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ’s true identity and therefore expose the guilt of those who reject Him. This is no ordinary line up of witnesses – these are authoritative witnesses.
Ignoring the witness of John the Baptist, the miracles and the Scriptures as seen in John 5, our Lord replies to their ignorance by saying, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going” (8:14). Regardless of what they say, the reality was they “do not know”. They are ignorant of the truth. Not because of a lack of education or intelligence, but because their souls are darkened.
In verses 15-18, Jesus then unmasks the ignorance of their darkened souls.
Their darkened soul is ignorant because its ability to assess a matter is according to the flesh. Jesus said, “You judge according to the flesh” (8:15). That is to say, you judge according to human standards. DA Carson notes, “they are resorting to the criteria of flesh, of fallen mankind in a fallen world, without the compelling control of the Spirit” (339).
Jesus adds, “I judge no one”. When it comes to assessing the character of a person or the validity of one’s claims, Jesus does not judge in the same manner as the Pharisees. His judgment is not clouded by the ignorance of a darkened soul. This was demonstrated in an amazing way in the previous passage (7:53-8:11).
Instead, when Jesus does provide an assessment of an individual or situation, His judgment is right. He said, “Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me” (8:16).
Jesus agrees that the law calls for multiple witnesses to validate a claim (8:17), by saying, “I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me” (8:18).
What do these verses teach us? A darkened soul’s rejection of Jesus Christ is simply a display of spiritual ignorance. You can be cultured or educated, but if you are not following Christ, you are walking in darkness. It does not matter how sincere you are or how well off you are in material possessions. A darkened soul is an ignorant soul.
2. THE INABILITY OF A DARKENED SOUL (8:19)
After unmasking their ignorance, Jesus now responds to their question. They asked, “Where is your Father?” This question shows their inability to grasp the fact that Jesus is the Son of God and by rejecting Him, they are rejecting the Father. Notice how Jesus responds, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also”.
Here Jesus reveals to them that they were unable know in a personal way God the Father. Why? Because they were unable to grasp the fact that Jesus is who He says He is.
A darkened soul is unable to see and submit to the truth because it is blinded by the darkness. What is the cause of this darkening? As stated at the beginning of this message, the reality of sin is the ultimate cause. As a result, those who are in darkness remain in darkness by the blinding of Satan – “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4) – and by their love of sin, “the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (John 3:19). This rejection continues today, and only the Lord can open the blind eyes of sinners.
As we bring this message to a conclusion, notice the comment John adds,
“These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come” (8:20). The “treasury” was a part of the temple area where offerings were brought. This treasury was located in the Court of the Women.
Nothing could derail the mission of Jesus Christ.After considering the helpless condition of those lost in darkness, this passage teaches is that only Jesus Christ can provide the light that leads to life because He is “the light of the world”.
The sad reality is that for all who reject the glorious light of the gospel of Jesus Christ, they will find themselves cast into the darkness of judgment for all eternity. The Bible speaks of only two destinies for humanity – Heaven and Hell. Hell is given many names in the Scriptures. Among the many names it is called “outer darkness” (Matt. 22:13). It is a sad condition to live one’s life in spiritual darkness, however it will be devastating beyond any description to spend eternity in the horror of eternal darkness in Hell.
But the good news is that it does not have to be this way. Jesus said to a world in darkness, “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). Come to Christ and follow Him, and you will have eternal life.