“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…I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.’” (John 8:12; 12:46)
Light is a powerful symbol of wisdom, truth, and righteousness while its opposite, darkness, is a good metaphor for foolishness, deceit, and sin. Jesus does not say that he is “like” light, as a metaphor, but said he is light. In Jesus’s time, the light came by the sun, moon, and stars, or by fire. Today, in most places in the world, we have electricity, providing us with artificial light when it is dark outside. We don’t even think of it as artificial because we take it for granted that every room has a light switch and that the darkness will vanish when we flip the switch. But people living in the country, the bush, or cities in developing countries know how precious light is when the electric grid is off, and there is no generator to furnish man-made light. It’s very dark when the moon is dim.
Lighting a candle, turning on a flashlight, or lighting a kerosene lantern will immediately vanquish the blackness. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5) Jesus is not just light, he is the light of the world, the light of life. When he walked on this earth, Christ shone his light for men to follow just as God appeared in a cloud and pillar of fire to guide the Israelites (Exodus 13:21-22). God also protected his people from the dangerous Egyptians and provided warmth for Israel. But most importantly, God used the cloud and pillar of fire to let the Israelites know that he was with them; they were not alone in the wilderness.
Perhaps we wonder how more than a million people can think they are alone. The truth is that having others physically close frequently makes us feel even lonelier than if we are by ourselves. Superficial human contact does not comfort our souls as the presence of God does; it is like being in a dimly lit room when we need bright light to read the fine print. Jesus is the light that comforts us, guides us, protects us, and warms us. He comforts us with his righteous presence, love, forgiveness, and victorious conquest over Satan and sin. Christ guides us in a fallen world with his Word, uniting our minds and hearts to his, to live by faith and not by sight. He shines his light into our hearts to expose our sin, confess, and receive his forgiveness and power to repent. Jesus protects us from the many temptations that prey upon our desires and the dangers of the world—all the hidden, subtle snares we don’t see in the darkness. Finally, he warms us with his mercies, by his indwelling Spirit when the world treats us coldly, without compassion, as we witness for him.
When Jesus was crucified, the skies darkened and the light went out from the world because our sin was laid on him who died for us. His disciples were forlorn, thinking that he was gone forever. Now his light is in Christians; we are called to shine his light in the world. John calls us to account: “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:6-7)
Are you walking in the light of Christ?