We have some Lord of the Rings fans in the room.
There is a powerful scene when Frodo and Samwise are at Mt. Mordor. Frodo has been overpowered by the darkness. Sam is desperate to help his friend.
“Mr. Frodo. Look,” he says. “There is light and beauty up there that no shadow can touch.”
There is light and beauty up there that no shadow can touch.
The imagery of light plays a powerful role in Tolkien’s novels. Light has a universal appeal.
This morning our text is John 8:12.
Light of the World
Light reveals. It warms. Guides. Protects. Adorns. Cheers.
Old Testament prophecies used the imagery of light to describe the Messiah and the day of his coming.
The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?
But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays.
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
The coming of the Messiah will be like the breaking dawn after a long, dark and weary night.
The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.
For centuries, the imagination of the Jewish people had been shaped by the imagery of light. In the time of Jesus, the Jewish conception of light took on two primary characteristics: light brought knowledge and purity. (Darkness symbolized ignorance and evil.)
It is this theme that Jesus takes up when he reveals himself in John 8:12: I am the light of the world.
Jesus is light. He is knowledge. He is purity. He brings revelation, warmth, protection and guidance.
Notice the scope of his light: the world.
“I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.”
He is light – not only for the Jewish people, but for the world. He is not a national light or a local religious light, but a universal light.
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.
He is the true light. In his light there is truth that is universal.
He gives light to everyone. The greatest intellectual in the world and the simplest child can receive his light.
There are really only two ways you can respond to claims like this. Jesus does not say, “if you like what you hear, smash that subscribe button for more great content.” He says, follow me. I AM. Follow me.
You can reject Jesus or you can follow him.
The word means “Follow one who precedes, accompany”.
Jesus came to call followers.
Have you made a decision to follow him?
You may consider yourself a Christian, you have a Christian family and you may have grown up in church. But do you follow him?
If you follow Jesus you won’t walk in darkness. I find three specific applications of that point in the writings of John.
1. Jesus and you won’t stumble in the darkness.
9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”
Has anyone here ever stubbed your toe on the couch in the middle of the night?
There is a pain that comes from walking through your house in the dark.
There is a pain that comes from walking through life in the dark.
Not all who have sight can see what is in front of them.
Are you following Jesus in your marriage?
Are you following Jesus in your parenting?
Are you following Jesus in your finances?
Are you following Jesus in your life plan?
So often I talk to people who are hurting in life and I think, why don’t you try following Jesus?
We can follow family tradition, we can follow bloggers and podcasters, we can follow the crowd. Jesus says, follow me, and you will avoid the pain of stumbling in the darkness.
2. Follow Jesus and you won’t hide in shame and sin.
20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
John tells us there are two responses to the light: you can come out or shrink back.
We have a bathroom in our house that has a row of bright lights over the mirror. I don’t often use that mirror, but when I take a look at myself under those lights, I see things I didn’t know where there. I see hair in places hair doesn’t belong. I see things I don’t want to see. Because light reveals.
Jesus is like that.
Most of us don’t live fully in the light. We keep part of ourselves in the dark. We wear masks. We come to church and put on our church mask.
The problem with a mask is that people don’t know you, they know your mask. They don’t have a friendship with you, they have a friendship with your mask. That’s why we can be surrounded by people and feel alone.
5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 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, purifies us from all sin.
1 John 1:5-7
In Jesus, we can remove our masks and come out into the light, because he is full of truth and grace. There is mercy. There is love. He already knows what’s there under the mask. He already knows the depths of your heart. And he loves you.
To follow Jesus is to come out into the light. It can be terrifying. But the day you take off your mask is the day you begin to understand what grace really means. The day you take off your mask is the day you begin to taste how good freedom and authenticity feel. The day you take off your mask is the day you begin to experience the satisfaction of true relationship.
If we walk in the light, we have fellowship.
3. Follow Jesus and you won’t sit by while the world is in darkness.
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
I heard a story this week I want to pass on to you –
“The writer Robert Fulgham tells the story of one of his professors, a man named Alexander Papaderos, who once taught Fulgham a two-week course on Greek culture. Towards the end of the last session, his teacher opened the floor for questions. Fulgham boldly asked “Dr. Papaderos, what is the meaning of life. After a few moments Papaderos pulled his wallet from his pocket, removed a tiny, quarter-sized mirror, and replied:
When I was a small child, during the war, we were very poor and lived in a remote village. One day, on the road, I found the broken piece of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place.
I tried to find all the pieces and put them together, but it was not possible, so I kept only the largest piece. This one. And by scratching it on a stone, I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine-in deep holes and crevices and dark closets. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find.
I kept the little mirror, and as I went about my growing up, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game. As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not just a child’s game but a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of light. But light-truth, understanding, knowledge-is there, and it will only shine in many dark places if I reflect it.”
This is the heart of Jesus. This is the heart of everyone who follows Jesus.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.
Notice the contrast Jesus makes: whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.
Jesus is the light of life.
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
He is light, because he is life. His living essence is so vibrant, that light pours from his very being.
Life can’t be found anywhere else.
“I am abashed, solitary, helpless, surrounded by a beauty that can never belong to me. But this sadness generates within me an unspeakable reverence for the holiness of created things, for they are pure and perfect and they belong to God and they are mirrors of his beauty. He is mirrored in all things like sunlight in a clean water: But if I try to drink the light that is in the water I only shatter the reflection.” – Thomas Merton
Notice Jesus didn’t say whoever follows me will follow the light. That would be enough, wouldn’t it?
He said whoever follows me will have the light of life.
Have – a simple word. Have, hold, possess.
We have, we possess Jesus. We possess life. We possess light.
We carry it in us.
“There is light and beauty in here that no shadow can touch.”
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown