Week 25 The Story
The Light of Life
In John 7 Jesus says “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow within him.” He deliberately chose that moment of silence between the shout of the crowd to the priest and the chanting of the sound of the Hallel chorus, to hold his pitcher higher. In John 8:12-20 Christ is again in control. To appreciate the drama and significance of our Lord’s words we need to get a feel for the passage.
There were two great ceremonies during the Feast of Tabernacles. One was the pouring out of water. The other was called the Illumination of the temple; it too took place in the treasury at the beginning of the feast. It was a specular celebration. In the center of the treasury four great torches were set up. Some accounts say that the torches were as high as the highest wall of the temple and at the top of these golden candelabra were great bowls holding sixty-five liters of oil. When these wicks were lit the great flames that leapt out of these torches illumined the whole temple and much of Jerusalem. It was spectacular!
It was an exotic festival celebrating the great pillar of fire that led the people of Israel during their sojourn in the wilderness. It was in this place, no doubt with the charred torches still in place that Jesus chose to raise his voice above the crowd and proclaim, “I am the light of life.” There would scarcely be a more dramatic way to announce one of the supreme realities of Jesus’ existence. What a way to focus people’s attention on one of the truths they needed to understand!
How can we receive the light, the light of Christ, into our lives?
The great torches symbolized the Shekinah (dwelling of God among men) glory. Christ was saying in effect, “Do you remember the pillar of fire that came between you and the Egyptians near the Red Sea, the pillar that protected you and led you on your wanderings in the wilderness? I am the Light of the world. I am identified with that Shekinah glory.” What a statement! At the very least Jesus was claiming to be God. His conscious identification with the pillar of fire reveals something about his incarnation. Within the cloud that led Israel through the wilderness, there was always a heart of fire that shone forth at night but was sheathed by day. When our Lord came, he sheathed his glory in flesh so we could look upon him. Time and again God is called light in the Old Testament. Almost the last verse in the Old Testament (Malachi 4:2) says in regard to Jesus: “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in his wings.”
When Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms in the temple he sang: “because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Luke 1:78-79).
And John said, “we have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son” (1:14). I believe John was referring, at least in part, to the Transfiguration, when he was taken along with Peter and James to a high mountain and Christ was transfigured before them. Our Lord’s face shone forth as the sun.
Jesus, in John 8, was not only saying he is the light of the world, but that the benefits and comforts that came with the cloud in the wilderness came from him. What a precious, wonderful truth! He is saying, “I was the One who protected you. I guided you through the wilderness. It was I who enveloped the tabernacle. It was I who came into the temple of Solomon and filled it with such glory that the priests could not serve. I am the Shekinah glory.” Such was the claim he made for himself.
Living in this dark world, we need to keep this supreme claim before us. Jesus is the light in every way. He is the answer. Some of us may be stumbling along, wondering what life is all about. We may feel barely able to take another step. We are confused. Christ says to us, “I am the light of life.”
Christ also makes a claim for those who follow him, “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness” (v. 12).
The Israelites in the desert kept their attention on the cloud. They watched its configuration to see when and where it would move. At night they walked in its light. No matter how dark the night, when they were under the luminous cloud there was no stumbling, no confusion, no fear. Jesus provides similar benefits for those of us who know him, for we have the light of life. Therefore we can have courage though dwelling in a dark world.
The whole phrase from verse 12 gives us even more hope: “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” “Have” in the last phrase is a beautiful word. Christ was saying that not only do we have light coming into us, but there is a sense in which we become shafts of the Lord’s light. How beautiful and wondrous!
The light shining in our lives is Christ’s light. What a privilege! Ephesians 5:8 says, “For you were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” We share the very light that Jesus Christ displayed. We are “the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14). Paul told the Philippian Christians that the world is dark, “in which you shine like stars in the universe” (Philippians 2:15). We “have the light of life.”
Scripture suggests another wonder in this regard as well. Jesus, at the end of the Mystery Parables, states in Matthew 13:43, “The righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” C.S. Lewis once noted that the heavens only reflect or suggest the glory of God, but we share the glory of God with Christ. We will be more glorious than the heavens! In The Weight of Glory Lewis says:
Nature is mortal. We shall outlive her. When all the suns and nebulae
have passed away, each one of you will still be alive. Nature is only the
image, the symbol, but it is a symbol Scripture invites me to use. We are
summoned to pass through nature beyond her to the splendor with she
fully reflects. (p. 13)
I believe that with all my heart. I do not understand it, but I believe there is a glory awaiting every Christian that involves, in some way, shining forth. I do not know if we will be 100 watts or 200, 300, or 1,000! We might be like fireflies. But somehow we are going to enter into the fame and approval of God, and we will be glorious beings far beyond all imagination. “We know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (I John 3:2). John, speaking in the final chapter of the book of Revelation wrote:
“There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp
or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they
will reign for ever and ever” (22:5).
Not only is the light upon us, but we have the light. What a blessing! We are given light to illume our steps as we walk through this life. And the light comes into us so it can go out to others, making us to be light and life to them. What wonderful truths!
As believers, how do we continue to walk in the light? Simply by looking upward and walking continually with him. We want the light of life. We do not want to stumble as we walk through life. We want the light flowing out of us to others. We want to participate in the final glory that awaits us, whatever it may be. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Do you have this light? Are you enjoying the peace, the joy, the comfort that came from the cloud?