Like Jesus, we live in a world that is content to remain in the darkness of sin, ignorant of the freedom they can have in Him, the Light of the World. What are we doing to let His light shine forth brightly in this needy world?
I have read that around a million people lose their eyesight—become blind—every year. Imagine almost 3,000 people a day losing their ability to see.
But let me tell you, there is a blindness far worse than the loss of physical sight. Today in our study in John 8, we are going to meet a group of people who choose to remain spiritually blind.
Jesus is in Jerusalem, attending the Feast of Tabernacles. Every morning during this festival, the high priest performed a ritual with great ceremony. He would walk to the pool of Siloam and fill a golden pitcher with water; then he would walk back to the temple and pour it next to the brazen altar. The people referred to this water as the water of salvation.
We have already noted back in John 7 that this ceremony gave Jesus the opportunity to offer this wonderful invitation:
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (verses 37-38)
The people did not need a ceremony—they needed a Savior. And that is certainly just as true today.
Now there was a second ceremony during this festival that was called the “Illumination of the Temple.” This took place in the treasury, also known as the Court of Women. In the center of that massive courtyard, four great candelabra were standing. Each of them stood some seventy-five feet high. And on the first evening of the Feast of Tabernacles, these four candelabra were lit, and it was said they gave light throughout Jerusalem. This ceremony reminded the people of the pillar of fire that led their forefathers though the wilderness.
Well now, in John 8, the festival has ended. In fact, those candelabra have just been extinguished. And Jesus, we are told later in verse 20, is in this very courtyard when He speaks again to the crowd and says in verse 12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
In other words, He is saying, “You can’t extinguish the light that I have to give. My light isn’t temporary; it will give you sight—it will illuminate you with the truth that leads to everlasting life.”
And with that the Lord offers a challenge to follow Him; and Jesus says that those who do follow Him “will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” But the sad truth is that many people do not want to be exposed by the light of truth; they want to stay in the darkness.
One winter a man in our church gave us a truckload of white oak, already cut for firewood. We laid a couple of two-by-fours down to serve as a foundation to keep the firewood dry. Then we stacked the wood in rows on top.
The following spring, the firewood was just about all used up, and I was cleaning that area. I pulled up one of those two-by-fours, and immediately the ground underneath seemed to come alive with movement. There were all kinds of big bugs and little bugs, all scurrying around, trying to find cover. They had been exposed by the light of day and wanted nothing to do with it.
When Jesus came into Jerusalem and pulled up those rotten boards of empty religious ceremony, the Pharisees and scribes hated Jesus all the more for disturbing their darkness. And that fits Jesus’ prediction here that His light—His truth—will cause two kinds of reactions. People who love the darkness of sin are going to scurry for cover. But some people, by the grace of God, will have their sin exposed by the light of truth and choose the forgiveness that Christ offers.
Now with that, Jesus makes some amazing claims. In verse 23, He claims to have come directly from heaven. He says to these religious leaders, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.”
Then He adds another astonishing claim—that He is God in the flesh. He says in verse 24, “Unless you believe that I am he [this “he” is a reference to God] you will die in your sins.” He then claims to fulfill the sign of the brazen serpent back in the days of Moses, as He says in verse 28, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he.” This, of course, is a reference to His coming crucifixion.
Jesus then makes the claim that He sets people free: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (verses 31-32).
Some of the people make the claim that as children of Abraham, they do not need to be set free—they are not slaves, in other words. Jesus responds in verse 34, saying that everyone who sins is a “slave to sin.” Sin comes equipped with shackles and chains. Jesus goes on to point out that they are indeed sinners in need of being set free by His light—His saving truth.
The Lord then makes a very serious statement about them. These religious leaders proudly claim to be Abraham’s children. Abraham is their father, so to speak. Well, the Lord knows that is true genetically, but not spiritually. Jesus says that they are not true children of Abraham because they do not possess Abraham’s faith. In fact, Jesus reminds them that they want to kill him, and all He has done is tell them the truth.
Then He makes this bold statement in verse 44:
“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.”
Essentially, He’s saying, “You think your father is Abraham? Well, the truth is, your father is the devil. You are doing his will, and you are blindly following his lies. You are spiritually related, not to Abraham, but to Satan.” You can imagine how that goes over. They are infuriated.
But Jesus adds even more fuel to their fury by stating in verse 56, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” In other words, “Abraham already knows who I am, and he couldn’t be happier about me.” And before the religious leaders can even figure out how to respond to this, Jesus adds another shocking claim in verse 58: “Before Abraham was, I am.”
Just listen to the staggering claims in this chapter. Jesus says He is the Light of the World; He came from heaven; He is God, He can free people from sin; He existed before Abraham.
People today who think Jesus was just a good man evidently have not read John 8. Jesus is a bold-faced liar if these staggering claims are not true. But if they are true—and they are—Jesus is much more than a good man.
Do these religious leaders understand Jesus’ claims? They sure do. Verse 59 says, “They picked up stones to throw at him.” They are going to try to stone Him to death for claiming to be eternal God. But it is not time for Jesus to die. We are told that He “hid himself and went out of the temple.”
These people did not just pick up stones; they chose to stay spiritually blind. Let me tell you, blindness happens to be the condition of our world. Satan has blinded the minds of those who do not believe. Our role, beloved, is not to water down the claims of Christ but to allow the Light of the World to shine through us into this dark world that desperately needs to be set free.