The Explanation of Light
Tim Temple


Turn in your Bibles to John, chapter 8, where we move into the second part of that chapter. We want to look at verses 12-20. It is an interesting point of human nature how much we take for granted in the world around us. There are many important things that we take for granted every day. In our normal activities, we take for granted the fact that we have a job, the fact that we have a sufficient supply of food and water. Here in the United States we take for granted clean water that other parts of the world really can't take for granted. We never stop and think about those things.

In a general sense, we take for granted the autonomic nervous system—the fact that our heart keeps beating and our lungs keep operating and those kinds of things that our body does without our giving any conscious thought to it. We take those things for granted and never give any thought to it until an emergency comes along and slows it down or puts a stop to it. We take for granted the rotation and speed of the earth that keeps us able to stand on a sphere that rotates. Those things we just take for granted all the time.

More to the point of this passage, another thing that we take for granted is light. Light is a tremendously important factor in our daily lives. If we stop and think, we will realize light is essential for life, not just for the plants, but for human beings as well. In fact, psychologists have recently discovered that absence of light has a direct bearing on depression or the lack of depression. Light certainly determines how well we function as we try to move around inside an enclosed building or in the nighttime. It determines how well we can see to read and write in the daytime. Light is an important part of our everyday lives.

The reason that I bring that up is that light is the theme of John, chapter 8. The verses that we come to in this study find Jesus describing Himself as the Light of the world. Look at verse 12:

John 8

12Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

To get this verse in its context, remember the overview of the chapter. First, in verses 1-11, we find the exposure to Light. Then in verses 12-20, we want to see in this lesson the explanation of Light. In verses 20-29, there is the examination of the Light, and in verses 30-47, there is the extension of the Light—Jesus extending Himself to anyone who would accept Him. Then in verses 48-59, we see the exit of the Light, not the extinguishing of the Light, but the exit of the Light—the fact that Jesus left those people. He removed Himself from the presence of those people who would not accept His clear teaching of the truth. We will see when we get to those verses that a principle of God's work among human beings is that to resist and reject that which He clearly offers to us at some point can result in that offer being removed.

In our last lesson, we looked at the exposure to the light, when the Pharisees and an adulterous woman both experienced the light of Christ's divine wisdom shined into their lives. As we come to verse 12, we find an explanation of that light that Jesus shined. Jesus knew the hearts of every man in that group that day, and He knew the heart of that woman. He knew that they were all sinners, and all of that was the revelation of the light that is Jesus Christ. The beginning of the explanation of light is the promise that Jesus makes in verse 12. Let's look at that again:

The Light of the World

John 8

12Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

The Light of life. Obviously Jesus isn't talking about physical light. He is talking about the spiritual light of understanding, the spiritual light of discernment. It is the spiritual light that truth brings into our lives. Before we look at that, the first part of the explanation that we need to look at is that this is another of the several places where Jesus uses the Old Testament name of God, I Am . This is the name, of course, that God gave Moses when Moses demanded a name that he could give to the Israelites when he went back and told them he was going to lead them out of their slavery. Moses said, “When they ask me who sent me, what shall I say?” God said, in Exodus, chapter 3, verse 14, “I Am hath sent me unto you.”

Of course, that name is the all inclusive name for God. It speaks of the fact that He is everything that anyone would ever need. He has always been that, and He always will continue to be that. Jesus, on several occasions, uses that Old Testament term, and He applies it to various illustrations from life. When you come right down to it, we don't really have a whole lot of information in the Bible about God Himself. From various things that are mentioned, we can put together the fact the He is omniscient—He knows everything. He is omnipotent—He is all powerful. We know that because He created all things. He is omnipresent—everywhere present. We know that He is eternal. These things we pick up from passages that really teach us some other kinds of information, but one of the purposes in Christ's coming to earth was to show God to us.

We have seen that one of the ways He does that is by comparing Himself to various things with which we are familiar. One of the main places that we have that recorded is in the Gospel of John. We saw back in chapter 6 that He said, “I am the Bread of Life.” In chapter 7, He said, “I am the Water of life.” He did not say it in exactly those words, but He said, “Anyone who thirsts come to Me, and I will give water that will be springing up as a fountain within.”

Here in chapter 8, verse 12, He says, “I am the Light of the world.” As we look at those passages where He uses those terms to describe Himself, and as we think about them with the help of the Holy Spirit, we see that all of those things tell us a little bit more about what God is like and what He does for us. When He made these comparisons, Jesus always said, “I Am.” In the first eleven verses, He demonstrated that Light, and now He is going to explain it.

J. Vernon McGee says that when you turn on the light, all of the rats, the bats and the bedbugs crawl away. That is what we saw in those first eleven verses. The light of Christ's presence and the light of Christ's knowledge of those men and that woman and their sin exposed them for what they were. All of those hypocritical leaders, under that brilliance of the light of Christ's knowledge, fled the scene and left only that sinful woman there, and Christ forgave her and told her to leave her sin and go her way.

This is the highest claim that Jesus has made thus far in the Gospel of John, when He says, “I am the Light of the world.” The reason that I say that is that back in chapter 1 of John, the Holy Spirit inspired John to use that terminology to describe the Son of God Himself. Probably some of the men who were standing there with Jesus that day when He spoke these words in the temple right after the Feast of Tabernacles understood what John had said about the Light of the world. They had understood that concept of the Son of God, the Messiah—whatever His name would be—being the Light of the world. So Jesus is clearly identifying Himself as the One of whom John wrote in the first chapter, the One Who was Light and Who came into the world and the darkness did not overcome Him.

Physical light is one of the most complicated things that we know anything about. It is something that our human minds can't fully comprehend. Scientists are not sure whether light is the absence of darkness or whether darkness is the absence of light. In some ways, light acts like sound waves, and in other ways, it acts like particles of matter. In fact, scientists and inventors, acting on both of those definitions, have been able to make remarkable inventions and discoveries that use light as a foundation for their function.

With the development of the ability to focus light beams very intently, as a laser beam, light has come into a whole other realm of uses that had never been used before. We identify the term laser with laser surgery, and we identify it with something as diverse from that as being used to read a compact disk to produce very clear, high quality sound, and now to produce information from a compact disk for computer users. All of that is a part of the use of light. So it is a tremendous matter that we have in this, God's provision of light.

It is no wonder that Jesus would use that to give a description of Himself as God to His hearers. It is much more apt than those people living in that civilization could ever have imagined, and who knows what more we will discover about light before our lives are over or before we all stand in Heaven. Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world.”

Reflected Light of God

Another interesting thing to think about in thinking of God as Light is that most of the world today is content to walk only in the reflected light of God. Everything that is good socially, morally, and politically today is a reflection of the light of Jesus in human affairs. Did you ever stop to think about that? The fact that we have hospitals, the fact that we have charitable organizations, the fact that we have even things like welfare and labor unions are the reflected light descended many steps from the truth that Jesus taught when He was on earth and from the truth of God's Word in the Old Testament. The matter of loving our neighbor and taking care of his needs—all of those things have filtered down from the principles of God's Word, from the efforts of people to do the things that are in the Word of God whether they realize that that is what they are trying to do or not. Those things, I say, are the reflected light of the principles of the Word of God and the teachings of Jesus.

Charles Darwin, on his deathbed, said, “Even the atheist, as his shipwrecked craft drifts toward the native isle, hopes the missionary has beat him there.” Everything that is good and everything that is moral and everything that is right comes from God and is a result of human beings having been taught the principles of the Word of God somewhere along the line.

I was out walking early this morning and the moon was brilliant. I was thinking about this matter of light, and it was interesting to think about how much light there is from the moon when it is a full moon. Since I walk in that same area nearly every day, I was fascinated with how much better I could see things at that hour of the morning than I can see things when the moon is not full.

We look around us in our world today and we think of all the enlightenment, all of the intellectual attainment, and all of the advancement of our society. Well, let me tell you something. Our society is only walking in the moonlight. Our world today is only walking in the moonlight as compared to the brilliance of the sun in obedience to God. The fact that our nation cut God out of our national affairs is the reason we are only walking in the moonlight.

I am not sure how much longer the moonlight is going to last. For the most part, we are simply living on the second and third and fourth hand leftovers of our godly forefathers who established the institutions of our nation that have enabled us to become the great nation that we are and to enjoy the great benefits and privileges that we have and that enabled our forefathers to find this abundant land, in the first place. We are walking in the moonlight by and large, and what you and I need to do is to come back to the light of Christ and not be satisfied with the moonlight, but walk in fellowship with Him and know the light that He produces in our lives.

Christ's promise is that in contrast to walking in the moonlight, the reflected light, the second and third hand light of the Son Himself, those who follow Him will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life. Remember that this teaching by Jesus was taking place the next day after the Feast of Tabernacles. We saw in chapter 7 that He spoke several times during that eight day feast, and then the feast ended. Chapter 8 began the next day when Jesus came to the temple and continued teaching the people.

The Feast of Tabernacles would have still been fresh on the people's minds. In fact, probably some of the people who were hearing what Jesus said in chapter 8 had stayed over in Jerusalem after the feast to hear Him teach before they went back to their homes in the surrounding countryside. The people who lived in Jerusalem would have no doubt remembered the feast. The Feast of Tabernacles commemorated Israel's forty years in the wilderness when they lived in tents or tabernacles and moved around in the wilderness and were led by the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud.

The Bible is Our Light

We talked about that feast when we were looking at chapter 7. Part of that feast was a torchlight parade every night, that reminded them of the pillar of fire that had led them during those years. This was probably what Jesus had in mind when He referred to Himself as the Light of the world. That was fresh in the thinking of those people and no doubt fresh in His mind and so He used that as an illustration. It is a picture of how God still leads today. Psalm 119, verse 105, says:

Psalm 119

105Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Jesus Christ was the Light of the world. When He was physically present here, the teaching that He did illuminated the hearts and minds of His hearers and brought many of them to faith in Him. But just as Jesus was the physical Light of the world when He was on earth, the written Word of God is our light today. “Thy Word is a light unto my path.” The Word of God is where we get all the information that we have about Jesus in the first place.

The Psalmist says in another place, “Thy Word is exalted above thy very name.” That is an interesting statement. The Word of God is more important in God's estimation of things than even the name of God itself. How could that be? Well, it is because if we didn't have the Word of God, we wouldn't know the name of God in the first place. The Word of God contains all of the information that we have about God. The only place that God has truly revealed Himself is in the Bible, the written Word of God. That is the light that God gives to us in this day, so we are not at a disadvantage over those people who lived when Jesus was on earth.

In some ways we have an advantage over them, because we can go to the Word of God any time that we want to. Those people had to make sure that they were somewhere in the immediate vicinity of the person of Jesus Christ. In this nation, we probably have several copies of the Bible in most homes, and it is hard to imagine that there are very many people in the United States who do not have access to a copy of the Scriptures. That is not true in a large part of the rest of the world, but we have the Light of God readily available to us any time we want it. As we walk in obedience to His Word, His promise at the end of verse 12 is fulfilled. We will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life.

Of course, it should go without saying that when I talk about walking in the light of His Word, I am talking about obedience to His Word. The principles of God's Word bring light into our lives if we obey them and if we apply them to our lives and if we take those instructions as meaning this is for me. Even for some of us who have known the Lord for a long time, it is easy to take those things for granted and to forget to realize that God means those things as His instructions for us. They are not just an exercise in religion. They are not just suggestions that good people might want to keep in mind. They are instructions for us individually as we move through the events of our lives, making decisions about this or about that. That is what it means to walk in the Light. We are to apply the principles of His Word to our lives.

The Pharisees Protest

We have been talking about the promise that Jesus made, the promise that as we obey His teachings and as we obey the principles of His Word, we will have the Light of life—all that light suggests on the basis of what we have been talking about. We will have that kind of fulfilling life from Jesus Christ. But in verse 13, we find the protest that the Pharisees made. We would expect them to find something to protest about, and sure enough they do. They said, in verse 13:

John 8

13The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true.

If you are not familiar with the Old Testament, that may sound like nonsense. “You bear witness of yourself, therefore your witness is not true.” This objection was based on an Old Testament principle which said that any acquisition or promise that was made had to have two witnesses in order to be accepted as valid. Deuteronomy, chapter 17, verse 6, states that law. In a court of law, no one can be convicted without the witness of at least two other people. If there was an oath taken, there had to be at least two witnesses to the oath, so it is not as senseless as it seems. The Pharisees, in effect, are saying, “You are making a promise, but you don't have any witnesses. You are just one man; therefore, your promise is not true.”

Of course, they are misapplying the principle. The principle didn't mean that one witness alone would never tell the truth. It didn't mean that if someone didn't have witnesses, he wasn't telling the truth. What that law meant was that there had to be two witnesses for it to be accepted as evidence. So the fact that Jesus was speaking all by Himself didn't mean that He wasn't telling the truth; it simply meant that it couldn't be entered as evidence in a court of law. It couldn't be accepted as part of the contract. That is how desperate these men were for finding some complaint against Jesus.

Jesus' Purpose

Jesus touches on that misapplication as He gives the principle behind His statement in verses 14-18. In these verses, He is going to give three reasons His testimony is true, three reasons we can really believe that Jesus Christ is the Light of life. First, in verse 14, He says we can believe because of His purpose. Notice verse 14:

John 8

14Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go.

Jesus was the most self-assured human being Who ever lived. Jesus had the best self-image, the best self-concept—all those terms that are being thrown around in Christianity today—of anybody who ever lived, and here is the reason: He knew where He came from and where He was going. You know, there are very few human beings who really know that about themselves. Did you know that? Jesus knew that His life didn't begin when He was born in Bethlehem. Jesus knew, as God, that He had always existed with the Father. Not only that, He knew where He was going. He knew that He was going back to the Father, and in knowing that, He sets Himself apart from every other human being, technically speaking.

We don't know where we came from except by faith in what our parents have told us. We know the birth process. We understand that, but we don't know, except for the record of what other people have said, who our parents really are. We don't know, except for the evidence of God's Word, where we are really going. We accept those things by faith, and we have a certain level of human confidence in where we came from and where we are going, but it is all by faith. Jesus knew of Himself where He came from and where He was going. He didn't have to have any written evidence of it. He didn't have to have any birth certificates or promises from the Word of God in order to know that. He knew solidly, as no one else has ever known, where He came from and where He was going.

By faith, we can know those same things, but only by faith. The sad part is that there are many people who don't even know that by faith. Jesus knew His own parameters because He was God. He knew that He was the Light of the world because He knew where He came from and where He was going. That is the first reason. His whole purpose was to bring the Light of life into the world.

Jesus' Perspective

The second reason that Jesus' witness about being the Light of the world was true was because of His perspective. Verse 15 is a short little verse, but notice what it says:

John 8

15Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man.

Any judgment that you and I make is according to the flesh. In other words, our knowledge is limited because as human beings we do not have the ability to know all the facts about any given situation. We may know all of the physical facts, but as the Scripture tells us, “No man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man that is in him.” Even though we may have a certain set of physical facts, we cannot know for certain what the mental aspect of those facts is. We can't really know what a person's motive is or the presence or absence of motive or the presence or absence of malice or hatred or any of those kinds of things that are part of the spirit of man, to use the Bible's terminology.

We do not have the ability to make accurate judgments, because we judge according to the flesh. That is the reason that in real trials, we have the reasonable doubt concept. To convict a person of murder, their guilt has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. That goes back to those godly forefathers who understood this biblical principle that men can only judge according to the flesh. If you are going to put a person to death (or as it has filtered down to our society, put a person in prison for life and free them in two or three years), you have to allow for reasonable doubt, because we cannot know all of the facts. There is no possibility of a human being understanding all of the facts.

Let me digress here and say that that applies to a great many more things than court trials. That is the basis behind which Jesus said that we are not to judge other people. Jesus did not mean that we should never make a decision. The Scripture tells us very clearly what to do if someone is in sin. If someone sins against us, we are to go to him personally. If a person is overtaken in a fault, we who are spiritual are to restore such a one.

Lots of statements like that in the Scripture tell us that we are to make discernments about people who are in sin, but a judgment is when you decide this person did this and this person did it for this reason. In the first place, many times we do not know for sure that that person did that because of our flesh. We don't have the ability to know for sure that that person is the one who did what was done, but even when we do know that that person did that, we don't know the motive. We can guess as to the motive. We cannot make a judgment about the motive. That is the kind of thing that Jesus was talking about when He said not to make judgments about people and about their motives or about their mental conditions or the state of their hearts.

All of that is wrapped up in what Jesus says here, in verse 15: “You judge according to the flesh.” He says to these Pharisees, “You don't know whether I am the Light of the world or not. You don't have the capacity in and of yourselves to make a judgment about whether I am the Light of the world. You have to accept that by faith from Me.”

In the last part of the verse, He says, “I judge no one.” In the light of the context, we have to assume that what He meant was, “I judge no one on that basis.” His perspective was not limited to the flesh. We know that Jesus judged people. Jesus made decisions about people, but the difference was that Jesus was not limited to the flesh. Even though Jesus was a human being, He also was God, and that combination is so hard for us to understand how He could be fully God and fully man. When He spoke in the person of God, as He is in this passage, He was saying as God that He could make judgments because He was not limited to the flesh like human beings are. That is the second reason His promise is valid. He was speaking as God, and He was not making a judgment on the basis of the flesh.

Jesus' Personal Witness

The third reason that His promise is valid is in verses 16-18, and that is His personal witness. It turns out Jesus did have a witness after all. He says, in verse 16:

John 8

16And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me.
17It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true.
18I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me.

Jesus knew exactly where they were coming from when they said that His witness wasn't true. He knew the Old Testament better than they did, and He uses that very doctrine to prove that His witness is true because He has His second witness, who He says is His Father. Of course, He is speaking about God the Father. It is possible that some of these very men had heard the voice of God the Father when Jesus was baptized, saying, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” We don't know how many other people heard that besides Jesus, or if anybody else heard it, but it is possible that others did hear it. It is possible, therefore, that some of these had heard it. It is possible that they had at least heard about it. They had perhaps heard about a second witness, so it should be obvious Who His Father was that He was talking about. If they were willing to accept by faith that God was His Father and that that was the voice of God, He obviously had a second witness to His promise.

The Presumption of Guilt

Those three reasons negate their objections, but the Pharisees won't let it alone, and so, in verses 19-20, the Pharisees speak again. This time they reveal their presumption of guilt. Notice:

John 8

19Then said they unto him, Where is thy Father?…

That little line is full of meaning that we have to know a little bit about the New Testament to understand. Most of us, if not all of us, have enough general knowledge about the New Testament to remember that Jesus was considered an illegitimate son of Mary and Joseph. It wasn't definite in the minds of the people that Joseph was the father. But, even if he was, it was a scandalous kind of thing. So, these Pharisees, even though it sounds like a simple statement to us, are being as unkind and as unjust as men can be. Remember, these were the religious leaders of Israel, and they say the most impolite, the most unkind thing, that they could have said. “Where is your father?” What they are saying is, “You are an illegitimate child. What do you mean talking about having a father? Who do you think you are?”

Joseph was apparently dead by this time. We don't hear any more about him by the time Jesus is an adult. “Where is your father?” Can you imagine if you knew that a child was from illegitimate parents—as I have said before, there are no illegitimate children, there are only illegitimate parents—how cruel would it be to ask that child, “Where is your father?” What a cutting thing to say to somebody, and that is what they did here. Here was Jesus, teaching great spiritual truths, and the best they can do is come back at Him with a cut like this.

The Only Way to the Father is Through the Son

Jesus answered, in the middle of verse 19:

John 8

19…Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.

John 8

20[The conversation ends there, and then John adds this footnote] These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come.

Verse 19 is another of those statements that the only way to the Father is through knowing the Son. And, you know, that is still true today. Do you know why there are so many misconceptions about God, why there are so many different groups and denominations and cults and religions in the world today? It is not because all these sincere people are trying to reach out and find God. Our enlightened society tells us today that God is within them after all, and society tells us that everybody has their own concept of God, and all of it will come together someday. As long as a person is sincere, he can have any god that he wants to. The reason all of that mishmash is being spread around the world is that people are not willing to accept Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and you cannot know God except through the Son of God.

That is the reason for all the confusion that we have in the world today about religious things, about religion and about God. You cannot know the Father without knowing the Son, and this is one of the several places that Jesus says that.

You would think that a statement like that would be so shocking to these religious leaders, who were already out to get Him, that they would have attacked Him, but verse 20 points out that they didn't. Why was that? “Because His hour had not yet come.”

This part of the chapter closes on this very important note. The reason that verse 20 is important is that it reminds us once again how important the death of Christ on the Cross was to God the Father. You see, Jesus didn't come just to die for our sins. Jesus came to die for our sins, but He came to die on the Cross. He came to die in the way that prophecy had specified He would come. He did not come to die at the hands of Satan, and all through His life, Satan made attempts to kill Him. We could have said correctly that Jesus came to earth and that He died, if He had died at the hands of Satan, and it would have done no good for us. Jesus did not come to die at the hands of the Pharisees. Jesus did not come to die at the hands of the Romans. Jesus came to die on a Cross. The Jews and the Romans all figured into that, but Jesus had to die in the exact way that God the Father had provided He would die, else it was useless. God had to continually preserve the human life of Jesus Christ until the fullness of time had come that He could die in the exact time and the exact way that God the Father had specified before the world began.

Verse 20 doesn't sound like a very inspiring verse. I have never heard anybody claim that as their life verse, but it is an extremely important verse, because it shows the intricacy of the plan of God—that God even protected the Lord Jesus in instances like this in His life that were potential threats to His life and kept Him from being attacked by these men who were angry enough to have already set out a program to kill Him.

As we wrap this up, let me just point out that the Pharisees in this passage demonstrate the difference between trying to come to God on our own basis and coming to God on His basis. When a person tries to come to God on their own basis, they wind up not knowing the Father or the Son. Let me tell you, those people who claim to know God without knowing Jesus Christ, those religions that leave Jesus Christ out of the picture, don't have anything. They don't have a knowledge of God, because they do not have a knowledge of the Son of God. They talk a good game, and they have a huge system, most of them. They have a lot of money and a lot of adherents, but they don't know God, because they do not know the Son of God.

The Pharisees are the clearest picture that we have of that truth. They had their own system for knowing God, but because they were not willing to include Jesus in that system, they wound up losing everything. Instead of having the Light of life, with all the spiritual and emotional well-being that that provides, they were full of bitterness, hatred, and frustration. But, that is the pattern of life for those that don't know the Light of life, or more sadly, it is the pattern for those who may know the Light of life, but who don't walk in the Light as He is in the light.


I am convinced that the most miserable people in the world today and the saddest spectacle in the world today are those who know Jesus Christ as Savior, but who don't walk in the light that He so freely gives. What a tragedy that there are people like that in the world today. It is a tragedy that there are people like these Pharisees and like others who try to come to God without coming through Jesus Christ. That is a tragedy, but in my mind, to a great extent, it is even sadder that people like ourselves who have the truth of God available to us don't walk in that light.

Are you in that category? Don't make that mistake. There are so many people who don't have the advantages that you have, who are far from God. There is no reason for you who know Christ as Savior to have that emptiness, that hollowness, that lack of fulfillment, that frustration, because you know Him Who is the Light of life. John was later to write, “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and with God Himself.”

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