Listen: Christian Growth with Simon Manchester. (Airs 8am Sundays on Hope 103.2 & Inspire Digital.)
Simon Manchester presents a five-part series of messages exploring the bold claims of Jesus. This week, Part 1: The Claim to Light the World.
Part 1: The Claim to Light the World
We’re going to spend five Sundays – this is the first of the five – to look at this fairly confrontational conversation that Jesus has.
Because he begins by declaring himself to be the light of the world, and that splits the listeners.
I don’t know if you have this experience, but when I get up in the morning and it’s still dark and I go to the bathroom to shave and the light goes on, it’s an ugly sight. But of course you need the light because if there’s going to be an effective shave, there needs to be the light. But it’s a blessing and a curse, isn’t it? It’s a terrible thing to see and it’s an essential thing to have, and the light splits. And the conversation in John 8 splits. And we’re going to follow it for these [five] Sunday mornings.
It begins in verse 12, that’s where we’re beginning, Jesus speaking, saying, “I’m the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Implication: if you don’t follow him, you must stay in the dark.
I want to ask you whether you could really get a better offer than this. Of all the things that are being said to people today, could you get a better offer than somebody who’s qualified to say to people in the world, “You don’t need to be in the dark about God. You don’t need to be in the dark about yourself. You don’t need to be in the dark about the world. You don’t need to be in the dark about what life is for. You don’t need to be in the dark about the future. I’m the light of the world, you may have the light of life.”?
I saw a blind girl recently. I was in a public area not too long ago. She was standing there quite helpless with her long, white stick. And I went over and asked her if I could help her, and she said, “I’m meant to be meeting somebody in a queue at a cafe.” And I said, “Would you like me to lead you?” And she said, “Yes.” I said, “Would you like to take my arm?” She said her practiced line. She said, “I’ll take your elbow and I’ll give it back,” she said. And we walked to the queue and I left her, and I walked away and I thought to myself, “I am hugely advantaged over this girl to have eyes, physical eyes that see.”
Jesus says to everybody who is spiritually blind and eternally blind, “You may have the light of life.” He does not just say, “You may have some information.” He says, “I will give you a brand new life.” As if being given physical eyes you would then be able to see everything. By being given spiritual eyes, you’ll be able to see all that is important. And you’ll be able to understand God, yourself, the world, the purpose of life, the future properly.
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It is a great advantage to be a Christian. And in John chapter eight, Jesus offers again and again very, very wonderful things.
- He says in verse 12, “I’ll give you the light of life.”
- He says in verse 24, “I’ll help you escape the danger of your sins.”
- He says in verse 32, “I’ll give you the truth that set you free.”
- In verse 47 he says, “You’ll hear God’s message for yourself.”
- And in verse 51, “You’ll escape from death.”
Now, if you can beat that in John chapter eight, come and tell me afterwards.
And yet every single time he makes a generous offer, which he’s able to fulfil, back comes the hostility and the opposition. The offer is magnificent, the opposition is incredible, it’s resentful, it’s angry, it’s aggressive, it’s personal. And so I want, as we follow this chapter for these five Sunday mornings, I want us to see something of the greatness of the Lord Jesus. I really do hope you’ll go away and say how great he is. And I hope you’ll also go away and you’ll say, “If I’m going to follow in his footsteps, and if I’m going to be clear like him, and if I’m going to be loving like him, I must expect some opposition.”
Jesus’ Claims Aren’t Always Popular
Well, we see people who’re in very great darkness around us. We’ve had some this week in the news, haven’t we? Famous people knocking on various doors to try and find answers and nothing behind the doors. And here’s the Lord Jesus and he steps up and he says, “I’m the door which you can knock on and when you go through, you will find huge benefit.” And yet people say, “No, thank you. No, thank you. No, thank you.”
And the pressure is on of course for us individually and as a church to just drop the subject, just to live in our little box, keep everything to ourselves and if necessary, trim the subject. And just remove everything that’s unfriendly and just say all the things that are friendly, because people are telling us that religion causes trouble, although the fact of the matter is that it’s causes that cause trouble. Just find somebody who’s got a cause and they’re aggressive, and they’ll be trouble. Whether it’s pagan or religious, causes cause trouble. And Christianity is a cause that is to be peaceful.
So of course it may be humbling for people to have to think about Jesus, and it may be confronting for people to have to follow Jesus, but in the end it’s peaceful. It’s presented peacefully. People don’t mind being told about the life of Jesus as long as they can just close it in a book and look at it when they want to, and imagine what it was like. But people don’t want to be told the claims of Jesus. And once you’re told the claims of Jesus, that’s where the opposition comes.
So from the Daily Telegraph, one of the letters says, “The sooner that Christians remember that being a Christian is about being Christlike and not just forcing morals and beliefs onto others, the better.” So there you are, you see? If you want to be Christlike, says the writer, just live, don’t speak. But we know of course that if we’re going to be Christlike, they’ll have to be some living and they’ll especially have to be some speaking, because we’ll have to explain that we are sinners and we have a great Saviour. Well, that’s what Jesus does, doesn’t he? He talks and he lives, and he’s loving and he’s clear. I want to think about this under two brief headings this morning: first the offer, and then secondly the opposition and a little bit of how this should affect us.
The Offer of Jesus
First of all, the offer. John chapter 8, verse 12, Jesus spoke again, “I’m the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Now, why does Jesus speak up and say this? Normally something triggers his preaching or his preaching is followed by an action. So he will feed a crowd and then he’ll say, “I’m the bread of life.” Or he’ll say, “I’m the resurrection,” and then he’ll raise Lazarus from the grave. Why does he stand up and say, “I’m the light of the world?”
It could be that it’s related to John chapter seven and the Feast of the Tabernacles, where the Jews would come into Jerusalem, and they would remember their travel through the wilderness and they would set up their little tents and booths and tabernacles. And they would remind themselves of how God had preserved them through the desert, through the wilderness. And on the last day of the feast, apparently the big grape lights would be shut down. And it’s possible that at that moment Jesus spoke up as the lights went out and said, “I’m the light of the world.” Make chapter 8, verse 12 very significant, wouldn’t it?
It’s also possible however that this claim, “I’m the light of the world,” follows the events which has just been recorded in some versions of John’s gospel with a woman caught in adultery. And you remember that famous protecting by Jesus of her where he said, “Who is willing to throw the first stone?” And it’s possible you see in the light of that, that Jesus turns around as if to say, “I see everything. I see what she’s like, I see what you’re like. I’m the light of the world.”
Now, I don’t know which way we need to go. Perhaps we don’t need to choose. But the important thing to see is that according to Jesus, people are in moral and spiritual and eternal darkness without him. We do have short sight of course. We’ve got human sight. We can see things, we can work things, we can do things, we’re pretty clever. But in terms of moral sight, in terms of spiritual, in terms of eternal, we need Jesus Christ.
The Confusion of Humanity
We like to say that the human race is enlightened. But I wonder whether you can think of anybody but Jesus who you would like to follow, whose teaching you would like to follow. And not just through this world, but out of this world. Can you think of anybody whose life and teaching you would like to shape your life and your eternity? I can’t think of anybody but Jesus. I can’t think of anybody whose teaching is worth following and whose promises are worth trusting but Jesus Christ.
And I think I can prove to you that people are in the dark, because think about what people come up with on God if they don’t have Jesus Christ to tell them. It’s quite amazing isn’t it, when people start to think about God without Jesus? They’re not sure whether there’s one God or whether there’s two or whether there’s 1,000 or 10,000. And they can’t work out whether God is good or bad, whether he’s kind or ruthless or even real. And then of course Jesus steps into the world and says he is the perfect father. We can’t work it out for ourselves, but he will tell us.
Think about the ideas people come up with on themselves, on the human race. Without Jesus, people can’t work out whether we’re angels or whether we’re devils, whether we’re animals, whether we’re special, whether we’re just fleeting like the grass or we’re immortal or eternal. Or whether we’re loved by God or despised by God. People can’t work it out until Jesus speaks up and says, “You’re lost and you’re loved. You’re rebellious and God wants a relationship.”
We absolutely depend on him, and all the promises of the Old Testament, all the promises that speak of God being the light and the fire, pillar of fire leading the Israelites through the wilderness and all the promises that have to do with light coming to the Gentiles, the light for God’s people, the light for the outsiders. It all comes together as Jesus suddenly stands up and says, “That’s me. I’m the light of the world.”
Well, he does make the promise to followers. You see what he says in verse 12? This is the hitch: “I’m the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness.” So you can’t pick up the Sermon on the Mount and say, “Look, I’ll just practice that. Don’t need Jesus. Just give me ethics. Just give me the book.”
No, it’s the person who gives themselves to Christ. It’s the person who says to Christ, “I’ll follow you.” “I want Christ,” says the person. “I’m yours,” says the person. That’s the person for whom the lights come on. That’s the person who gets lit up spiritually. Because of course you have surrendered to him. And when you surrender to him, then he invades your life with a brand new life. We know from John chapter seven, that Jesus said that Christianity is not just dead orthodoxy.
The Call to Follow Jesus
You can’t just have a church and a creed and a ceremony. He said, “If you want to know whether the truth is the truth,” he said, “You have to step out.” And here he says in John eight, “Follow me. And he’s got the ability to provide the light because that is what he says. The Pharisees come back, verse 13 and say, “Your testimony is not valid.” Jesus says, verse 14, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid for I know where I came from and where I’m going.” You see what Jesus says, “I know who I am.”
He might say but he didn’t say, “I know how great I am. I know that I stand behind the world. I know where I’m going to the cross. I understand the whole span of the plan. I know who I am.” And he is effectively saying to them, “Do you know who I am? Do you know my identity? Have you worked that out? Because once you have, you’ll never be the same. And if you worked out my mission, because once you have, you’ll never be the same.”
Professor Tasker in his commentary, Tyndale commentary on John’s gospel chapter eight, he says a couple of sentences. He says, “In their blindness to the nature of Jesus, the Jews reveal how limited is their knowledge of God. Blind about Jesus, hopelessly limited in their knowledge of God.” And then says, Professor Tasker, that he can be known, “And to know Jesus is to know God.” I’ll tell you why that’s a very interesting sentence because Professor Tasker was the professor of New Testament at the University of London. The professor of New Testament at the University of London, but he was not a Christian.
And in 1947, a name I’ve mentioned often, Martyn Lloyd-Jones was asked to take a university mission at the University of London and he preached one night. And Professor Tasker, the professor of New Testament was present. And that night he moved out of darkness and into light because he decided to follow Jesus. So when he writes in his commentary, “It is in coming to know Jesus that you come to know God.” He says something that’s not only true, but something that he has experienced.
Well that’s the offer. This great offer of light of life.
The Opposition to Jesus
Now, let’s think about the opposition. The Pharisees in verse 13 are immediately negative, aren’t they? It’s always very discouraging when you’ve just said something wonderful and then someone comes back and says, “No.” But we know from John chapter three, that people preferred darkness to light. And they say to Jesus in chapter 8, verse 13, “We don’t have to listen to you because you’re just speaking for yourself. You’re on your own. There’s got to be two witnesses before we make a decision. There’s got to be two witnesses before we make a verdict.” Deuteronomy chapter 17.
They’re exactly right about that. And Jesus totally agrees. He’s already said in John chapter five, “There must be two witnesses.” That, says Jesus, “There are two witnesses.” Look at verse 14. “I know where I came from and where I’m going. So I’m entitled to say what I’m saying,” says Jesus. And then look at verse 18. “My other witness is the father who sent me.”
Now think about this, friends, he’s not playing a game. If I stand up in front of you today and I say, “I’m the light of the world and you’ve got to believe it because I said so and the Father is with me.” You’ll want to do a lot more homework really, won’t you?
But when Jesus stands up and says, “I’m the light of the world, and the Father who sent me is with me.” He’s actually saying something very profound and powerful and important because he’s saying to them, “Not only have I made a massive claim, which you’ve got to work out quickly whether I’m crazy or lying or telling the truth, but I’ve also got all the Old Testament behind me looking for the light. And I’ve also been doing miracles in your presence, which are proof that God is with me. And you believe in God, and it looks very much as though God is with me, and therefore I have the one you believe in, God, making His presence felt through me. And I am actually in front of you for you to make a decision.”
Now he says to them, “You make superficial decisions.” You see that verse 15? “You judge by human standards.” Literally, you judge by the flesh. You work things out superficially. But Jesus doesn’t make superficial decisions, but he expects them to make a very careful decision.
And back in chapter three of John’s gospel, Nicodemus came to Jesus one night, you remember? And said to him, “We know you’re from God because nobody could do the miracles you’re doing unless God were with you.” Well, Jesus expects them, you see, to make a decision on the basis of excellent evidence and then to follow. And for those who do, they will receive the light of life, and for those who don’t, they will stay in the darkness of death. And that decision has to be made by everybody. Everybody who takes seriously Jesus has to work out whether he has the credentials and the authority and the ability to provide what he promises.
“Where Is Your Father?”
But then comes their second objection, verse 19. And again it’s a classic regular objection, isn’t it? “Where is your father?” Now, how is Jesus going to answer this question, “Where is my heavenly Father?” He could, in the words of Psalm 115 say, “He’s in heaven.” He could, as in John 14 say, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” In other words, he could say something sort of positive. But the people who ask the question are opposed to him. They don’ really want to know. And he gives a very interesting and important answer in verse 19. He says, “You don’t know Him because you don’t know me.”
Friends, it’s not possible, perhaps not even wise to show people spiritual truths if they are disposed against them. I wonder sometimes whether our weakness would not be more effective if we stop talking sometimes in the face of a conversation which was just hostile. Because you can’t get good things about God if you’re against them. And if you want to have a bright mind about God, that is a lit up mind about God, you have to have a bowed [SP] mind. You can’t get a bright mind without a bowed mind. There has to be a humility. That’s why so many people are not Christians. It’s not lack of information, it’s lack of humility. There’s no surrender.
Somebody from this congregation sent me an article through the week, which was very stimulating, and it was about the man called Thomas Huxley. And you may know Thomas Huxley. He was a philosopher, a fairly anti-Christian philosopher. And he was quite enthusiastic about the ideas of Charles Darwin. And he ran with Charles Darwin’s ideas way beyond what Darwin himself at that stage was running.
And Thomas Huxley decided that he would give a lecture on one occasion and his philosophy drove his use of Charles Darwin. And so he basically abused the ideas of Charles Darwin in order to promote an anti-religion, anti-Christian conclusion. And he sent his lecture notes to Charles Darwin for his opinion, for his feedback. And Charles Darwin wrote back to him and said, “You know, it was very eloquent. But as a summary of what I actually believe, which is much more cautious about the existence of God, your lecture was a complete failure.” But if you say you are disposed to trample the truth in the interest of your own whatever, then it’s going to be very difficult to really take those things objectively and seriously, isn’t it?
I’ll give you another example. And you’ll forgive me if I’ve told this story many times to you. But the minister that I worked with in London was a bold man. And on one occasion he went to one of the very posh schools in England and he spoke to the whole assembly of boys. And after he’d finished speaking to the boys, and they’d been very attentive, he went back to the master’s common room. And the science master came up to him and said, “You know, it was a very good talk.” And he said, “I think it’s good for the boys to hear a talk on religion every now and again. I think it’s good for boys to get some religion.” He said, “Of course I’m a scientist, so I can’t believe any of this stuff, but I think it’s good for the boys.”
So my courageous friend put his face up against the science master’s face and he said to him, “No, the reason that you don’t believe is because you’re blind. The reason you’re blind is because you’re a very proud and sinful man. And until you repent of your sins and turn to Christ, you’ll never be able to see or believe.” I love those conversations. I’m just waiting to use that. Just come up and tell me afterwards that you can’t believe because you’re too intelligent, and I’ll just try that one on you. You see, if there is a disposition to trample the truth, how can you possibly stand on it?
How Jesus’ Claim Claim Affects Us
Let’s think how this should affect us. And again I want to say to you that this is the first of a number as we go through John eight. We’ll pick up the theme much more as we go. But if you’re going to think about John 8:12, “I’m the light of the world,” I hope it affects you. If you can study this passage on your own, close the book and then just walk off to something else, if you can just study this with your group, close the book and go off to something else, you haven’t heard it. And I want to suggest to you that we should be very grateful in the light of John 8, verse 12. Everybody in this building has walked away from Christ by nature. We’ve walked into the darkness. It’s only that he has come into the world looking for us and brought us the light of life that we have any hope in the eternal world.
He hasn’t just brought us information, although he has brought us information. He’s brought us the light of life. And the reason that we can have the light of life is because he died. It’s because he died, we can live. It’s because he went into the darkness, we can be in the light. It’s what he suffered at the cross that makes it possible for us today to be set free.
We must be grateful. We must remind ourselves, all the believers here this morning, as you go out of the building, “Why do I understand who Jesus is? Why do I understand who God is? Why do I have eternal life? Why does the gospel make sense to me? I was in the dark and I deserve to be in the dark and he came and he lit me up.” We must be grateful.
Second, we should be courageous. One of the marks of being a disciple is that you must be a person of conviction. Not proud with your convictions, but humble so that you can say, “I think this because Jesus thinks it. I say this because Jesus says it.” And once we’re clear, once we’re persuaded on the truth, we immediately see there is error.
Once you know that drug peddling is dangerous, you understand that things must be said. Once you understand that terrorism is real, there are things that must be said. Once you know that disease is real, there are things that must be said. Once you know that hell is real, there are things that must be said. You don’t say anything, is it because you don’t believe anything? We must be people of conviction. Well, we’re not looking for an argument, we’re not looking for a foolish argument, we’re not looking for a bitter argument, but we cannot follow Jesus and avoid all arguments. We must be grateful and we must be courageous.
The third thing we must be is confident. And I want to just finish at verse 20. Notice how John finishes this little incident. Jesus spoke these words while teaching in the temple area, literally the treasury, yet no one seized him because his time, his hour had not yet come. Jesus said this in the place of the offerings. I read lots of commentaries and I try to work out why we’re told this. Why are we told that he said this in the place of the treasury? And all I can conclude is that it was a totally public place. It was a place where anybody had access. It was the Pitt Street of the temple areas and nobody seized him because his hour had not yet come.
It was George Whitefield I think who said that, “A man is immortal until his work is done. A woman is immortal until her work is done.” And friends, whatever faithfulness to Jesus caused [SP] you, whatever confrontation it brings, while you’re not seeking confrontation, but you’re not avoiding confrontation, nothing, nothing, nothing can happen to you outside the sovereignty of God. He knows how to protect you and He knows how to provide for you just as He protected His son until the precise moment of his hour of death was to come. He is able to protect you and me as we stand for the Lord Jesus. In this world, he is sovereign.
I finish with these words from Luke, chapter 21, where Jesus said to the disciples, “So make up your mind not to worry how you will defend yourself, for I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed, all men will hate you because of me, but not a hair of your head will perish.”
Well, let’s pray. Let’s bow our heads. Our gracious God, we do thank you this morning for the coming into the world of the one who was long promised to be a light and even a light to the Gentiles. And we thank You for bringing to us the message of the Lord Jesus and the ability to hear it and understand it and the life which follows the believing. And we do ask that You’d fill us with gratitude as we go from here this morning that we might deeply thank You for bringing to us the privilege of light.
And we also ask that you would make us courageous as we seek to stand for You in this needy and dark world. And we pray that You would help us to be confident, knowing that You wonderfully guard and guide and superintend Your people. Please sustain Your people especially those who at this very hour in different parts of world are standing for Christ. We pray that You would establish them and comfort and use them, and us as well. We ask in Jesus name. Amen.