#FiveMinuteDevotions | John 8
Throughout the book of John, the gospel writer records seven “I AM” statements of Jesus. These sayings are specific phrases from Jesus meant to assert his divinity and tell us who he—and by extension, the Father—is like. John 8 is the source of one of the most well-known of these statements and directly states a metaphor that is present throughout the entire gospel: I am the light of the world.
For the past three chapters, Jesus has been in a series of discussions with the Jewish leaders that always ties back to the Exodus and the days of Moses. In John 6, Jesus’s provision of bread in feeding the 5,000 draws parallels to manna in the desert. In John 7, Jesus, in the middle of a celebration of God’s provision in the Exodus, claims to be living water, just like what God provided. Now, in John 8, he says that he is the light of the world. He is the food of the Exodus. He is the light of the Exodus. Now, he is the guiding light of the Exodus.
Light of the Past
Through these conversations, Jesus has drawn a direct comparison from the presence of God in the Exodus with his own self. He presents himself not just as Messiah, but as the presence of God incarnate—he is the I AM, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is that same light their ancestors worshipped.
In John 8, Jesus speaks at the end of the Feast of Tabernacles. This feast was specifically meant to commemorate the dwelling—the tabernacling—of God with men and meant to relive the Exodus journey. Jesus is being clear that following him as Messiah is not a repudiation of the faith but a fulfillment of it. He is not claiming some new religion, but is reclaiming and reforming a religion that had changed beyond recognition.
Light of the Present
When the feast of tabernacles began, candelabras were set up all through the Court of the Women. When the night was over and the light of the lamps were burning out, two priests would come down the steps of the court of the women, turn towards the Temple and say,
“Our fathers who were in this place turned their backs to the temple of God and their faces eastward and threw themselves down eastward before the sun; but we direct our eyes to Yahweh.”
With the celebration of Tabernacles, the Jewish faithful were proclaiming their trust in God as the one true God—the light from the lamps reminding them of His presence even in the darkness of night.
There’s some interesting descriptions of it by historians, who describe it as a stunning vision, like a diamond in the midst of the city. Every night they were lit, the temple became a flashing diamond, a symbol of the pillar of fiery light and cloud that led them in the wilderness
When Jesus speaks, maybe those candelabras are just being lit. Maybe they’re slowly extinguishing themselves. And he says “I’m the light of the world and my light will never go out. You will never walk in darkness. You will have the light of life. This great celebration never has to end.
Light for the Future
Recognizing Jesus as that light means something, it demands a response. Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let me deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” He said to His disciples, “Follow me.”
They followed the cloud, they followed the pillar, and they were led to the promised land. But with only two exceptions, they did not enter the Promised Land. Because of the people’s sin, they would see the promise, but their children would be the ones to receive it.
Jesus offers entrance into the Promised Land. If you follow me, he says, you will go in. You will receive the full promise of eternal life. The purpose of the temple rituals turns to him. He alone knows the way out of spiritual darkness. Darkness of ignorance. Darkness of sin. Sadness. Sorrow. Death. Follow him and eternal life is yours.
Father, we recognize you as the light that illuminates the deepest and darkest parts of us. You drag us into the light and expose us with your light—a light of judgment, yes, but also a light of redemption. A light that, if we follow where it leads, if we remain in the light, leads to life.
What are some other examples of God being portrayed as light in the Old Testament?
How does knowing the context surrounding the Feast of Tabernacles affect your understanding of this passage?
In John 8:13, the Pharisees respond to Jesus’s claim by saying that he is testifying about himself. Therefore, they claim, his testimony should not be considered. Is this a valid rebuttal? Why do they respond this way?
In John 8:32, Jesus says “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” What does he mean by this?
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