Conflict over Jesus’ claim to be the light of the world

Jesus speaks to the people in the temple courts again, this time he says “I am the light of the world” and the Pharisees respond that Jesus is making an invalid claim because of a lack of witnesses. It’s like they’re speaking two different languages or having two completely separate conversations. The content of what is being said is ignored because of disagreement over petty arguments. Jesus continues to teach because some people are listening.
John 8:12-20

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One Reply to “Conflict over Jesus’ claim to be the light of the world”

  1. In Timothy Keller’s book, The Reason for God, he explains in chapter 11 that there is a great distinction between Religion and Grace, the former describes the Pharisees while the latter is the main reason for Jesus coming to earth as a man. To unpack this concept Keller reminds us that other religions have teachers who describe how to live to become righteous, but Jesus (although he is certainly an amazing teacher) goes far beyond that–he IS the light.

    Today’s scripture begins with the assertion that Jesus is the light of the world and ends with the revelation that if the Pharisees knew who he was, they would understand, yet they have no rebuttal for the last statement.

    John began this Gospel by explaining that Jesus was the “true light that gives light to everyone.” No doubt this was a common sermon topic as Jesus spoke many more times than we have recorded in the Gospel accounts.  Here in the temple courts, crowded during the festival season, Jesus said,

    I am the light of the world.
    Whoever follows me
    will never walk in darkness,
    but will have the light of life.

    The religious leaders are checking their notes and coming up empty, they don’t know how to process this claim that Jesus is the light of the world. They decide to argue on the basis that he makes this claim without proper witnesses. It’s odd that they don’t debate his claim to be light of the world, just that in their observation he doesn’t have witnesses. Jesus quickly reveals their true hearts, they are being judgmental and yet they are not worthy of sitting as judge because their beliefs are self-centered and self-righteous.

    I think it’s interesting that Jesus says, “in your own Law…” rather then “in the Law…” I don’t know if they caught that since they’re stuck on this idea that his other witness is his Father. I wonder how many times we hear some words and miss the rest of what is being said because we’re mentally wandering down a line of thinking that is far from the main point. This is easy to do when we put ourselves in the center of the conversation as if we were the subject, we were the reason for the teaching.

    Our society promotes this notion, after all, “you can do anything…” is a mantra that permeates all levels of our culture. The interpretation of this phrase has disastrous affects on one hand and yet begins amazing movements on the other. The difference comes after the ellipsis, what you do depends on who you serve. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13. The Pharisees are lost in their own world, in their own Law and as Jesus points out time and time again, they’ve missed the point. In this interaction they are looking at the Messiah and have absolutely no clue!

    I began this insight with reference to Keller’s book because the distinction between Religion and Grace is so significant. Two sides of a coin. Just like this conversation where the Pharisees are looking at their side of the coin and describing it while Jesus is trying to reveal the right side of the coin. The Pharisees remain unnamed. Jesus however remains unchanged!


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