Read John 8:12-20
Back to the Feast of Tabernacles, this passage picks up where John left off in the previous chapter. Lots of people have gathered to listen to Jesus. He draws a crowd with His words. There’s no water to wine or miraculous healing happening here. But His words of life are incredibly affirming. If He is who He claims to be, those who are listening have the opportunity for a life beyond their wildest imagination. Hear the words of Jesus, “I am the light of the world.”
Illumination of the Temple
At first glance, the historical reference to the “light ceremony” slipped by me, but on further reading (and Googling), the event caught my attention and imagination. It takes some effort, but imagine a time when there is very little light after sunset. Perhaps some oil lamps here and there. The concept of darkness to these people is deeper than our understanding. With the flip of a switch, a room is illuminated. For those so inclined, just say, “Alexa, turn the hall light on.” But for those hearing this story for the first time, there is a deep understanding of darkness.
There are several resources that provide details about the illumination of the temple during the Feast of Tabernacles.
Four large stands each held four golden bowls; these were placed in the heavily-used Court of the Women. These sixteen golden bowls (reached by ladders) were filled with oil and used the worn undergarments of the priests for wicks (m. Sukkah 5). When they were lit at night (so the rabbis said), all Jerusalem was illumined.NIVAC
All night long the fires illuminated the city to remind people that one day, the light of the world would come and there would no longer be any darkness. One day there will be no more pain or suffering. One day.
That day is here.
The Light of Life
Can you imagine someone coming to your all-church event, gathering people around, and saying this?
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
The amazing claim here is that by following Jesus anyone can “have the light of life.” Our Jewish ancestors were a people of hope. They waited and hoped for the Messiah year after year. During this week-long festival, they witness the illumination of the temple and remember the promise that God will send the light of the world. Now they hear Jesus explain that He is here.
It doesn’t surprise me to read the reaction of the Pharisees. Apparently, it did little to surprise Jesus as well. As if they missed the discussion from the previous chapter, the Pharisees search their rulebook and throw down their challenge flag:
The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.” John 8:13
Jesus’ response to the Pharisees is based on the observation that they are far from God, “But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going” (John 8:14). They have no idea.
Jesus reminds them of their own Law, that which they rely on as sacred, a misplaced trust in that which is manmade, rules they created for their own and by which they judged everyone.
In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.” John 8:17-18
He spoke these words to the deaf ears of the Pharisees. They were so lost in their world of rules they were unable to process the evidence before them.
But in my mind, I see others present, and perhaps a rouge Pharisee, who heard the words and sought to draw near to Jesus to learn more. Do you hear that voice calling you?
As missionaries, we are called to proclaim the gospel to the least, the lost, and the lonely. We do so with words and deeds, with hands and feet. Lord, may we have a grain of patience that Jesus did with those that heard His words and saw His amazing deeds. May we point people to the true light of the world and may their eyes be open to that which is right in front of them. In front of all of us.
1Source: Wilkins, Michael J.; Garland, David E.; Bock, Darrell L.; Burge, Gary M.; Fernando, Ajith. NIVAC Bundle 6: Gospels, Acts (The NIV Application Commentary) (Kindle Locations 64534-64537). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.