Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
Throughout John’s gospel, distinctive “I am” statements point toward Jesus’ divinity, centrality, and authority. In John 8:12-20, for example, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.” What does this mean?
Knowledge of first-century Jewish culture suggests that Jesus could likely be saying, “I am the light” on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles — also known as The Great Feast or Sukkot. The Feast of Tabernacles was a time to give thanks to God for a good harvest and for his care during the exodus from Egypt. According to Josephus, this was the most popular festival, even more popular than Passover, filling the city of Jerusalem with large crowds. During the evenings of the Feast of Tabernacles, the priests would light golden lamps in the Temple area. This produced a light so intense that all of Jerusalem was illuminated and crowds could see it from all over the city.
Against the backdrop of this festival with all of its political, economic and cultural implications, we can see that Jesus was demonstrating his centrality within the Judaic narrative as well as his authority over Israel’s identity. Thus, Jesus could boldly announce, “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). He is contrasting his perfect light with the competing lights that people assumed were integral to their lives at that time.
We face competing “lights” today, such as social media, technological advancements, political posturing, financial concerns, and social policies. Though Jesus is not denigrating any of these “lights,” he is saying that his light is superior and the only light that can ultimately banish the darkness. The challenge is for us to truly believe his light is capable of overcoming the darkness that we face as leaders.
Since Jesus is the light of the world, his followers should be mindful not only of their own interests but also of the concerns of the broader world. Jesus came not to be served but to serve. He models for us a life of sharing his loving light to those in the darkness, even if these are places that we don’t consider our home or realm of influence.
Also, Jesus offers a personalized invitation for each of us to follow him, offering his very own light that leads to life in every area of our daily lives. This means we can do our work, lead our meetings, and face professional challenges knowing that Christ’s light in us will never be extinguished by the darkness we inevitably face. The key is that we relate our faith to our work instead of isolating it from what we may deem “secular.” If Jesus truly is the light of the world, then he intends to influence our nation and our world, in addition to our daily, personal lives. I will talk more about the implications of Jesus’ light in tomorrow’s devotion.
Questions to Consider
What are the implications of acknowledging that Jesus wants his light to shine on the whole world and not just our “world”?
Is there a “world” that God might be calling you to prayerfully consider sharing the light?
In your leadership opportunities what could it look like to shine God’s light this week?
What dark places do you face as a leader that you could use courage to address?
God, thank you for sending us the great light of your Son into our dark world. We face many different kinds of darkness in our nation, our world, and our personal lives. But we rejoice that your light can never be extinguished. Give us the confidence to allow the light of Jesus within us to shine through us in our spheres of influence. May the people we encounter see the light of love that can only be fueled by the Spirit of Jesus within us as we follow you each day. Amen.