It’s probably in the top 5 most famous Bible verses of all time.
John 8:12 – Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
On Sunday at church, one of our elders Matt unpacked this verse for us and what we learned really hit home with me.
I think I’d always associated the light of the world with people holding candles and saying prayers in darkened church buildings. But Jesus being “light” is WAY bigger than that – and not getting this right carries real dangers for us.
What does light do? Matt mentioned three things:
1. It brings life
Without light, nothing can live. We depend on it for the heat it brings, how it enables other living creatures to grow and prompts plants to create their own food. Without that, there’d be no air, and we’d be done!
2. It brings truth
We need light to show us what is really going on. Otherwise, we’re stumbling around in the dark, blind. Unless light is present, the best we can do is make an educated guess based on what our other senses tell us. Light can expose the truth instantly.
3. It brings joy
Having light is wonderful. Whether it’s the lighthouse beam which safely navigates a ship beyond the menacing rocky cliffs or the flicker of candles lighting up a house caught in a powercut, light brings relief, happiness and safety. It is a source of comfort. Without it, we are stripped of our joy.
I recently read a book called “Fear” – part of the Gone series of books by Michael Grant. In it, the sun is gradually blotted out until eventually it is extinguished altogether. And the fear which engulfs the characters is paralyzing. No light means no life, no truth, no joy.
Apply this to Jesus and, if his words are accurate, you have a Saviour who is worth following. If he truly is the source of life, truth and joy then what are we waiting for?
But, and here’s what I hadn’t really considered before.
Light is dangerous. Too much of it and those things we long for and cling onto can ruin us.
Take life. If you spend too much time in the piercing sunlight, your body will blister and burn. You could end up becoming very ill. You may die. It is not safe.
Or truth. If you look directly into the light, it is blinding and can permanently damage your eyes. You may lose your sight forever. You can’t mess around with looking at the sun. That’s why when the eclipse happened you needed special glasses to protect your eyes.
Or joy. When the light shines directly on us, it shows what we are really like. It exposes us, warts and all. Do we really want everybody else to know that sort of information? Actually, is it safer hiding out in the dark after all where noone can see what’s really going on?
Remembering that Jesus’ light also has this side to it helps us treat him seriously and reverently. If he really is the light of the world, then he is completely vital but also dangerous if mistreated.
I guess it comes down to a choice: follow the light, alongside Jesus and receive the ultimate life, truth and joy he brings. Or, follow the darkness where anything can happen, anything goes and it is anything but safe. The Bible claims we actually prefer to be in the darkness where our secrets can be hidden and our selfish desires pursued at the expense of others.
It does seem like a strange decision though.
Jesus himself is the light. He offers us a relationship – to follow the one who provides true life, truth and joy. I know what choice I want to make.