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.’ Then the Pharisees said to him, ‘You are testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid.’ Jesus answered, ‘Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid because I know where I have come from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgement is valid; for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is valid. I testify on my own behalf, and the Father who sent me testifies on my behalf.’
What is the central message from these verses? Is it about light or legalism or even judgment?
Here is Jesus claiming to be the light of the world. Not a new concept but one rooted in ancient Judaism with the understanding that God was calling the Israelites to be “a light to the nations,” (Isaiah 49:6). The theme of light shining into darkness runs through both Old and New Testaments. Possibly nowhere more so than in John’s gospel which begins with words which include “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people”. (John 1:4)
If it is about the Pharisees and their legalism, this too is not a new story line, it is a thread which runs through the New Testament as they try to trip Jesus up.
Actually, I think the central message here is about none of those things but it is found in verse 14 when Jesus says “I know where I have come from and where I am going”. The central message is a reminder that it is God who is in charge.
Once we are clear about that, we can think about what it means for each one of us. The message of light becomes the key. Called as we are to Walk the Way of Jesus, is a call not just to follow the light of Jesus but also a challenge to be light and life wherever we go. It may be time to put away the Christmas lights but the dark corners of the world need that light, life and hope of Jesus throughout 2020.
Jesus, light of the world, we have heard your call to follow the light and to dispel the darkness. We pray for wisdom and courage to go into those dark places and bring your light to shine that all may live in the light of your presence. Amen
Val Morrison, elder and former General Assembly Moderator, Hall Gate, Doncaster.,