Light can illuminate but the brightest can also blind. What do we make, then, of Jesus’ claim to be the light of the world?
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.)
Jesus proved this in a practical way when he soon after healed a man born blind:
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. … “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” … . So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. (John 9:1-7.)
The religious authorities were not pleased with this miraculous healing and ended up throwing the man out of their assembly. Jesus had other plans, though.
Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
“Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. (John 9:35-38.)
The light that Jesus brought into the man’s life not only healed him physically but led him to Jesus the Son of Man – an ancient phrase understood by many to mean the Messiah of Israel who would come to make all things right. The man understood much more, though. He understood that Jesus is God and worthy of worship.
The religious leaders were not willing to do the same. As they listened to Jesus and the man talk together, they were aghast at the implications
Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”
Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” (John 9:39-41.)
The judgment delivered through the light of Jesus is the same he earlier spoke of with Nicodemus, a religious leader who became a disciple of Jesus.
“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” (John 3:19-21.)
Both those who worship Jesus and those who reject him have seen the same light. For some it lights the way to be with God forever, and some reject its brightness and choose to walk in dark blindness apart from God.
As John said in introducing Jesus to his readers:
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome [or understood] it. … The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. (John 1:4-5, 9.)
People can choose the darkness, but that does not mean they’ve won. Jesus is the “true light” as John says, and nothing triumphs over truth. This light, John explained, is given to everyone. Some see by it and some don’t, remaining blinded in darkness.
What drives them to the darkness? The desire to remain hidden, Jesus said. Yet there is nothing to fear in being in the light. That is where God’s love is found despite our sins.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. … But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6, 8.)
Those who are ungodly – dead in sin – are precisely the people Jesus loves so much he gave his life to save. This is the mission Jesus came to fulfill, as he told Nicodemus:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17.)
You are not condemned in Christ but saved through him. In fact,
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus … . (Romans 8:1.)
This is what the Light of the World reveals: you are saved from the power of sin, and saved for all eternity into life with him.