How the Light of the World Offers Hope to those in Darkness
For 68 years, Pierre-Paul Thomas’s world was void of light. Born with a congenital condition, his optic nerve was severely damaged and cataracts clouded his eyes. Surgeries from childhood had proven unsuccessful, and any glimmer of hope he would someday see had long been snuffed out.
But in the most unlikely way, a frightening tumble down the stairs became the turning point of his life. Where he once had been trapped in darkness, he would soon experience light, and where he once had been blind, he would soon see.
Thomas’s fall severely damaged his face and scalp and needed reconstructive surgery. During a consultation with his plastic surgeon, the doctor casually asked if he wanted them to fix his eyes while they repaired his broken bones. His eyes? Do you mean his gray, visionless eyes could be fixed?
During all those decades of hopelessness, medical advancements had been made, and his doctors felt that with the surgery he would soon see for the first time in his life.
Life in living color
Thomas’s surgery was successful. But as his world leaped into color, he needed to be taught that the colors of the sunset were red, orange, and yellow and that the blossoms on the tree were pink. After 68 years in darkness, it was a painful tumble down the stairs, that ultimately brought light into Thomas’s dark world.
While Thomas experienced a physical transformation of living in darkness and then light, I don’t know if the same was true of his spiritual condition. It’s possible to have all the physical and spiritual enlightenment the world can offer, and still be in darkness.
One such illustration happened in one of the brightest settings in the New Testament, and despite exposure to the Light of the World, darkness still remained.
Light in the darkness
During the Feast of Booths (also called Tabernacles), Jesus and his disciples were among the crowds on the temple grounds and in the Court of Women. During this celebration, the enclosed court was illuminated by four large oil stands or candelabras. Historians say that the light cast from this celebration was so bright it could be seen from miles away.
The feast commemorated Israel’s desert wanderings and the miraculous light that led them for forty years. The vast illumination of the night was a reminder of God’s provision and protection through the pillars of fire and cloud.
Against this bright backdrop of setting and history, Jesus said these stunning words:
“I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”John 8:12
Jesus never missed a teachable moment. But as he surveyed the well-lit courtyard, he didn’t point to the bright light and say, “I’m like the light.” His claim was unmistakably Messianic, for at once the Pharisees set out to discredit and destroy him.
“I AM” the light of the world
When Jesus said “I am the light of the world” he used the revered name of God, “Yahweh.” This was the name God gave to Moses at the burning bush. “Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has sent me to you” (Ex 3:13-15).
How fitting that here, next to the court of Gentiles, Jesus claimed to be all the light the world would ever need. Wrapped up in that one statement his hearers understood his claim. Jesus was saying he was the same as:
- God. The great I AM who spoke to Moses from the burning bush (Ex 3:2).
- The pillar of fire and cloud that provided a way for the weary pilgrim travelers (Ex 13:21).
- The pillar of fire and cloud that protected them from Pharaoh’s army (Ex 14:19)
- The promised light to the nations and the world (Isa 42:6, 49:6).
Jesus made no apologies and didn’t try to soften his Messianic message. Just like the candelabras that lit up the courtyard, Jesus was saying he is the one and only light that lights up the darkness of the whole world.
The darkness of unbelief
The irony of this story is that the Pharisees stood under the blazing light of the courtyard, in the very presence of the Light of the World, and yet remained in spiritual darkness. His light confronted their darkness, and instead of being transformed by it, they began to look for loopholes to trap him in his words.
Isn’t that how unbelief works? We don’t like it when our sin is exposed, or we’re trapped in our illogical arguments. Like the Pharisees, we’d rather discredit Jesus or his followers, than consider the truth. There’s a comfortable familiarity when we remain in the darkness.
Thomas must’ve dealt with that too. As lovely as the springtime colors must’ve been to his virgin eyes, he described the experience as “overwhelming.”
As painful and confronting as exposure to the light can be, Jesus also gave his hearers the remedy in the second half of the verse. “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
Following the light brings life
Following Jesus means we are transferred from darkness to light and our spiritual vision is restored. The blinders come off and we see life through the multifaceted rays of his glorious light.
It’s his light of truth that dispels the darkness of our lies. His light of wisdom dispels the darkness of our ignorance, and his light of holiness dispels the darkness of our sins.
Do you know the light of the world? At first, his light might threaten your darkness, but when you follow him, he becomes all you’ll ever need.
He’s the light in the wilderness, the hope for all mankind, and the light of the world. He brings color and life to all who stand in his glorious light. I hope his radiant beams land gently on you today.
Following him with you,
P.S. In the weeks leading up to Easter, I’ll be exploring the seven “I am” statements of Jesus. The first being, “I am the bread of life.” Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss a post!
What a lovely way to put it
Loved this! The story about Thomas was fascinating and perfectly set up the Light of the World. Thank you!
How timely and a faithful reminder.
Interesting, I have been pondering the 7 “I Am” statements in the book of John.
I look forward to your posts.
Cara, thank you for your encouraging post. Beautifully written. Jesus is our light.