Amazed by His Light
Jesus declared that He was the light of the world. This was not a strange thing for the people of His time to hear. There were other famous rabbis who were called “lights” by their followers. But the declaration Jesus made about Himself (and His followers made about Him) had implications that far exceeded the flickering flames of all the other rabbis combined. He was not merely throwing light onto the meaning of the text of the scripture, He was the Light that the scriptures were pointing to in the first place!
We are told that when we study the Bible, the first use of a term is important in understanding how it is used, and what is meant by it going forward throughout the scripture. It is often called the rule of first mention. The term light is used first in Genesis 1:3-5, in the account of Creation. God speaks light into existence, calls it “good,” and separates it from the darkness. Throughout scripture we will see this juxtaposition between light and its goodness, and darkness—generally in the context of evil or death. Later, in the Exodus, God puts a barrier of darkness between the fleeing children of Israel and the pursuing Egyptian army. The Egyptians are encased in deep darkness, paralyzed, while the Israelites were in full light (Exodus 14:20). It is a moving picture of God’s preserving, relational light in the lives of His people.
Paul takes us back to Creation when he says, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). The light He gives to His people, the light He has made to shine in our hearts whereby we come to understand the glory of God, is found in the face of Jesus! In His light we see light!
So, when Jesus declares Himself to be the light of the world, the implications are far more than what was said of the other rabbis. While He did give illumination to the meaning of the scriptures, He showed that they pointed to Him, and He brought to us the light of salvation! Additionally, His light was not meant only for His disciples, nor only for His people, Israel, He declared that He was the light of the whole world—a point we will explore more a bit later.
Paul reminds Timothy that God dwells in inapproachable light (1 Tim. 6:16), and other texts tell us that God is a consuming fire (Is. 33:14; Heb. 12:29). The glory of God shines bright with His holiness so that the light of it exposes all that is impure—nothing can hide from it! And this holy inferno burns away all that is impure, without exception. In our fallen state we are repelled by this, instinctually knowing we would be instantly incinerated, so this Light makes us flee for our own survival. What was the first thing Adam and Eve did after they sinned? They tried to hide from the presence of God.
John, who writes a lot about Jesus as the Light in his gospel, explains it this way: “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil” (3:19). But the wonder of God is that He does not want us to remain in darkness. Peter tells us that God has “called us out of darkness into His wonderful light” (2:9). The blessed truth, the amazing reality is that this light is a Person, this light is Jesus Christ—the radiance of His Father’s glory. He enables us to draw near with confidence (note: never brashness!—our confidence is in Him and His righteousness and sufficiency) to the light of the presence of God, if we are in Him and therefore thoroughly cleansed from all impurity. Jesus is the living embodiment of Micah 7:9— “Because I have sinned against him,
I will bear the Lord’s wrath, until he pleads my case and establishes my right. He will bring me out into the light; I will see His righteousness.” Wow! Our sin fully deserves His wrath, but instead He pleads our case! He will bring us out into His light through His own righteousness!
Above we touched on the idea that Jesus was not just the light for His people, but the light of the world. This is an especially cherished thought to those of us who are Gentiles. God chose a people, the offspring of Abraham through his son Isaac, to be His beloved, through whom the world would be blessed. Even in His promises to the Patriarchs, and the words of His prophets God revealed His intentions to bring others, outside the people of His chosen, Israel, into His light.
When the infant Jesus was brought to the temple, Simeon said that Jesus would be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles (Luke 2:32a). This statement hearkened back to several passages in Isaiah, including, “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles” (Is. 42:6, see also 49:6). God says through Isaiah, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” (9:2). Those walking in darkness, those in the land of the shadow of death—those are us—you and me! Until the light of Jesus shone into our hearts we were in darkness, doomed. And that light—that Light—is Jesus! He shined into our personal darkness to bring us out to not only walking in the light of truth, but into the light of His presence, drawing us near to Himself.
How sweet is the promise, “I will lead the bling by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them” (Isaiah 42:16). What a precious truth to hold onto—that He will turn our darkness into light (see also Ps. 18:28), not merely by flipping a switch to bring illumination, but through His presence with us.
He will not forsake us!
Those upon whom the Light has shone and who turn to the Light, not running from it (from Him), are blessed in so many ways. The Psalmists often relate the light of God, specifically the light of His face, as connoting having His favor (Ps. 4:6). Psalms also tells us that His light is revelation (36:9), our salvation (27:1), our guide (43:3), His glory (76:4; 104:2), the indication of His presence (89:15), and a gift to the righteous (97:11). And, again, each of these is not merely a brightness, it the person of Jesus—personally revealing, personally saving, personally guiding, personally gifting us with His presence, and showing us His glory.
In Isaiah 60 we are given a glimpse of a further glory of the Light. Here it says. “The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end” (vs. 19-20). Now, let’s flip back to Revelation 21:23, “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.” There is no stronger indication that Jesus, the Lamb, will be our light rough all eternity!
Invite the Light of God to shine more fully into your life, exposing those impure places, and then submit to the purging away of those places through the cleansing fire. Bask in the light of His presence and favor. Follow diligently the light of His guidance. And reflect His light to others (1 Peter 2:9; 1 John 2:9-10). Let us grow continually in amazement and gratitude that His light has come to us—that Jesus is our Light!
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries