These words were uttered by the Lord Jesus during a conversation with the Pharisees, recorded in John chapter 8. In this bold statement, the Lord Jesus was in fact making one of His numerous claims to deity. To dig into the truth of this great claim we shall break it down into the following three sections:
- I am the light of the world
- He who follows me shall not walk in darkness
- But shall have the light of life.
I Am the Light of the World
Within this statement there is more than one claim to deity, and we shall look at them in more detail in a moment. However, it is essential that we have not only a better understanding of the Lord Jesus’s claims to deity but also that we make a personal decision regarding Him. The vital question upon which our eternal destiny depends is this: do we believe that the Lord Jesus is God?
Coming back to our statement, firstly, there is the great name of God ‘I AM’.
We first find this name in the Old Testament when, speaking to Moses, God revealed Himself as ‘I AM’ (Exodus 3:14). In giving Himself the same name in John chapter 8, the Lord Jesus was identifying Himself with God. The second thing to consider is the title ‘the Light’. In 1 John 1:5 we read that ‘God is light’. This describes His essential being rather than simply naming Him. In using the same language of Himself, the Lord Jesus was therefore stating that He had the character of God. By using both God’s name and character of Himself, the Lord Jesus left His audience in no doubt as to who He was: God manifest in the flesh.
In the next chapter of John, the Lord Jesus once again described Himself as the light of the world. This time, however, He added supplementary information, saying, ‘As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world’ (John 9:5). This tells us that being the light of the world was no temporary state. It was true of Him throughout His entire life upon earth – even whilst on the cross, hanging in darkness and enduring the judgment of God. Such a sobering thought should do more than make us marvel at His cosmic grandeur, it should challenge us personally. The Lord Jesus can be the light in our life today and forever – we need only believe that He is exactly who He said He is.
Later in John chapter 8 the Lord Jesus said this: ‘If you don’t believe that I AM, you will die in your sins’ (John 8:24, NET). This is a stark warning. If we continue to ignore the claims of the Lord Jesus Christ, claims which identify Him with the living God, then we are sure to die in our sins.
Thankfully, we don’t need to stop there. Later in our statement we have an amazing promise which we shall explore in our next two sections.
He Who Follows Me Shall Not Walk in Darkness
Here we have the first half of the Lord’s promise. But why did He need to make such a promise? The Bible reveals that, because we are sinners, we walk in darkness. Psalm 51:5 tells us that this is the natural state into which we were born, and John 3:19 teaches that men prefer to be in darkness because their deeds are evil.
In making this statement, however, the Lord Jesus indicated that living in darkness was not necessary. It is possible to walk in the light, but only if we follow Him, because there is no light or goodness within ourselves. It is the illuminating power of Jesus Christ that brings light into our life.
We earlier considered the necessity of believing on (putting faith in) Christ’s deity. However, we must also ask ourselves if we are truly following Him. In Matthew 4:19 the Lord Jesus simply asked His disciples to follow Him; in the statement above, He outlined what happens when people do follow Him.
But shall have the light of life
This brings us to the positive aspect of the promise. Following Christ, we won’t walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. But what does this mean? The light of life is the blessing of a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, a blessing which stretches into eternity.
The Lord Jesus further discussed light and darkness in John chapter 12. There He encouraged people to ‘Walk while you have the light … he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going’ (John 12:35). These words bring a whole new level of certainty into our lives as they tell us that not only can we be sure of God’s leading light in our lives while we are on the earth, we can be sure of where we are going to spend eternity.
‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life’ (John 8:12). The amazing truth contained in this verse demands that we make a weighty decision. Do we believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is who He says He is? Are we willing to follow, that is, surrender our lives to Him? If the answer to both questions is ‘yes’, then the Lord Jesus can be the light in our life today and forever.