Rooted in Christ

Jesus in the Gospel of John - the Light of the World

This 7-part series explores John’s Gospel descriptors of Jesus as the Word, the Lamb of God, the Bread of life, the Light of the world, the good Shepherd, the Resurrection and the Life, and the true Vine. 

“Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world.’” (John 8:12, NKJV) 

Light plays a prominent role in God’s creating work. When He said “Let there be light,” it was against the backdrop of darkness. “The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep” (Gen. 1:2). Light dispelled the darkness. 

In John’s new creation account light again comes into play. Speaking of the Word that was with God and was Himself God John says, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:4–5). The God who is light and in whom there is no darkness had Himself come into a world dark in sin. The darkness in this case was not nothing, as in the first creation; it was something – sin, rebellion, depravity, death, evil. 

Light and life go together. When Jesus declares Himself to the light of the world, He does so against the backdrop of darkness. “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). 

Jesus is the light sent from God to dispel the darkness of bondage to sin. His is a new creating work, in the cosmos as a whole and in the hearts of those dead in sin. Paul expresses the new birth John speaks of in his Gospel (John 3) as nothing less than God’s new creating work. “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). Jesus is the one who gives light to the blind (John 9:5). 

In the prologue to John’s Gospel, John (the Baptist) is held up as one sent by God to bear witness to the light of life. “This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (John 1:7–9). John as representative of Old Testament revelation pointed to Christ. The Old Testament is a light to our path but Christ is the true Light bringing life and redemptive illumination. 

Through union with Christ as the light of the world, we are brought into the light of life. We are made children of light, delivered from the darkness (1 Thess. 5:5). Our new identity is light in the Lord and with that we are given a new calling. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth)” (Eph. 5:8–9). 

Jesus, who made the world, is come in the flesh to be the light for a fallen world (John 1:9-14). He is the Suffering Servant of the Lord who is a light to the nations, bringing salvation to the ends of the earth (Isa. 49:6), and who is the light of righteousness who takes us by the hand and keeps us (Isa. 42:6). He entered our darkness because that is where we were held captive. He rescued us for Himself and holds us for the new creation devoid of darkness (Rev. 22:5). 

1. What does Jesus say about Himself by calling Himself the light of the world?

2. How do the themes of darkness and light in the Lord relate to us?

Scripture quotations marked NKJV are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved. Those marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Stan Gale

Stanley D. Gale (MDiv Westminster, DMin Covenant) has pastored churches in Maryland and Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He is the author of several books, including A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness through Abiding in Christ and The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith. He has been married to his wife, Linda, since 1975. They have four children and nine grandchildren. He lives in West Chester, Pa.
Books by Stan Gale