Of all the seven “I am” statements in the Gospel of John, this one inspires me least. I get “I am the resurrection and the life”. I love “I am the good shepherd”. I am challenged by “I am the way, the truth, and the life”. But I am the light of the world? It is because I rarely think about light. There is just too much light, day and night. Forget noise pollution, we have light pollution. When it comes to light, it comes so easy: a flick of a switch, a turn of the nob, a light of a match, and we have light.
But sometimes not having light is a bigger problem. I went home five weeks ago on Friday after the big storm. The power was out in the streets. My unit block had lost all power. It was a total black out. There was no elevator working in the unit block. I walked up the emergency stairwell--nine flights in the dark. I went into the unit, and the rooms were dark. The clouds were thick and there was no moon light. Daylight was eight hours away. All I could do was go to bed.
Light means life in the physical and spiritual world. The context of this passage is still the feast of tabernacles. As part of this feast, there was a ceremony called ‘the lighting of the temple’. It occurred on the eighth day of the festival. It was their version of ‘Vivid’. At night in the Court of the Women, they would light four very big lamps, each standing 75 feet or 23 metres high. These four lamps flooded the temple with light all night. It is said that these lamps lit up the whole city. There was dancing and joy. The celebration looked back to when a pillar of fire guided Israel in their wilderness journey for forty years. It looked forward to the day when the Messiah would come and bring light to this dark world. That day had come.
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.” (NIV)
The feast had done it job. Jesus is saying, “You don’t need this feast to point you to the light. I am the light of the world.” And I’m glad that someone is, because every one of us is born in the dark. We are in the dark about ourselves. We are in the dark about God and his Son, Jesus. The choice now is that it is either Jesus or darkness.
Friends, if you have you have lived in darkness long enough, if you are tired of stumbling around and feel like the blind following the blind and ending up in a ditch, then let Jesus light your way as we look at his word. Surprisingly, Jesus does not mention light again. I think this is because the purpose of light is to expose. So as the light, Jesus will show us who we are, and show us who Jesus is. As he does that, the people want either to kiss him or kill him.
In short, Jesus says that we are all addicted to sin, John 8:34-36:
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (NIV)
The Jews saw themselves as free sons of God. Jesus saw them as slaves to sin and Satan. Let’s think about this idea. Everyone who sins is a slave to sin. But it doesn’t often feel like that. It is like the person who says, “I can give up smoking anytime!” OK, give up now! “I don’t want to do it right now.” That’s right, you don’t want to because you can’t.
We think that we are free to do whatever we want. God says “No, you are a slave to sin.” I am powerless in the face of my self-centred passions. Sin controls you, you don’t control it. Even if we stop sinning in one area, we start it in another. Even if we stop sinning openly and defiantly, we then learn to sin respectfully. But the one sin that gives birth to them all is pride. We are all addicted to this one idea, that we don’t want God to tell us how to live our lives.
You can see that slavery in addiction. If you stand between an addict and his drug of choice, he will crush you. I have one friend whose brother is a hard core addict. He has broken into his own brother’s house and stolen more than once. This was after his brother had spent so much money and time trying to help him. Not surprisingly, the first thing you have to do in the AA ‘twelve step’ program is to face the face that you are a slave to the addiction. For the first step is, “We admitted that we were powerless over addiction and that our lives had become unmanageable.”
Have you admitted to Jesus that you are powerless to sin? The church is the most exclusive club in the world. It’s the only organization which you can’t join unless you admit you are not good enough to become a member. That is a twist on Groucho Marx, who said, “I refuse to join a club that would have me as a member!” Well, we are the gathering of failures, the assembly of outcasts, the congregation of forgiven rebels.
The world is so addicted to sinning, that it thinks that you are the weird one if you want to stop. You are the one with problem if you don’t have sex before marriage. You are repressed if you don’t get drunk. You are a prude if you don’t lie. You're the idiot.
One guy at church started a job at a new car yard. He made it clear that he was a Christian and that he wouldn’t lie. Time went by, and the boss wanted him to falsely back date a form. He wouldn’t. The boss got so angry: “Everybody else does it! You will get more money if you do it.” He says to him, “I told you I wouldn’t do it!” This came up again and again, till the boss took it so personally that he sacked him. The boss was such a slave to sin that he couldn’t understand it.
And Jesus warned us that if we don’t come to him, we will die in our sin, John 8:23-24:
But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.” (NIV)
Three times Jesus uses that haunting phrase, “You will die in your sins”. “Unless you believe ‘I am’—that is, the name of God which he gave to Moses—you will die in your sins.”
Have you given much thought to where you will die? Will you die in a car, or die in a bed? Dying in sleep is my preference. Will you die laughing, die crying, die anxious, die depressed, die making love, die making war? But whatever you do, don’t die in sin! Don’t die unforgiven. Don’t die saying “no” to Jesus, the light of the world.
We are from below but we don’t have to stay below. We are from this world but we don’t have to be left in this world. Take all your sins to Jesus, the Son of Man, at the cross, and let his death pay for your sins. And let his resurrection defeat your death, and only then will you be free.
So the light shows us that we are slaves to sin and we will die in our sins if it were not for Jesus. And just when you think that Jesus could get no more blunt, Jesus then says that anyone who rejects me is a son of Satan, John 8:42-45:
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. (NIV)
Do you read the Gospels and wonder, “Wow, did Jesus really say that?” The more the Jewish leaders said that they belonged to God and that he is their Father, the more that Jesus tells them that they belong to their father the devil. They called Jesus “demon-possessed”—he calls them “sons of Satan”. Jesus says to them, “Have you not noticed the family likeness between you and your real dad? Satan murders the truth, and so do you when you reject me!” Jesus says, “Like father, like son. Satan was a murderer from the beginning, and here you are trying to kill me! Satan was a liar from the beginning—in fact, lying is his mother tongue. If it’s not a lie, Satan can’t say it. The ultimate lie is that Jesus is not from the Father and he is not going back to the Father, and that he is the only way to the Father.
Many say, “I love Jesus but I can’t stand the church.” Would that be the same Jesus who says to you, “Without me, you are a slave of sin. You will die in your sin, son of Satan!”
I caught up with my new neighbour recently and we watched a game of Rugby League. As we talked, he wasn’t even sure that Jesus existed, let alone came from the Father. The next step for me is to show him evidence that Jesus actually existed. But we haven’t arrived until he has met Jesus, the light of the world, in his word.
Jesus lights up about himself is that he is sinless, John 8:46-47:
Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God. (NIV)
Jesus can look his enemies in the eye and say, “Which of you can accuse me of sin?” No one can. Jesus matched God’s law with perfect obedience. He matched God’s love with perfect love. Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? Nobody That is something I’ve never heard a preacher say.
The Pentecostal movement arose 100 years ago. Before that, it was the Holiness movement. It promised Christians a life without sin. One day, the great Baptist preacher Spurgeon was at conference, where a preacher claimed to be sinless. The story goes that at breakfast, Spurgeon went up to him and poured a bowl of porridge on his head. The man was furious and lost it. Spurgeon said “I just needed to see if you were as sinless as you claim.”
Let me ask you to put up your hand if you have seen me sin? If your hand is not up this is your first Sunday. The longer you have been at MBM, the quicker your hands go up, and the longer the list. If Satan can only tell lies, Jesus can only tell the truth. So when Jesus says, “I am without sin, you are a slave to sin, God is my dad and Satan is your Father”, it’s not a lie nor is it pride—it’s just a statement of fact.
Jesus just can’t lie. Just when you think Jesus’ light couldn’t burn brighter, we read in John 8:58, “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”
Abraham lived two thousand years before Jesus. Jesus is saying, “Not only did I exist before I was born, but I existed before Abraham, before Adam, atoms, angels, for I am the great ‘I am’. I am God.
Jesus had to be God, or we would die in our sin. When he was lifted up on the cross, Jesus had to be human so that he could take the place of humans in bearing their punishment. He had to be sinless to carry your sins. He had to be God to cope with the weight of God’s punishment for our sin.
And that my friends is how the truth will set you free, John 8:31-32, 36:
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. […] So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (NIV)
Truth not trivia will set you free. The Kardashians can’t save you. Big ‘T’ truth not little ‘t’ truth will set you. Free education has freed many people from poverty, but it can’t free you from sin and death. Truth sets you free because truth is a person, and that person is Jesus, the light of the world.
At age 20, Jesus brought me to a fork in the road. He lit up two possible futures. Can you see them? They are the same two futures that are set before you. The choices is clear. You can live your life your way in darkness for the next sixty years and go to the place of utter darkness. Or you could follow Jesus the light of the world for the next sixty years and enjoy the freedom of forgiveness, and never to walk in darkness again. Which is it to be?
Here is a warning for older Christians. If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Don’t rely on a prayer you prayed five, fifteen, or fifty years ago. It’s a living faith that makes you a true disciple of Jesus.
I admit that I am a slave to sin without you. I would die in my sin if it were not for you. I admit that the devil and not you, Lord, has been my father. From this moment on I surrender to you, Lord, my sinless saviour. You Lord Jesus are my God. I praise you for setting me free.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.