Today we see once again a dispute arise over Jesus’ testimony about himself. But we also see Jesus’ second “I am” statement. And chapter 8 brings us into the heart of John’s Gospel.
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.”
The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.”—8:12-13
Jesus’ declared himself to be “the light of the world.” This is the second of Jesus’ seven “I am” statements. While the expression appears simple and straightforward, the imagery is rich and multilayered. The prologue set the stage for the importance of light imagery (1:4). The imagery of light reminds us of descriptions from the Old Testament. God’s first creation was light (Genesis 1:3-4). God’s presence with his people after they departed Egypt was symbolized in the pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day (Exodus 13:21-22). Light symbolized salvation (Psalm 27:1). God’s Word was depicted as a light to guide his people (Psalm 119:105). God called Israel to be a light to the Gentiles (Isaiah 49:6). The prophets predicted that light would shine forth from the temple in the last days (Isaiah 60:14-22 and Zechariah 14:5-7).
The presence of Jesus as “the light of the world” means people have one of two choices. They can follow him in discipleship and know the light of God’s life, presence and protection. Or they can reject him and live in spiritual darkness. As expected, the Pharisees challenged the validity of Jesus’ testimony and chose the darkness. They argued that his testimony was invalid because he had no other witness to confirm it.
Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.”—8:14-18
Jesus responded to the Pharisees’ challenge by appealing to his origin and destiny to validate his self-testimony. In contrast, the Pharisees had no idea where Jesus was from or where he was going. Jesus does not judge like the Pharisees did, because his judgements are made in conjunction with the Father. Jesus’ argument then took an ironic twist. He met the Pharisees’ demand for two witnesses by offering himself and God as those witnesses. The irony is that he gave the Pharisees what they asked for but did so in terms they could not recognize or receive, because they judged according to human standards.
Then they asked him, “Where is your father?”
“You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” He spoke these words while teaching in the temple courts near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his hour had not yet come.—8:19-20
The Pharisees asked about the location of Jesus’ father so that the father could present himself as a witness. Their question revealed their ignorance concerning Jesus’ origin and relationship to God. Jesus’ response confirmed the Pharisees’ ignorance. He spoke these words in the area near the temple treasury, which was located in the court of women. And this section ends with an echo of John 7:30. As much as the leaders wanted to arrest Jesus, his life was governed by God’s timing. And we will pick from here tomorrow.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
2 Samuel 1:1-2:11, John 12:20-50, Psalm 118:19-29 and Proverbs 15:27-28
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