The Light of the World

The Gospel of John records a number of sayings of Jesus which begin “I am…” In this series we think about some of the profound things he said about himself.

You can catch up with the previous articles here.

JESUS SAID, “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). What did he mean by this? He didn’t mean it literally, because he was not actually a physical light, but he meant it spiritually.

Jesus himself said of his cousin John the Baptist, “He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light” (John 5:35). John was sent by God to prepare the way for Jesus. John was a burning lamp who shone for a time: Jesus was the light of the world who gives the light of life to those who come to him.

The prophet Isaiah, who lived 700 years before Jesus was born, looked forward in time and declared: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined” (Isaiah 9:2). This was a prophecy of the ministry of Jesus (as we learn in Matthew 4:15–16). That was what Jesus was when he walked the land of Israel and taught its people: he was a spiritual light shining in the darkness of the evil world.

Remember what Jesus said—those who follow him will have the ‘light of life’. That means eternal life. As long as they live in that light, they have the hope of eternal life in the Kingdom of God.

Let Your Light Shine
On another occasion Jesus said to his followers: “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14–16).

So those who love the Lord Jesus Christ and God the Father have a responsibility to serve them as good servants. By keeping their commandments and being true followers of Christ they, just like Jesus, will shine forth for all to see, by which means they show the world the glory of their Father in heaven.

Light and Darkness
The path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day. The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble (Proverbs 4:18–19).

Sin—disobedience to God—is represented by darkness in the Bible. This is from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the believers in Ephesus:

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), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them (Ephesians 5:8–11).

Arise, Shine!
Jesus Christ is the light of the world. When he walked the streets and hills of Palestine he shone spiritual light in a dark world. Now that he is in heaven, his followers have the privilege and responsibility to shine the same spiritual light in the dark world around them.

The prophet Isaiah looks forward to the time when Jesus will return from heaven to establish his Kingdom on earth:

Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising (Isaiah 60:1–3).


Grahame A Cooper