Jesus The Light Of The World
( Originally Published 1895 )
"Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world : he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."—John viii. 12.
SOME Bible scholars who have given much study to this Scripture think that it was uttered at the close of the day during the feast of tabernacles, when there was the ceremony of the lighting of the lamps. Four great golden candlesticks, each having four golden bowls, were fixed to the temple wall in the court of the women; and as the twilight faded and the darkness shut down about them, with beautiful song and ritual, these lamps were lighted. Forth into the darkness gathering around the temple and shutting out of sight the tents of the people gathered from the country during the feast, shot the steady rays of soft light issuing from these splendid golden lamps. These lamps were typical, and carried the thought of the people back to the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night which led the Israelites in the wilderness.
It was on an occasion like this, they say, when Jesus was teaching in this court, that, when suddenly the lights flamed forth, he turned all eyes upon himself and sought to give spiritual instruction by pointing to the temple lights and exclaiming, " I am the light of the world : he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."
Other Bible students think that these words were spoken in the early morning—that at day-break Jesus was in the midst of the people gathering to the early worship. And the first words of this chapter, if we take it to be a connected account in regular order, would indicate that; for it says, " And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down and taught them."
The dawning of the morning in that wonderful temple must have been a sight never to be forgotten. The eyes of the people gazed as, without wave or sound, but with increasing vigor and unsullied purity, the light streamed in from the east. t disclosed the green fields and well-kept vine-yards and pleasant groves of the valleys; it lit up the city, its magnificent palaces and its gorgeous temple; it revealed all around them the majestic forms of the mountains. The first beams of the sunlight gilded everything, beautified the pinnacles of the temple, and touched the hills with gold. And as the people watched the splendid sun-rise, the Lord Jesus there in the midst of them said, "This is the emblem of my mission: I am the light of the world ; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light. of life."
Christianity is a religion of light. It has no fellowship with the owls and the bats that hide in darkness. Free press, free schools, free science, free speech, the light of the intellect, the light of the heart, the light of sympathy and love, all follow in the wake of Jesus Christ.
Isaiah in his day, looking down through the centuries, saw that this was to be true. He says about the coming Savior : " I, the Lord, have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house. . . . And I will bring the blind by a way that they know not; . . . I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things. straight. These things will I do unto them,_ and not forsake them." Malachi saw that day, and exclaimed : " But unto you that fear my name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings." Again Isaiah, looking forward to the progress of Christianity in the world, saw the time coming when " the sun shall be no more thy light by day, neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee; but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory."
The New Testament is studded, as it were, with great lamps that tell about the beauty and the glory of Christianity. John says, " This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." And Paul says, " For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." And the Lord Jesus says, "Ye are the light of the world," showing that we are to shine in his stead and with his light. But Christ is the great central light of Christianity and of the world. As the moon and the stars get their light from the sun, so we must get our light from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let us notice that this is a guiding light. t is to guide us along our path to the Savior, to guide us in the midst of the sorrows and trials of human life. " He that followeth me," says Christ, "shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." t is a light to bring us to the Savior. It is not the light that saves us. It is not in the power of light to save. But the light shining upon our path makes it possible for us to find our way to the cross, and thus find salvation. As John says in his epistle," If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. Christ comes to us first as a light, and afterward as a Savior. He is "the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world."
But how useless the light is if a man will not walk in it! Many people are lost in spite of the light—choosing darkness rather than light, be-cause their deeds are evil. How many here this evening have for many years had light enough. to be saved from sin ! The light of Christian civilization has been shining about you since your childhood; the light of the Bible, and of the Sunday-school, and of Christian song, and of the pulpit, and of the experience and example of Christian friends, has illumined your path—the reflected light shining from the face of Jesus Christ. At any time for years, if you had died in your sins, you could not have excused yourself by saying, " I lived up to the best light I had." That is all God requires of us—to live up to the best light we have. But is it not true that for a long time you have had light enough to show you to the mercy-seat, and you have refused it? We must not only have the light, but we must walk in the light—press forward with all our will and purpose in the path of obedience. If we walk in the light with a de-termination to obey the Lord Jesus Christ and accept him as our Savior, it will lead us to the cross, where we may find cleansing from all our sin. Neither the light shining on us, nor any-thing that we are able to do of our own selves as a matter of works, can forgive our sins or cleanse our hearts; but if we follow the light, walk in the light, obeying the Lord Jesus, then "the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin."
Sin is a desperate and tenacious thing. You cannot shine it out, you cannot bleach it out, you cannot walk it out, you cannot grow it out; it will survive all your theories, it will outlive all your efforts; it is a living and deadly thing, and clings with the grip of hell and the tenacity of Satan to your soul. t defies everything except the atoning blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. But here is a divine energy that conquers it. Use the light you have, and begin at once to obey the Lord Jesus by confessing and renouncing your sins, and by faith take the Lord Jesus to be your Savior, and the blood of Jesus Christ shall cleanse you from all sin. Let us thank God,—
There is a great Physician near ;
See, in the Savior's dying blood,
Then, indeed, you shall have the light of life. Some of you have tried in your own strength to conquer your sins and have failed. But if you have the light of life, the divine fire kindled in your own soul, there shall be One with you stronger than all that are against you. About the year 1600, a man by the name of Heddinger was chap-lain to the Duke of Wurtemberg. The Duke was a wayward, wicked man. Heddinger was one of those genuine, faithful souls like John the Baptist, who would stand for the right and God. He rebuked the Duke for some great sin. At first in private, but when that did not effect the desired result, he repeated the rebuke in public. The Duke was terribly enraged, and sent for the brave chaplain to punish him. Meanwhile Heddinger had been holding precious communion with the Savior and, ready for any emergency, went forth with a bright and peaceful face to meet the Duke. But when he came into the wicked man's presence, his face wore such a look of shining peace and steady determination toward the truth that it seemed to his rude master that there was with him the actual presence of the Lord. The Duke looked at him, and became strangely frightened, and inquired, " Why did you not come alone?" and sent him away unharmed. Thank God, they who live in fellowship and communion with Jesus Christ never need to walk alone ; for does not the Savior say, " Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world"?
In one of the old English prisons there was an underground cell for use as a place of punishment. It was so far away from the rest of the prison that its utter loneliness and the awful darkness of the place made it greatly dreaded. Among the prisoners there was a man of refinement, with a nervous temperament, greatly unlike the most of those about him, to whom the horror of this penalty was a fright that haunted him day and night. At length there was some alleged offense against the prison discipline for which he was sentenced to four-and-twenty hours in this dungeon. He was led by the warders to the place; the door was opened; and he had to go down the stairs into its depths. The door was shut. The steps of the warders died in the distance; the outermost door was heard as its slamming echoed in the hollow places. Then all was still—a stillness that op-pressed with terror amidst a darkness that could be felt. Nervous, and full of imagination, the man sank down paralyzed with fear. Strange and hideous shapes came out of the gloom and pointed at him. His brain throbbed as with fever, and mocking voices seemed to come from all sides. He felt that before long the terror must drive him mad. Then suddenly there came a sound of foot-steps overhead, and in a quiet tone the chaplain called him by name. Oh, never was any music so sweet !
" God bless you," gasped the poor fellow. " Are you there?"
"Yes," said the chaplain, "and I am not going to stir from here until you come out."
" What, sir?" he cried, fearing that he must have mistaken the words.
" I am not going away so long as you are there," the chaplain repeated. "I heard you were here, and I knew what an agony it would be to you, so I came as soon as I could, and here I am going to stay."
The poor man could not thank him enough. " God bless you," he cried. " Why, I don't mind it a bit now, with you there like that."
All the terror was gone. The awful darkness was powerless to hurt or to frighten him while his friend was so near, unseen, but just above him. Every now and then upon the silence came the cheery voice of the chaplain, " Are you all right?"
"God bless you, sir; I am all right now," re-plied the poor fellow, his voice almost choked with his gratitude and gladness.
O my dear friends, that is only a faint illustration of how the Lord Jesus Christ follows after his loved ones, those who give themselves up to be his disciples and his friends. He never leaves them alone in darkness and trial. The darkness loses its terror, the fear is gone, the loneliness of life is over—for the blessed Savior abides always near and destroys the power of all things to harm us. In the darkest hour that can come to our human lives he is standing near us, closer than any earthly friend, and whispers in our hearts, " Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." This is the blessed Savior whom I proclaim to you. Let him come into your life and dispel its darkness forevermore.
This glorious light of life shines upon our path to-day with its blessed opportunities and privileges; a light which, if we accept it, will lead us to forgiveness, to salvation and eternal life. But if we refuse this light, it will finally pass away from us and leave us in the outer darkness. Once when Christ was preaching he said to the congregation listening to him, " Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you : for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light." It is true of every opportunity of human life that it is constantly passing, and it must be seized upon promptly while it is passing, or it will wane. Infancy, youth, middle age, old age —how swiftly they pass along, and the opportunities and privileges of one cannot be repeated in another. t is the doom of refusal that one must lose what has been refused.. The Revised Version makes this still clearer in its warning : " Walk while ye have the light, that darkness overtake you not." For us to refuse the spiritual light and to turn away from it, is certainly to be overtaken by spiritual darkness. As one well says, our "will not" becomes at last "cannot." If we wait till evening, we have missed the morning. Oh, I covet for you this blessed opportunity to open your heart and life to the incoming of the blessed light of salvation ! Use every gracious sunbeam that shines from the heart of Jesus and lights the path to the mercy-seat.