black sky with glowing stars at night

Sermon: Light and darkness – John 8:12-20

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13 So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” 14 Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. 16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. 17 In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. 18 I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” 19 They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 20 These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come. 

Prayer 

Our heavenly Father, 

We come before you today in praise for your goodness and glory. 

We come before you as fallen people in a fallen world. 

It can be so easy to be discouraged by the sin we see around us and by the sin that is our own lives and hearts. 

Lord, let us look to you, our righteous father in heaven. Let us bask in the light of your righteousness. 

Lord, we pray for our hearts with all that we’ve been through this past year. Our society continues to reel from these traumas. 

Lord, we pray for your nearness and grace. 

We pray all of these things in the mighty name of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Introduction 

McCormick vs Manny. 

At the 1855 world’s fair in Paris, two early combine manufacturers from Illinois faced off. McCormick from Chicago was the industry leader at the time, and one of the biggest employers in the Windy City. The McCormicks became a powerful family in Chicago who would later control the Chicago Tribune. In the 20th century, this same family would open the largest convention center in America: Chicago’s McCormick Place. 

John Manny from Rockford was the newcomer who had invented his own combine. 

At the World’s Fair, Manny outperformed McCormick. 

McCormick sued Manny. 

Both sides had high profile lawyers. Representing John Manny, there was George Harding of Pennsylvania, perhaps America’s greatest patent attorney of the 19th century. You had Peter Watson of Washington D.C. And there was also had Edwin Stanton who would later become the United States Secretary of War during the Civil War. 

With the trial in Illinois, the dream team wanted to hire a local lawyer who would have a better handle on the sensibilities of the Illinois judges, and so they hired a man who had just lost a bid for Senate: Abraham Lincoln. 

But they greatly diminished Lincoln. With Lincoln’s tall and gangly appearance, Stanton called him an ape. They told him wrong trial times.

Eventually, the trial was moved from Springfield to Cincinnati, Ohio and they wouldn’t even allow the future president to sit at their table during the trial. He had to watch as a spectator. 

Lincoln had prepared legal briefs that the team never even read. 

I think about that story and it’s striking to me how they mistreated and diminished a man who would go on to become the greatest American of the 19th century. They were in the presence of greatness, but didn’t realize it. 

The other lawyers had reputations, academic prestige, legal pedigrees. 

I think of that and I think of our passage today and I think of the pharisees in their interactions with Jesus. 

The pharisees were respected, well studied. They reviled Jesus, but what becomes clear in this passage is that they just didn’t understand Jesus for who he was. 

The respected and honored men of their time did not realize that they had the greatest man in all human history right in front of them. 

We are resuming in the Gospel of John this morning. 

We took a break for just over two months. 

I think it’s good to switch it up sometimes, but I’m also very excited to be back in this book. 

I hope that this study of John has been a blessing to you. And I know we have so much good stuff still to cover in this book. 

Just to give a little bit of a reminder as to where we are in John’s Gospel. 

Jesus is still at the Feast of Booths and it’s the final day. 

Now during the feast, there was a light ceremony where great torches would be lit at the temple. 

And it was in that setting that Jesus stood up and proclaimed

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

At a ceremony of light, Jesus tells the crowd that he is the true light.

And that will spark yet another debate between Jesus and the pharisees. 

In this passage, Jesus tells who he is and we see how the world responds. 

Going back to verse 12. 

Jesus says I am the light of the world. 

You may remember that we preached on this verse back in November. 

In John’s Gospel, Jesus makes seven statements which are known as the “I am statements.” This is the second of these statements. 

For Jesus, his “I am statements” make revelations about himself, his ministry, and his mission in the world. 

When Jesus says “I am,” he’s referring back to Exodus 3, when God reveals himself to Moses at the burning bush. 

13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ”

Briefly, I want to make a point about Greek. 

I’ve said before that there are different ways to say “I am” in Greek. 

Because surely there are times when Jesus says “I am,” and it isn’t packed with theological meaning. 

The “I am” statements are statements where it’s the Greek words “ego eimi,” which is the way “I am” is translated in Exodus 3. 

I hope that makes sense. The reason why I stress that is that there are actually several instances in this passage where English Bible translations render it “I am,” and I wanted to make sure we’re clear that those aren’t all “I am” statements. 

That’s relevant both in this passage and the following passage. 

But at the beginning of this passage, there is an “I am” statement. 

Jesus says: I am the light of the world. 

There is no other light. There is no other goodness. There is nothing else which exposes the darkness of sin, of fallen humanity, and of our own hearts. 

It’s yet another reason why you cannot compartmentalize Jesus the savior from Jesus the man from Jesus the teacher from Jesus the Lord. 

It’s only because he is God that he can be the light.

He’s the light, and in this passage, we see so much of the darkness of the human heart. People who deny Christ and the reality of who he is. 

Also notice that he says that he is the light of the world. He is not just the light of the Israelites, he’s not the light of Jerusalem. He is the light of the world. The gospel is for the whole world. The salvation that he brings is for the whole world. The mission he came for was for the whole world. 

Jesus brings a message of life to a dead world because he is the light in a dark world. 

But this sparks controversy with the pharisees.

Throughout his ministry, Jesus has had several run-ins already with the religious leaders. 

As I keep saying, the Gospel of John continually confronts us with absolute claims about who Jesus is. 

We see that some accept those claims. We’ll even see that in this passage. 

But others walk away. Some even militantly oppose Jesus’ claims. 

Validation – controversies in the Gospel of John

And let’s take a moment to consider the trajectory of that opposition to Jesus and how it has developed throughout this gospel. 

The shot heard round the world in John happens in John 5 when Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath. But because it’s on the day of rest, and Jesus they considered Jesus’ act of healing to be work, they question Jesus. 

John 5:17, Jesus says: 

17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” 

The leaders are incensed by this. 

5:18: 

18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. 

In John 6, we see Jesus teaching after feeding the multitudes. He tells them “I am the bread of life.” In that event, we don’t see people trying to kill Jesus, but we do see a crowd who are polarized by his message. 

Verse 66, we see some people even walking away from Jesus. 

66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.

We come to chapter 7, which is the beginning of the Feast of Booths. And if you recall from this fall, Jesus originally waits and arrives late at the feast because of plots against him. 

John 7:1: 

After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him.

In chapter 7, the pharisees also seek to arrest Jesus but are unable. 

And here again, we see people opposing Jesus and what he says. 

Back in our passage. 

Jesus has said that it is he who is the light of the world and that the one who follows him will not walk in darkness.

Pharisees respond 

So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.”

Similar arguments that they’ve already made before. 

Jesus is making a statement of fact. He is the light of the world. 

Where the pharisees talk about witnesses and testimony, they’re using Old Testament courtroom language to try to invalidate Jesus. 

They’re saying that multiple witnesses are needed to authenticate Jesus. 

But Jesus has had multiple witnesses. He had John the Baptist, he’s had his disciples, he’s had people who have seen his signs. 

Most importantly, Jesus has the witness of the Father, who gives ultimate legitimacy to the mission of Christ.

Also, they’re not in court. 

Verse 14: Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going.

Remember what I said earlier about the “I am” phrase. Jesus says “I am” twice in this verse. It’s a different Greek word. 

Just wanted to note that. 

So the pharisees have a legal perspective in analyzing what Jesus has said, but Jesus is talking to them from a heavenly perspective. 

Beginning in verse 15, Jesus starts to talk about the subject of judgment. 

You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. 16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. 17 In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. 

Jesus talks about judgment. 

The pharisees judge. 

Jesus says that he judges no one.

The point is that he is not primarily in the world to bring judgment. He’s not saying that there is never judgment. He addresses this same issue in chapter 3. 

John 3:16. The most famous verse in the Bible. God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 

Immediately following that verse, Jesus says:  

John 3:17-18, Jesus is again speaking to a group of pharisees: 

God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

So when Jesus talks about judgment, it’s related to his “I am” statement at the beginning of the passage. 

Because it is Jesus who is the light in a dark world and the pharisees are walking in darkness and are favoring the darkness by turning from the light of Christ. 

And in rejecting the true light of God, they are bringing judgment upon themselves. 

In chapter 3, Jesus said. 


3:19-20: 

this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.

The pharisees bring up a lack witnesses. Their reasons for disbelieving in Jesus are not about a lack of evidence. 

That’s not why the pharisees disbelieved. 

It’s not why anyone disbelieves in him.

People don’t believe in Jesus because they don’t want to believe in him, because they don’t want to surrender their lives to him, because they don’t want to bend a knee to Christ, because they don’t want to admit their desperate need for his grace. 

We see righteousness in Jesus, we see his signs. During his ministry, for so many, no level of evidence would ever convince them of the truth. 

Continuing in our passage. 

In verse 18, Jesus says: I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”

I am in this instance is the same wording of the “I am statements.”

As we often see in John, I think there’s a double meaning here. 

Jesus is saying that he is a witness to himself, but in saying I am the one who bears witness about myself, that he’s referring to the witness of God. 

He explicitly talks of the witness of the Father in the second part of the verse when he says: the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”

That is the one who ultimately authenticates Jesus’ ministry. 

Verse 19, the pharisees ask Jesus where his father is and Jesus tells them that they do not truly know God. 

This is reminiscent of language from chapter 5. 

5:37-38: the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 

Again, we see a lot of similar controversies. And Jesus continues to live a perfect life, he continues to have a righteous ministry, he continues to display his glory. And the people continue not to believe. 

Jesus goes on to say: I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?

Truly knowing the Word of God points a person to Christ. Truly knowing the Law of God, points a person to Christ. Both in chapters 5 and 8, Jesus is talking to the religious leaders and their refusal to accept the truth. 

As with all truth, the gospel is true regardless of if we accept it or not. 

Just like the laws of gravity work or the rules of arithmetic are true and two plus two equals four, it does not depend on our agreement. It simply is. 

Jesus is the light of the world, and he is the one who reconciles a dead world to 

Paul said in Philippians 2: at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 

Back in our passage. Verse 20 says that Jesus had not yet been arrested for saying these things, not because the pharisees lacked the desire to arrest or to harm him, but because his hour had not yet come. 

Pointing forward again to the time of his death. 

How do you respond to Jesus? 

The pharisees largely rejected him. 

The world largely hates his message of salvation. Sure, people like some of his teachings, but the world hates the idea that he is the way, the truth, and the life. 

In the Old Testament, while the Israelite were on their desert wanderings, God gave them a pillar of light to lead them. There weren’t all sorts of routes for the Israelites to go. They had to follow God’s light. 

The world is dark, the world often loves its own darkness, the world often calls its own darkness light. But Jesus is the true light who leads us away from the darkness and who leads us to life. 

And for that, we must follow him and walk in his light.