The Light of Life
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."
When He spoke these words,
Jesus was in the court of the temple specially connected with the services of the Feast of
Tabernacles. In the center of this court rose two lofty standards, supporting lampstands
of great size. After the evening sacrifice, all the lamps were kindled, shedding their
light over Jerusalem. This ceremony was in commemoration of the pillar of light that
guided Israel in the desert, and was also regarded as pointing to the coming of the
Messiah. At evening when the lamps were lighted, the court was a scene of great rejoicing.
Gray-haired men, the priests of the temple and the rulers of the people, united in the
festive dances to the sound of instrumental music and the chants of the Levites.
In the illumination of
Jerusalem, the people expressed their hope of the Messiah's coming to shed His light upon
Israel. But to Jesus the scene had a wider meaning. As the radiant lamps of the temple
lighted up all about them, so Christ, the source of spiritual light, illumines the
darkness of the world. Yet the symbol was imperfect. That great light which His own hand
had set in the heavens was a truer representation of the glory of His mission.
It was morning; the sun had
just risen above the Mount of Olives, and its rays fell with dazzling brightness on the
marble palaces, and
lighted up the gold of the temple walls, when Jesus, pointing to it,
said, "I am the light of the world."
By one who listened to these
words, they were long afterward re-echoed in that sublime passage, "In Him was life;
and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness
apprehended it not." "That was the true light, which lighteth every man that
cometh into the world." John 1:4, 5, R. V., 9. And long after Jesus had ascended to
heaven, Peter also, writing under the illumination of the divine Spirit, recalled the
symbol Christ had used: "We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do
well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn,
and the daystar arise in your hearts." 2 Peter 1:19.
In the manifestation of God
to His people, light had ever been a symbol of His presence. At the creative word in the
beginning, light had shone out of darkness. Light had been enshrouded in the pillar of
cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, leading the vast armies of Israel. Light
blazed with awful grandeur about the Lord on Mount Sinai. Light rested over the mercy seat
in the tabernacle. Light filled the temple of Solomon at its dedication. Light shone on
the hills of Bethlehem when the angels brought the message of redemption to the watching
God is light; and in the
words, "I am the light of the world," Christ declared His oneness with God, and
His relation to the whole human family. It was He who at the beginning had caused
"the light to shine out of darkness." 2 Cor. 4:6. He is the light of sun and
moon and star. He was the spiritual light that in symbol and type and prophecy had shone
upon Israel. But not to the Jewish nation alone was the light given. As the sunbeams
penetrate to the remotest corners of the earth, so does the light of the Sun of
Righteousness shine upon every soul.
"That was the true
light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." The world has had its
great teachers, men of giant intellect and wonderful research, men whose utterances have
stimulated thought, and opened to view vast fields of knowledge; and these men have been
honored as guides and benefactors of their race. But there is One who stands higher than
they. "As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of
God." "No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, which is in the
bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." John 1:12, 18. We can trace the line of
the world's great teachers as far back as human records extend; but the
Light was before
them. As the moon and the stars of the solar system shine by the reflected light of the
sun, so, as far as their teaching is true, do the world's great thinkers reflect the rays
of the Sun of Righteousness. Every gem of thought, every flash of the intellect, is from
the Light of the world. In these days we hear much about "higher education." The
true "higher education" is that imparted by Him "in whom are hid all the
treasures of wisdom and knowledge." "In Him was life; and the life was the light
of men." Col. 2:3; John 1:4. "He that followeth Me," said Jesus,
"shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."
In the words, "I am the
light of the world," Jesus declared Himself the Messiah. The aged Simeon, in the
temple where Christ was now teaching, had spoken of Him as "a light to lighten the
Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel." Luke 2:32. In these words he was
applying to Him a prophecy familiar to all Israel. By the prophet Isaiah, the Holy Spirit
had declared, "It is too light a thing that Thou shouldest be My servant to raise up
the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give Thee for a
light to the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be My salvation unto the end of the earth."
Isa. 49:6, R. V. This prophecy was generally understood as spoken of the Messiah, and when
Jesus said, "I am the light of the world," the people could not fail to
recognize His claim to be the Promised One.
To the Pharisees and rulers
this claim seemed an arrogant assumption. That a man like themselves should make such
pretensions they could not tolerate. Seeming to ignore His words, they demanded, "Who
art Thou?" They were bent upon forcing Him to declare Himself the Christ. His
appearance and His work were so at variance with the expectations of the people, that, as
His wily enemies believed, a direct announcement of Himself as the Messiah would cause Him
to be rejected as an impostor.
But to their question,
"Who art Thou?" Jesus replied, "Even that which I have also spoken unto you
from the beginning." John 8:25, R.V. That which had been revealed in His words was
revealed also in His character. He was the embodiment of the truths He taught. "I do
nothing of Myself," He continued; "but as My Father hath taught Me, I speak
these things. And He that sent Me is with Me: the Father hath not left Me alone; for I do
always those things that please Him." He did not attempt to prove His Messianic
claim, but showed His unity with God. If their minds had been open to God's love, they
would have received Jesus.
Among His hearers many were
drawn to Him in faith, and to them He said, "if ye continue in My word, then are ye
My disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
These words offended the
Pharisees. The nation's long subjection to a foreign yoke, they disregarded, and angrily
exclaimed, "We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest
Thou, Ye shall be made free?" Jesus looked upon these men, the slaves of malice,
whose thoughts were bent upon revenge, and sadly answered, "Verily, verily, I say
unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin." They were in the worst
kind of bondage,--ruled by the spirit of evil.
Every soul that refuses to
give himself to God is under the control of another power. He is not his own. He may talk
of freedom, but he is in the most abject slavery. He is not allowed to see the beauty of
truth, for his mind is under the control of Satan. While he flatters himself that he is
following the dictates of his own judgment, he obeys the will of the prince of darkness.
Christ came to break the shackles of sin-slavery from the soul. "If the Son therefore
shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." "The law of the Spirit of life in
Christ Jesus" sets us "free from the law of sin and death." Rom. 8:2.
In the work of redemption
there is no compulsion. No external force is employed. Under the influence of the Spirit
of God, man is left free to choose whom he will serve. In the change that takes place when
the soul surrenders to Christ, there is the highest sense of freedom. The expulsion of sin
is the act of the soul itself. True, we have no power to free ourselves from Satan's
control; but when we desire to be set free from sin, and in our great need cry out for a
power out of and above ourselves, the powers of the soul are imbued with the divine energy
of the Holy Spirit, and they obey the dictates of the will in fulfilling the will of God.
The only condition upon which
the freedom of man is possible is that of becoming one with Christ. "The truth shall
make you free;" and Christ is the truth. Sin can triumph only by enfeebling the mind,
and destroying the liberty of the soul. Subjection to God is restoration to one's
self,--to the true glory and dignity of man. The divine law, to which we are brought into
subjection, is "the law of liberty." James 2:12.
The Pharisees had declared
themselves the children of Abraham. Jesus told them that this claim could be established
only by doing the works of Abraham. The true children of Abraham would live, as he did, a
life of obedience to God. They would not try to kill One who was speaking the truth that
was given Him from God. In plotting
against Christ, the rabbis were not doing the works of
Abraham. A mere lineal descent from Abraham was of no value. Without a spiritual
connection with him, which would be manifested in possessing the same spirit, and doing
the same works, they were not his children.
This principle bears with
equal weight upon a question that has long agitated the Christian world,--the question of
apostolic succession. Descent from Abraham was proved, not by name and lineage, but by
likeness of character. So the apostolic succession rests not upon the transmission of
ecclesiastical authority, but upon spiritual relationship. A life actuated by the
apostles' spirit, the belief and teaching of the truth they taught, this is the true
evidence of apostolic succession. This is what constitutes men the successors of the first
teachers of the gospel.
Jesus denied that the Jews
were children of Abraham. He said, "Ye do the deeds of your father." In mockery
they answered, "We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God."
These words, in allusion to the circumstances of His birth, were intended as a thrust
against Christ in the presence of those who were beginning to believe on Him. Jesus gave
no heed to the base insinuation, but said, "If God were your Father, ye would love
Me: for I proceeded forth and came from God."
Their works testified of
their relationship to him who was a liar and a murderer. "Ye are of your father the
devil," said Jesus, "and the lusts of your father it is your will to do. He was
a murderer from the beginning, and stood not in the truth, because there is no truth in
him. . . . Because I say the truth, ye believe Me not." John 8:44, 45, R. V. The fact
that Jesus spoke the truth, and that with certainty, was why He was not received by the
Jewish leaders. It was the truth that offended these self-righteous men. The truth exposed
the fallacy of error; it condemned their teaching and practice, and it was unwelcome. They
would rather close their eyes to the truth than humble themselves to confess that they had
been in error. They did not love the truth. They did not desire it, even though it was
"Which of you convicteth
[Revised Version] Me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe Me?" Day
by day for three years His enemies had been following Christ, trying to find some stain in
His character. Satan and all the confederacy of evil had been seeking to overcome Him; but
they had found nothing in Him by which to gain an advantage. Even the devils were forced
to confess, "Thou art the Holy One of God." Mark 1:24. Jesus lived the law in
the sight of heaven, in the
sight of unfallen worlds, and in the sight of sinful men.
Before angels, men, and demons, He had spoken, unchallenged, words that from any other
lips would have been blasphemy: "I do always those things that please Him."
The fact that although they
could find no sin in Christ the Jews would not receive Him proved that they themselves had
no connection with God. They did not recognize His voice in the message of His Son. They
thought themselves passing judgment on Christ; but in rejecting Him they were pronouncing
sentence upon themselves. "He that is of God," said Jesus, "heareth God's
words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God."
The lesson is true for all
time. Many a man who delights to quibble, to criticize, seeking for something to question
in the word of God, thinks that he is thereby giving evidence of independence of thought,
and mental acuteness. He supposes that he is sitting in judgment on the Bible, when in
truth he is judging himself. He makes it manifest that he is incapable of appreciating
truths that originate in heaven, and that compass eternity. In presence of the great
mountain of God's righteousness, his spirit is not awed. He busies himself with hunting
for sticks and straws, and in this betrays a narrow and earthly nature, a heart that is
fast losing its capacity to appreciate God. He whose heart has responded to the divine
touch will be seeking for that which will increase his knowledge of God, and will refine
and elevate the character. As a flower turns to the sun, that the bright rays may touch it
with tints of beauty, so will the soul turn to the Sun of Righteousness, that heaven's
light may beautify the character with the graces of the character of Christ.
Jesus continued, drawing a
sharp contrast between the position of the Jews and that of Abraham: "Your father
Abraham rejoiced to see My day: and he saw it, and was glad."
Abraham had greatly desired
to see the promised Saviour. He offered up the most earnest prayer that before his death
he might behold the Messiah. And he saw Christ. A supernatural light was given him, and he
acknowledged Christ's divine character. He saw His day, and was glad. He was given a view
of the divine sacrifice for sin. Of this sacrifice he had an illustration in his own
experience. The command came to him, "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom
thou lovest, . . . and offer him . . . for a burnt offering." Gen. 22:2.
altar of sacrifice he laid the son of promise, the son in whom his hopes were centered.
Then as he waited beside the altar with knife upraised to obey God, he heard a voice from
heaven saying, "Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him:
for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only
son from Me." Gen. 22:12. This terrible ordeal was imposed upon Abraham that he might
see the day of Christ, and realize the great love of God for the world, so great that to
raise it from its degradation, He gave His only-begotten Son to a most shameful death.
Abraham learned of God the
greatest lesson ever given to mortal. His prayer that he might see Christ before he should
die was answered. He saw Christ; he saw all that mortal can see, and live. By making an
entire surrender, he was able to understand the vision of Christ, which had been given
him. He was shown that in giving His only-begotten Son to save sinners from eternal ruin,
God was making a greater and more wonderful sacrifice than ever man could make.
Abraham's experience answered
the question: "Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high
God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the
Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I
give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my
soul?" Micah 6:6, 7. In the words of Abraham, "My son, God will provide Himself
a lamb for a burnt offering," (Gen. 22:8), and in God's provision of a sacrifice
instead of Isaac, it was declared that no man could make expiation for himself. The pagan
system of sacrifice was wholly unacceptable to God. No father was to offer up his son or
his daughter for a sin offering. The Son of God alone can bear the guilt of the world.
Through his own suffering,
Abraham was enabled to behold the Saviour's mission of sacrifice. But Israel would not
understand that which was so unwelcome to their proud hearts. Christ's words concerning
Abraham conveyed to His hearers no deep significance. The Pharisees saw in them only fresh
ground for caviling. They retorted with a sneer, as if they would prove Jesus to be a
madman, "Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast Thou seen Abraham?"
With solemn dignity Jesus
answered, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I Am."
Silence fell upon the vast
assembly. The name of God, given to Moses to express the idea of the eternal presence, had
been claimed as
His own by this Galilean Rabbi. He had announced Himself to be the
self-existent One, He who had been promised to Israel, "whose goings forth have been
from of old, from the days of eternity." Micah 5:2, margin.
Again the priests and rabbis
cried out against Jesus as a blasphemer. His claim to be one with God had before stirred
them to take His life, and a few months later they plainly declared, "For a good work
we stone Thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that Thou, being a man, makest Thyself
God." John 10:33. Because He was, and avowed Himself to be, the Son of God, they were
bent on destroying Him. Now many of the people, siding with the priests and rabbis, took
up stones to cast at Him. "But Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple, going
through the midst of them, and so passed by."
The Light was shining in
darkness; but "the darkness apprehended it not." John 1:5, R. V.
"As Jesus passed by, He
saw a man which was blind from his birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, Master, who
did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath
this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in
him. . . . When He had thus spoken, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle,
and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, and said unto him, Go, wash in
the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent). He went his way therefore, and
washed, and came seeing."
It was generally believed by
the Jews that sin is punished in this life. Every affliction was regarded as the penalty
of some wrongdoing, either of the sufferer himself or of his parents. It is true that all
suffering results from the transgression of God's law, but this truth had become
perverted. Satan, the author of sin and all its results, had led men to look upon disease
and death as proceeding from God,--as punishment arbitrarily inflicted on account of sin.
Hence one upon whom some great affliction or calamity had fallen had the additional burden
of being regarded as a great sinner.
Thus the way was prepared for
the Jews to reject Jesus. He who "hath borne our griefs, and carried our
sorrows" was looked upon by the Jews as "stricken, smitten of God, and
afflicted;" and they hid their faces from Him. Isa. 53:4, 3.
God had given a lesson
designed to prevent this. The history of Job had shown that suffering is inflicted by
Satan, and is overruled by God for purposes of mercy. But Israel did not understand the
lesson. The same error for which God had reproved the friends of Job was repeated by the
Jews in their rejection of Christ.
The belief of the Jews in
regard to the relation of sin and suffering was held by Christ's disciples. While Jesus
corrected their error, He did not explain the cause of the man's affliction, but told them
what would be the result. Because of it the works of God would be made manifest. "As
long as I am in the world," He said, "I am the light of the world." Then
having anointed the eyes of the blind man, He sent him to wash in the pool of Siloam, and
the man's sight was restored. Thus Jesus answered the question of the disciples in a
practical way, as He usually answered questions put to Him from curiosity. The disciples
were not called upon to discuss the question as to who had sinned or had not sinned, but
to understand the power and mercy of God in giving sight to the blind. It was evident that
there was no healing virtue in the clay, or in the pool wherein the blind man was sent to
wash, but that the virtue was in Christ.
The Pharisees could not but
be astonished at the cure. Yet they were more than ever filled with hatred; for the
miracle had been performed on the Sabbath day.
The neighbors of the young
man, and those who knew him before in his blindness, said, "Is not this he that sat
and begged?" They looked upon him with doubt; for when his eyes were opened, his
countenance was changed and brightened, and he appeared like another man. From
another the question passed. Some said, "This is he;" others, "He is like
him." But he who had received the great blessing settled the question by saying,
"I am he." He then told them of Jesus, and by what means he had been healed, and
they inquired, "Where is He? He said, I know not."
Then they brought him before
a council of the Pharisees. Again the man was asked how he had received his sight.
"He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see. Therefore
said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because He keepeth not the Sabbath
day." The Pharisees hoped to make Jesus out to be a sinner, and therefore not the
Messiah. They knew not that it was He who had made the Sabbath and knew all its
obligation, who had healed the blind man. They appeared wonderfully zealous for the
observance of the Sabbath, yet were planning murder on that very day. But many were
greatly moved at hearing of this miracle, and were convicted that He who had opened the
eyes of the blind was more than a common man. In answer to the charge that Jesus was a
sinner because He kept not the Sabbath day, they said, "How can a man that is a
sinner do such miracles?"
Again the rabbis appealed to
the blind man, "What sayest thou of Him, that He hath opened thine eyes? He said, He
is a prophet." The Pharisees then asserted that he had not been born blind and
received his sight. They called for his parents, and asked them, saying, "Is this
your son, who ye say was born blind?"
There was the man himself,
declaring that he had been blind, and had had his sight restored; but the Pharisees would
rather deny the evidence of their own senses than admit that they were in error. So
powerful is prejudice, so distorting is Pharisaical righteousness.
The Pharisees had one hope
left, and that was to intimidate the man's parents. With apparent sincerity they asked,
"How then doth he now see?" The parents feared to compromise themselves; for it
had been declared that whoever should acknowledge Jesus as the Christ should be "put
out of the synagogue;" that is, should be excluded from the synagogue for thirty
days. During this time no child could be circumcised nor dead be lamented in the
offender's home. The sentence was regarded as a great calamity; and if it failed to
produce repentance, a far heavier penalty followed. The great work wrought for their son
had brought conviction to the parents, yet they answered, "We know that this is our
son, and that he was born blind: but by what means he now
seeth, we know not; or who hath
opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself."
Thus they shifted all responsibility from themselves to their son; for they dared not
The dilemma in which the
Pharisees were placed, their questioning and prejudice, their unbelief in the facts of the
case, were opening the eyes of the multitude, especially of the common people. Jesus had
frequently wrought His miracles in the open street, and His work was always of a character
to relieve suffering. The question in many minds was, Would God do such mighty works
through an impostor, as the Pharisees insisted that Jesus was? The controversy was
becoming very earnest on both sides.
The Pharisees saw that they
were giving publicity to the work done by Jesus. They could not deny the miracle. The
blind man was filled with joy and gratitude; he beheld the wondrous things of nature, and
was filled with delight at the beauty of earth and sky. He freely related his experience,
and again they tried to silence him, saying, "Give God the praise: we know that this
Man is a sinner." That is, Do not say again that this Man gave you sight; it is God
who has done this.
The blind man answered,
"Whether He be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was
blind, now I see."
Then they questioned again,
"What did He to thee? how opened He thine eyes?" With many words they tried to
confuse him, so that he might think himself deluded. Satan and his evil angels were on the
side of the Pharisees, and united their energies and subtlety with man's reasoning in
order to counteract the influence of Christ. They blunted the convictions that were
deepening in many minds. Angels of God were also on the ground to strengthen the man who
had had his sight restored.
The Pharisees did not realize
that they had to deal with any other than the uneducated man who had been born blind; they
knew not Him with whom they were in controversy. Divine light shone into the chambers of
the blind man's soul. As these hypocrites tried to make him disbelieve, God helped him to
show, by the vigor and pointedness of his replies, that he was not to be ensnared. He
answered, "I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it
again? will ye also be His disciples? Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art His
disciple; but we are Moses' disciples. We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this
fellow, we know not from whence He is."
The Lord Jesus knew the
ordeal through which the man was passing, and He gave him grace and utterance, so that he
became a witness for Christ. He answered the Pharisees in words that were a cutting rebuke
to his questioners. They claimed to be the expositors of Scripture, the religious guides
of the nation; and yet here was One performing miracles, and they were confessedly
ignorant as to the source of His power, and as to His character and claims. "Why
herein is a marvelous thing," said the man, "that ye know not from whence He is,
and yet He hath opened mine eyes. Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man
be a worshiper of God, and doeth His will, him He heareth. Since the world began was it
not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this Man were not of
God, He could do nothing."
The man had met his
inquisitors on their own ground. His reasoning was unanswerable. The Pharisees were
astonished, and they held their peace,--spellbound before his pointed, determined words.
For a few moments there was silence. Then the frowning priests and rabbis gathered about
them their robes, as though they feared contamination from contact with him; they shook
off the dust from their feet, and hurled denunciations against him,--"Thou wast
altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us?" And they excommunicated him.
Jesus heard what had been
done; and finding him soon after, He said, "Dost thou believe on the Son of
For the first time the blind
man looked upon the face of his Restorer. Before the council he had seen his parents
troubled and perplexed; he had looked upon the frowning faces of the rabbis; now his eyes
rested upon the loving, peaceful countenance of Jesus. Already, at great cost to himself,
he had acknowledged Him as a delegate of divine power; now a higher revelation was granted
To the Saviour's question,
"Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" the blind man replied by asking,
"Who is He, Lord, that I might believe on Him?" And Jesus said, "Thou hast
both seen Him, and it is He that talketh with thee." The man cast himself at the
Saviour's feet in worship. Not only had his natural sight been restored, but the eyes of
his understanding had been opened. Christ had been revealed to his soul, and he received
Him as the Sent of God.
A group of Pharisees had
gathered near, and the sight of them brought to the mind of Jesus the contrast ever
manifest in the effect of His words and works. He said, "For judgment I am come into
this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made
blind." Christ had come to open the blind eyes, to give light to them that sit in
darkness. He had declared Himself to be the light of the world, and the miracle just
performed was in attestation of His mission. The people who beheld the Saviour at His
advent were favored with a fuller manifestation of the divine presence than the world had
ever enjoyed before. The knowledge of God was revealed more perfectly. But in this very
revelation, judgment was passing upon men. Their character was tested, their destiny
The manifestation of divine
power that had given to the blind man both natural and spiritual sight had left the
Pharisees in yet deeper darkness. Some of His hearers, feeling that Christ's words applied
to them, inquired, "Are we blind also?" Jesus answered, "If ye were blind,
ye should have no sin." If God had made it impossible for you to see the truth, your
ignorance would involve no guilt. "But now ye say, We see." You believe
yourselves able to see, and reject the means through which alone you could receive sight.
To all who realized their need, Christ came with infinite help. But the Pharisees would
confess no need; they refused to come to Christ, and hence they were left in blindness,--a
blindness for which they were themselves guilty. Jesus said, "Your sin