Shining a light: John 8

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Today’s reading: John 7-8.

 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Psalm 119:105

In the second of his seven “I am” statements, Jesus declared himself the revealer of truth, the light in the darkness, the guiding principle, and he contrasted himself with the darkness around him by his words and actions.

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.” John 8:12

In my teenage years my brother and I had to hike 17 miles in one day to reach our shelter. The day stretched into the evening and still our camp was miles away. We walked the last few miles and hours by the power of our flashlights, without which we might have been forced to sleep on the trail. In a dark world, light is essential for safe travel. Jesus lights up all the dark corners of our lives and shows us the safe way to heaven.

Lighting up the darkness of hypocrisy. They brought the adulterous woman to Jesus, not because they cared about justice or the law, but because they wanted to use her to strike at Jesus. He turned his light on their sinfulness, and their condemnation disappeared, leaving only God’s grace.

Lighting up the darkness of sin. The Israelites thought they were free, but in reality they were slaves of sin. Jesus pointed out their sinful motives and actions so that they might have an opportunity to repent and be set free.

Lighting up the darkness of the devil. Modern men may doubt the existence of the father of evil, but Jesus did not. He knew that Satan was the agent of darkness and the source of lies. Pointing out the truth of Satan’s work was the first step in disarming him.

Lighting up the darkness of death. Many Jews in Jesus’ day did not believe in life after death. Jesus promised that everyone who obeyed his words would find eternal life, just as he had experienced it from the beginning of time.

Jesus is the word of God, and God’s word is the light that illuminates our path.

Jesus is the light of the world because he comes from the Father and speaks for the Father and is going to the Father and is one with the Father. So these words of interaction with the Jews look like a detour from “I am the light of the world,” but in fact they are constantly pointing to the way he is the light of the world—by coming from the Father and going to the Father and being one with the Father. – John Piper

Image by Praful Schroff on Flickr, CC by 2.0

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6 thoughts on “Shining a light: John 8

  1. I know this is out of sequence, but in John 3, discussing being born again, Jesus asks Nicodemus, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand this?”

    What do you think Jesus expected Nicodemus to know?

  2. I used to think it was how could he not know he was sitting in the presence of God. Maybe that is indirectly true.

    I heard an interesting thought from an apologist named Steve Ray. I paraphrase, but it goes something like this:

    How does one become born again?

    Ask Jesus to come into your heart. Nowhere to be found in scripture.
    Accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior. Nowhere to be found in scripture.

    So how does one become born again? By water and spirit.

    What Nicodemus should have known, is the Torah. And that when God does something new, He does it with water and spirit.

    When He creates the world:

    In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. Genesis 1: 1-2

    When he renews humanity via Noah:

    Then he sent forth a dove (a symbol of the spirit) from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground. Genesis 8:8

    …when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you. 1 Peter 3: 20-21

    When the Hebrews are delivered out of bondage to begin the nation of Israel, passing through the water of the Red Sea:

    And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.
    Exodus 13:21

    And when God reveals what the New Covenant will look like:

    I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you.

    And when the Son of Man is anointed:

    And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him. Matthew 3:16

    So when God does something new, He does it through water and spirit. This is what Nicodemus should have known.

    And when Peter responds to the first converts questions of how to be saved:

    And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2: 38

    And at Paul’s conversion:

    And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized. Acts 9:18

    What Nicodemus should have known is that God creates/renews through water and the spirit. The Baptism of Jesus was likely front page headlines at the time.

    “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

    The answer to Nicodemus’ question, is baptism.

    • Eric, that is a very thorough and thought-provoking review of water and wind in the Bible. I can agree with you that baptism may be part of what is needed for salvation. However, I think that rather than letting the text of John 3 speak for itself, you are forcing your interpretation on it.
      What is the passage about? Entering the kingdom of God.
      How does Jesus say one enters the kingdom? One must be born from above.
      How is one born from above? By water and the spirit. Jesus goes on to describe the supernatural working of the Spirit. He then says “the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” Also, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” In today’s reading from John 17 he says, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” Jesus is very clear that belief in him leads to eternal life. He never mentions baptism. If water in the text means baptism, Jesus explains that it is baptism plus the working of the Holy Spirit plus faith in Jesus. But if baptism itself is so crucial, why didn’t he say baptism? It’s clear that the early believers put a high value on baptism and we’ll have to look at that in more depth as we head into Acts and the Epistles. I like the passage from Ezekiel 36 best. But do you think God intends literal water as the cleansing agent that will remove all our sin and idolatry? I don’t think there is any such physical water. I was baptized as a baby (really only a consecration for our parents) and baptized by immersion as an adult believer (the outward and visible sign of my inner conversion, in obedience to Jesus’ command) but it was placing my faith in Jesus as a 13 year old that allowed the Holy Spirit to take away my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh.

      • I think the answer can be found in Acts, where we see a separation of two baptisms, one by water (John’s baptism of repentance) and the second by the spirit. It is made clear both are essential, but strangely the chronology seems not to matter. Some received the spirit but lacked water, and others the other way around. For us, ours was separated by a decade or more. Jesus’ baptism appears to have both simultaneously, a perfect baptism. Neither is complete without the other, water and spirit together being how God initiates change. Doesn’t this fit well with the beginning of new life, or being born again? I think that is what Jesus was trying to teach Nicodemus, and it is the foundation of the Great Commission.

        Peter is making the point that the water is more than just water, it is salvific. The Church accepts his teaching as one of the seven mysteries or sacraments, a visible sign of the invisible grace of the Lord.

        It also appears to be how early Christians understood the concept of being born again, not accepting Jesus as one’s personal savior, which is found nowhere in scripture. It is not just water baptism alone, they meant both water and spirit.

        But being born again is, I think, what it says, a new beginning. It is the beginning of the path to salvation, but it is not the path itself. It is just the first step. Salvation is the rest of the journey.

  3. Pingback: Bible Daily Devotional – Shining a light: John 8 | ChristianBlessings

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