John 8:12 Again, Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me shall not walk in the darkness but shall have the light of life.
The theme of light and darkness runs throughout the Bible, but it is most notable in the Gospel of John. Jesus says the phrase “I am” over a hundred times in various contexts but there are seven I AM statements that follow a pattern and are especially memorable because of how Jesus illustrates himself in objects. The first one is light.
Imagine being in a completely dark pitch-black forest that is cold and quiet. Imagine the fear and panic a person would feel. Now imagine suddenly a bright light appears in the distance. What would your reaction be? Relief? You would start running towards it going from wandering aimlessly without direction to now being guided by this light towards its origin. You have a destination and purpose. This very literal illustration is what sits behind Jesus’s metaphorical illustration that He is the light of the world.
Light shows us our way
Jesus tells us in scripture that many will not recognise the truth because they walk in darkness. In Psalms, the Word of God is praised for being like a light to our feet to guide us among the paths. Jesus embodies that because he is the Word. Through his teachings and example that is recorded in our Bibles, we can follow Him as though He is our guiding light.
Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.
Light shows us our sins
In John 3 Jesus speaks to Nicodemus around the theme of light and darkness as well. He says that those who do not believe, in other words, reject Him, choose to wander in darkness. Picture someone plotting something nefarious. It is better done at night because it is more difficult to see. A criminal can more easily lurk around in the dense shadows of the night unseen. Believers walk in the light so that our sin is clearly seen by us, especially so that we may be convicted of those sins and turn from them.
John 3:19-20 This is the verdict, that light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.
Being a light to the world
In Matthew, the great sermon on the mount Jesus compares us to light. Not as sources but a reflection of His light and he also says that when we reflect His light we are like a city on a hill.
Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a basket, but on a candlestick. 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 who is in heaven.
If we examine this illustration, we see that a city does not consist of one singular massive light but a collective of many lights. The more lights there are the brighter they all seem together and the further away they can be seen from. This is true for the local churches as well. When we are united in one body with Christ as our head. We are not only individually reflecting God’s glory but together as well.