Then Jesus spoke out again, “I am the light of the world. The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 8:12 (NET)
I don’t know how I would do if I had to live within the Arctic circle during the winter when there are days without the sun. I understand that many people who live in the far north of the globe suffer from depression during that time of year. I begin to feel down when we have overcast skies for days at a time, and there is still light outside! God has certainly given us a great picture of the need for light through nature! It is essential to our well-being, whether we realize it or not.
Diamonds in the Word: Because we are skipping a large section of John (John 7:1-8:11), your optional assignment for this whole week is to study it. I suggest that you just read it quickly today and go back to it to do more study after you complete your five days of work. Primarily focus on the discussions that Jesus had with people. Think about the divisions that He caused among the Jews. Consider His arguments and their misunderstandings. How does this discussion help John accomplish his purpose in the book?
The events in John 7-9 occurred during the Feast of Tabernacles. We begin our study section this week in Jn. 8:12, but it simply continues the narrative of what happened at that feast. (See Jn. 7:1-2, 10, 14, 37; 8:12). If you read the entire section from 7:1-8:12, you may not notice it because the narrative that begins at 8:12 seems like a new story. However, most scholars believe that the intervening story in 8:1-11 was added later and not part of John’s original text.12 If you took that section out and read the story without it, you would more easily see that 8:12 continues the story of what happened at the feast.
Before we get into our study in John, let’s study a bit about this feast. As with the other feasts of Israel, God gave Moses instructions for it.
1. Read Lev. 23:33-34, 39-43; Deut. 16:13-15. Write a news story about this feast. Be sure and include the who, what, where, when, why, and how!
Gary Burge notes some interesting details about the Feast of Tabernacles as it was practiced in Jesus’ day. This feast occurs in September-October on our present day calendar and celebrates the autumn harvest of tree and vine. Its date coincides with what we call the autumn equinox, that day when day and night are of equal length. “Jewish ritual practice recognized this ‘dying of the sun’ and incorporated into the festival ceremonies of light to hallmark the passing of the season.” Because the fall normally produced little rain, the feast also integrated symbols depicting prayer for refreshing water, which were understood to represent both physical rain and spiritual refreshment.13
So water and light were both emphasized at this feast; Jesus came into the midst of the celebration and used those symbols as a teaching tool, more snapshots of Him.
Before we go to John 8, we’ll backtrack and see what happened earlier during the feast. Read John 7:37-39.
2. What did Jesus offer the people on the last day of the feast?
The rituals for that day were the backdrop for Jesus’ words. For the first six days of the Feast of Tabernacles, priests descended from the Jerusalem temple to the Gihon spring. One of them then filled a golden pitcher with water, took it to the temple, and poured it onto the altar. On the last or seventh day, this was done seven times.
3. Read these Old Testament references to water. Write down how these verses give significance to Jesus’ saying that He was the source of the water of life:
a. Ex. 17:1-6
c. Is. 55:1
4. Sharing question: Is Jesus truly the source to which you turn to meet your needs? Obviously, water is a basic need for life, and He is the source of true life. But He is also the source of all of our other needs: love, security, purpose, etc. What is your greatest need right now? How are you trying to meet that need?
5. Responding to God: Draw a picture—sticks are fine! Picture the need you mentioned in the last question as water. Show yourself going to the Water to have your need met.
Now that we have a bit of background about the Feast of Tabernacles, we will actually read the verse that gives us our snapshot this week, John 8:12.
6. Write out John 8:12, another I Am statement. It is our Precious Word from God this week. Use your memory verse cards at the back of the study to help you learn it.
Yesterday we mentioned that light was used as a symbol at the Feast of Tabernacles to signify the passing of the season. As part of the ritual of the seven-day feast, every evening four giant lamps in the temple court were lit, and the people celebrated under their light. Remember this was a time when cities were actually dark at night. This was an unusual event, and it was reported that the light from the temple area at the top of Mount Zion brought a glow to the entire city of Jerusalem. It was in this context that Jesus got up and claimed to be the Light of the World.14
7. Let’s look at some other verses that use the picture of light. How do these verses help you understand Jesus as the Light of the World?
a. Ex. 13:21-22
b. Ps. 78:14
c. Ps. 27:1
d. Prov. 6:23
e. Ps. 119:105
f. John 1:5
g. John 3:19-21
h. 1 John 1:5
8. Sharing question: Which verse from the previous question is most meaningful to you as you think about Jesus being your light? Why?
9. Responding to God: Write a prayer to the Light of your life. Base it on one of the verses above.
Read John 8:12-20.
10. Jesus’ claim to be the Light of the World produced criticism from the Pharisees. In His response, Jesus connected Himself and His work to His Father. This is a hard passage, but don’t go to any sources! Instead of focusing on what isn’t clear, consider all the verses from 8:12-20 without spending a lot of time on them, and write down how you see Jesus connect Himself with God the Father.
Read John 8:21-30.
11. This section contains I Am statements in Jn. 8:24, 28. You may not have recognized these as I Am statements because your translation may add the word “he” after the “I am” [NET, NASB, BBE, NKJV] or it may say “the one I claim to be” [NIV]. (Your Bible should have these words in italics to show you that they are not in the original Greek.) In other words, Jesus literally said in Jn. 8:24, “Unless you believe I am, you will die in your sins.” Knowing the significance of I Am, how would you explain what Jesus was saying in verses 24 and 28?
Now jump to John 8:48-59. (If you have time read 8:31-47.)
12. There is one more I Am statement in John 8:58. This one is significant because the Judeans to whom Jesus is speaking finally seemed to grasp that He was claiming to be God; thus, they try to stone Him for blasphemy. What in Jesus’ comments concerning Abraham made it clear?
13. Sharing question: Think back to what you know of the God who revealed Himself as I Am to Moses at the burning bush. He was the God who rescued His people with a mighty hand from slavery in Egypt. He was the God who opened the waters when His people faced a seemingly impossible situation at the Red Sea. What are you facing in your life today that seems like a prison or an impossible situation? Share with your group what you can without gossiping about others.
14. Responding to God: Take your situation from the previous question and make it into a prayer to the great I Am. Don’t pray the answers that you want from Him, but give Him the situations. I am quite sure that Moses was surprised with the ways that God moved to free His people and protect them from the army of Egypt! Realize that His answer may be different from the one you expect!
Read John 9:1-12.
15. Summarize the story. Be sure and write it down on your chart of signs.
Read John 9:13-34.
16. The Pharisees had two different perspectives of Jesus from this sign. Explain the two views and their arguments.
17. How did the formerly blind man get involved in the middle of the debate? What was his perspective? What did the leaders do to him because of it?
18. Compare how this man handled the questions of the Jewish leaders with the way that the man at the pool of Bethseda (some manuscripts say Bethsaida)15 handled them in John 5:10-15. What insights does this contrast give you into the two men?
19. Sharing question: Have you ever dealt with hard questions from others about your faith? How have you felt when that happened? What did you learn about yourself and about the ways others respond to Jesus?
20. Responding to God: If you have ever failed to stand up for Jesus when questioned or criticized about your faith, know that God forgives. Read 2 Timothy 2:13 and 1 John 1:9. Thank God for being a covenant-keeping God who is faithful to us and forgives us in that faithfulness. Write your thoughts, prayer, or poem below.
Review John 9:4-5 and read John 9:35-41.
21. How does the story of the blind man relate to Jesus as the Light of the World?
22. When Jesus learned what the leaders had done to the man, what did He do (9:35)? What does this show you about Jesus?
23. How did the man respond when Jesus revealed Himself to him?
24. Jesus used the contrast of sight and blindness to teach about spiritual truth (9:39-41). What was He saying here?
25. Sharing question: Think about Jesus’ comment that the religious leaders of the Jews were actually blind but believed they had sight. We saw in the story that their pre-conceived ideas made them blind to the acts of God. Can that be true of us as “religious” people? How?
26. Responding to God: Go before God and ask Him if you are blind to Jesus or to His works around you. If He shows you anything, confess that lack of faith. Thank Him for His forgiveness. OR draw a picture of gaining sight on the day when you recognized Jesus as the great I Am.
Our story illustrates the fact that even we believers can grow blind when they turn away from the truth and the church; however, God is faithful to bring us back, as He was here.
I grew up in a suburban town, in a Bible-believing church, in a Christian family, and became a believer at 13. I loved the Lord, and everything else in my life was secondary to that focus. At one point I felt like I disappointed God and could not bear to approach His throne. I sought council but never really owned the real problem. I decided that the God I had grown up learning about was bigger than the God that seemed legalistic and maybe just a little too Southern. While I studied the Bible each week, I was still young, and most of what I believed was shaped by what people told me, not what I had experienced for myself. So for the next 10 years my trek took me through a series of “approaches” to God.
Now they all acknowledged Jesus Christ as God but always added something not quite right in the tale. In every group I participated there were other believers from Christian traditions. That made it all OK, right? This trek took me to San Antonio, New Mexico, California, and back to Texas. When I return to Dallas my guru was based out of Los Angeles. I met weekly with a group of friends that embraced the teachings of the same man. I was responsible for putting this man on cable TV in the metroplex.
One December I went to Los Angeles for a special training and Christmas Eve seminar. That night for the first time I heard this man use the Bible for examples. While I was not Bible scholar I knew enough that what I was hearing was NOT in the Bible. And moreover, most of the thousands of people in the room accepted what he said. I felt a big clunk in my heart. You can say a lot of things that I might accept but you don’t mess with the Bible. I flew back to Texas Christmas morning with a new challenge in my heart. God you are going to have to show me what you want me to do. Some of the decisions were very easy. Giving up my responsibilities with the organization, throwing away all of my books and tapes, not attending weekly seminars were easier than giving up relationships that I’d spent 5 years building.
I always felt like God was with me protecting me from harm. The road back took me to lay courses at DTS. There I focused on learning to study the Bible for myself and let God speak to me through His word and prayer.
I know while I was on my trek around faith, my parents were on their knees. Their prayers were answered.
12 See D.A. Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991), 333.
13 Burge, 220.
14 Carson, 337.
15 See NET Bible note on John 5:2)