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. (John 8:12-20 (ESV)
At the Feast of Booths Jesus talks about living water, water was the theme of his speech because it was an integral part of the celebration. Now, Jesus begins speaking about himself as the light of the world. Subtle clues indicate that he is speaking during the Feast of Lights, Chanukah, the feast made infamous in Adam Sandler’s “Eight Crazy Nights.” It would make sense, light, huge candelabras, Minorah’s would be lit, choirs would sing from the roof tops surrounding the women’s court where the people would dance with torches next to the treasury. The women’s court was called this because it was as far into the temple as women could go, but men would also be there. The people danced in celebration, for joy of being able once again to worship their God. This feast was kept in remembrance of the restoration of the temple after the Maccabean Revolt, before which the temple had been defiled. Light had been restored.
Light had been restored. The world is a dark place. It is darker without God. Life is meaningless without God. God brings light to life, to the world. The world today when faith in God is so low, look at it. It’s a grim picture. But then, I don’t think the church presents itself as light all that often. That is what the gospel is for. It is light, just as Jesus is light. Light that dispels guilt, and shame, light that vanquishes death and throws it out. Light that restores meaning to life, and makes it happy.
I’ve noticed something in life. Happy people aren’t concerned about the meaning of life. It’s the dark and brooding people, consumed with pain, and fear, confronted with death, they are the one’s who wonder what it is all for. It’s a “why go on?” mentality. What’s it all for? Death, it brings on a nihilistic despair, and robs life of meaning, and it makes it tortuous all the way down to Sheol if it can. With cancer, with the death of a child, with the death of a friend, with the death of a grandfather, even the flu, a bad cold, the dimming of one’s eyes, all this gives a foretaste of hell before it comes. These things cause even the happiest of people to contemplate the question at least for a little while. And if there is no light, then the answer is dark, there is no meaning. But then there is light, and it comes to us with love that emanates from God who is love. And this is what Jesus gets at, light. He is the light of the world, in him there is meaning to life, because he conquers death.
He conquers death. Right here you have the gospel. Right here you have salvation. Seriously, what is it we need to be saved from if not death himself? Death is the dark cloud casting its shadow over all of life. It is the universal experience of man to taste death, and we all taste its bitter dregs long before we take the dirt nap. This is just it. Death is the universal enemy of man. How do I know Jesus saved all men? Because he died, and in dying he conquered death! Because he rose from the dead! He walked out of the tomb proving that death was done! “It is finished” he yells from the cross. And by it, he means death. This can’t be something that is for some and not for others, because death is the enemy of all.
Yes, death is the enemy of all. The enemy of all men, and the enemy of God who loves all men. This is what I find so hollow today in this world. We want to talk about circles of life that end in death. We don’t have funerals anymore, but celebrations of life. And they are pathetic. People want to talk of death as if it is natural. But God has put eternity in our hearts, and man knows that it just isn’t. I don’t care how many balloons you bring to a funeral, birthday cake tastes worse than wedding cake in the presence of death. But Christ rose from the dead, he walked out of the tomb, he gave us something to celebrate on the first day of each week, he gave us life, the answer to the eternity in our hearts. It is in him. He is the light of the world, because in him there is life.
Yes, this is worth celebrating with the foretaste of the feast to come. Yes, this is found in the forgiveness of sins proclaimed Sunday in and Sunday out, as we eat the bread and drink the cup that proclaims his death until he comes, the death of God, that became the death of death. It is a foretaste of the feast, a little bite off the grill. Jesus is light, and his church is here to shed that light upon the world. But people don’t come, because we’ve taken the reason for celebration out of it. It’s a sad thing to think about, but it is true. Pastors are actually afraid of the gospel these days. People go to church wanting to hear the good news and pastors are afraid so they throw out a wet blanket of law. Instead of dispensing life, they dispense more death, and in all the more bitter of a pill than the world dispenses because people intuitively know what they are supposed to be getting there. And we make the house of prayer into a den of robbers, because we withhold the declaration of forgiveness, and send the people away emptier than they came. They come with guilt, and they leave with guilt, and the pastor thinks he has done his job because he has given them more things to feel guilty for, and admonished them to live the virtuous life he himself has failed to live. And he knows he has failed to live it, because he knows death knocks at his door too. Ah, but then, Jesus forgives all sins, even the sin of bad preaching, and he offers the cup of salvation, the wine that makes merry, and restores joy with the light of life.