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.” ~John 8:12
Looking at different names for Jesus this advent season, Jesus Himself declared he was the Light of the world. He was speaking in a part of the Temple court during the Feast of Booths most scholars agree. In the temple court there were two huge lanterns burning as part of the Feast – these were symbolic of God’s presence as a fire by night, pillar of cloud by day that led the Israelites in the wilderness. Now during the feast, people would congregate around them to sing and dance, remembering God’s provision.
Jesus stands within this celebration and he points to what was and declares He is. The cloud and fire were the very presence of God – the Israelites knew that. Ex. 13:21 explains, “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.“
Then in Exodus 40:34-38, we see the presence of God through a cloud covering the tabernacle the Israelites have erected. Moses was not allowed to enter initially because the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. The cloud by day and the fire in it at night, centered in the Holy of Holies, led the people throughout their journeys.
1 Kings 8:10-11 speaks of God’s presence in the temple that Solomon built, because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the LORD.
Finally in Ezekiel 11 the glory of the LORD leaves the temple as the people of Judah fall to Babylon in judgment, leading to years in captivity and the destruction of the temple. When the Jews return to rebuild the Temple, God’s presence does not return in physical form to the ark of the covenant or Holy of Holies. The Shekinah (glory of the LORD) had departed in its physical form of cloud by day, fire by night.
And now Jesus declares, “I am the Light of the world.” The Glory of God had returned to Israel as Light as John details in John 1. And Jesus takes what was now merely symbolic and puts flesh on it. He openly declares that He is the Light that will guide all men out of the darkness of sin and death. We see Jesus teaching this truth to Nicodemus in John 3:16-21, in John 9:5 when he heals a blind man, & finally John 12:46 when he cries out, “I have come into the world as light so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.”
The darkness of the soul that blankets the sin works of men can be dispelled by only Jesus. His presence however is no longer an external entity, waiting on sacrifice in a temple. He indwells the heart of the believer. Only He can rid your heart of the vestiges of sin that move and have power in darkness. For whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.