Home > Bible Study, Israel, John, Old Testament, S. Lewis Johnson > Jesus, the Light of the World: The True Pillar of Fire (Exodus Wilderness Wandering)

Jesus, the Light of the World: The True Pillar of Fire (Exodus Wilderness Wandering)


Jesus is the Light of the World:  in my early Christian years I associated that phrase with a Christian music song (Carman, Jesus is the Light of the World), and the basic gospel message and references in that song: the truth that comes when we are born again, the Holy Spirit working in the heart so that we understand and love that which we hated before.  Also, that Christ does not merely point us to the light (the manner of the teachers of non-Christian religions), but that He actually IS the light.

In S. Lewis Johnson’s series on the gospel of John, I’m now in John chapter 8, considering some additional observations concerning John 8:12, Jesus’ statement: I am the Light of the World.

This statement is part of the two chapters, John 7 and 8, centered around the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem; so we look at the specific events of that time and the things done at this particular feast.  Some commentators therefore connect Jesus’ statement to the candelabra that were lit, in the first days of the feast:   some have suggested that since the candelabra of the temple areas, they were placed in the court of the women, were a significant feature of the celebration of the feast, that he said it in the light of that fact.  The candelabra were lighted on the first day or so of that feast.  And on those first days or so, they shown all over the city, because the light was reflected off of the top of the temple areas so that anyone in Jerusalem who had a courtyard outside of their houses would have the light that came from the candelabra in the temple area. 

However, the candelabra light was only lit in the first days and not continued – whereas Jesus’ statement suggests continuation.  The candelabra were also fixed, stationary objects, not moving about as Jesus describes here:  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. In response, those who see this connection between the candelabra light and Jesus’ statement, say that His statement was made in contrast to the relative darkness of the last days of the feast.

If we look at other statements from this section, though, another association emerges: the Israelites’ time in the wilderness.  Christ has already said that He was the true manna (John 6:32-35) that they ate then.  In John 7:37-38, the last and great day of the feast, Christ identified Himself as that living water which came out from the rock that was struck: in reference to the ceremonial event on the last day of the feast, when the Jews reenacted that great event of the water coming forth from the rock, by which they understood that their God was with them through those forty years in the desert.  Now, the “light of the world” is also a reference to that wilderness experience: the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, that physical manifestation of God present with them.  For as Exodus describes, they continually followed that pillar, moving when the cloud lifted and staying camped when the cloud remained.  So in John 8, this may well be what our Lord was especially thinking of:  “I am the light of the world.”  I am the fulfillment.  I’m the antitype of all that was signified by the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire.

From the very next message in SLJ’s Gospel of John series:

All the sons of God are led by the Spirit of God. That’s part of our birthright, that’s part of our salvation, to be led by the Spirit. We don’t always follow, but we are constantly led. We don’t have to ask the Lord for guidance; He gives us guidance. The guidance is there; what we need to do is ask the Lord to enable us to follow the guidance that He gives us. We have the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire in better form, in the person of the Holy Spirit.

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