03/01/2015 – John 8:12 – “Why We Need a Light”

Mark Wheeler
March 1, 2015
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
John 8:12
“Why We Need a Light”

Dear God, thank You for bringing us all here to this place. Help us to open our eyes, our ears, our minds, our hearts, and our spirits to better understand who You are and to know You more. Please be with us as we draw near to You and closer to one another. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

We have seen from the Old Testament book of Exodus – where God told Moses who God is. Do you remember what God said when Moses asked Him, “Who do I tell people You are?” God said, “Tell them ‘I-AM has sent me to you.’”

Today, and for the next several weeks we are in the New Testament Gospel according to John – because the Apostle John records some fascinating ways Jesus also answers Moses’ question. Jesus uses a specific Greek grammar formula to incorporate God’s “I-AM” identification into His own distinctive identity.
In most of the world’s languages one can say “I am” without ever speaking the 1st person personal pronoun “I”. In Spanish one can say “soy”, and that means “I am”, or one could say “yo soy” which is a more distinctive way of saying “I am”. In German it could be “bin” or “ich bin”. In French, either “suis” or “Je suis”. In the Greek of the New Testament, either “Eime” or “Ego eime”. When Jesus used the more distinctive version of “I am” He was making a direct divine reference to God’s “I- AM” – and His hearers would have made that connection immediately.
When we turn to John 8:12 and we read where Jesus says, “Yo soy la luz del mundo”, “Ich bin das Licht der Welt”, “Je suis la lumiere du monde”, “Ego eime to phos tou kosmou”, “I-AM the light of the world!” He was straight-out saying, “I-AM God”!

At the risk of sounding kinda dumb, asking a question with a stupidly obvious answer, I’m gonna boldly ask it anyway. “Why would the world need ‘light’?” What good is a little light? For those who are on the Internet/Facebook (or probably TV) – you saw the controversy over “what color is the dress?” Was it blue and black or white and gold? All determined by the light refractions.

We spent much of January talking about the season of Epiphany, the liturgical season of “light”. When we have an “aha” moment we call that an epiphanal moment, when the cartoon figure gets a lightbulb over its head, when we finally see the light.
We are investing these Sundays leading up to Easter looking carefully at some of the places in John’s Gospel where Jesus sheds a little more light on His identity by using a variety of “I- AM” statements (last week was “I- AM the bread of life”, this week is “I- AM the light of the world”.

But look at the context of today’s statement.
This follows immediately on the heels of the story where a woman caught in the act of adultery is arrested and brought before Jesus (the Jewish officials were trying to catch Jesus in some kind of bind – “what will He do now?”). And Jesus does the amazing thing of revealing the truth that every Jewish official who caught this woman and brought her to Jesus was also guilty of sin.
“The one among you who has not ever sinned may throw the first stone at her.” And one-by-one, people dropped their stones and walked away.
How was that for a light-of-the-world moment! Stop condemning each other, stop hating, stop pointing out each other’s sins – and stop condemning yourself as well (condemnation is only for God to do)!
And then Jesus says to the woman, “Now go on living, but stop your sinning, too!”

I cannot imagine a more en-light-ening declaration! I am forgiven – free and clear. Now, Wheeler, sin no more!
You are forgiven – completely – of every malicious act, every evil inclination, every thought of retribution – forgiven!
Now stop doing it any more!

The fact that Jesus sheds this light on everyone – the world – does not make it any easier to live out.
What is the AA motto? One day at a time. Our Christian faith motto could probably be: one moment at a time.
Jesus shines His light on the Jewish officials, and they grudgingly walk away, recognizing their own guilt against God and against humanity – we hope they walked away confessing their sin and repenting, and praying for strength and wisdom to be obedient to God’s Word the next moment when temptation comes their way.
And then Jesus shines His light on the woman – on her forgiveness first, and then He gives her the same command He gave her accusers – “Go and sin no more.”

We Evangelical Christians too quickly jump to the command Jesus gave to the woman – and forget that He also called the accusers to recognize their own participation in a world of false condemnation – false not because the sin was not real, but because it came from one guilty party against another. We Evangelical Christians need to keep our eyes open to the light of God’s whole Word – not just the words we like.
But we more progressive Christians also need to read this whole Gospel story and recognize that sin is real – and that Jesus does, in fact, call all of us to step outside of sinful living! As an ordained Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA) I promise to accept the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be, by the Holy Spirit, the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ in the Church universal, and God’s Word to me. That means that what the Scriptures call sin, I also must call sin, and stop doing.

I struggle with how to live that out. I do not want to be condemning, but I have friends and colleagues, brothers and sisters, who feel condemned by me. I also do not want to simply condone that which God seems to condemn. So, I take the advice of James 1:5, “If you lack wisdom, ask God, who is generous to give to all who ask.”
I pray for God’s light to shine in ways that clearly mark out the steps God wants me to take.
I also admit that sometimes I choose to ignore God’s light, God’s Word, God’s command, and I do what is more convenient or more to my personal understanding of self-interest. Today, I confess that tendency to you, and to our Lord.

Your Sermon Notes Page lists several Bible passages demonstrating the definition and the purpose of God’s Light.

As we come to the Lord’s Table in just a few minutes, see if you can fill out those Bible verses, and pray for proper understanding of how they apply to you today.
And may we come to this Table of Communion, clear of any condemnation and full of compassion, and seeking God’s light, revealed through Jesus, His living Word. It is, after all, a Table of Communion with God and with one another. Amen.

Let’s pray: Holy God, we ask You to fill us with Your light. Shine Your light through us into the situations and encounters we will face in this coming week. May others see You and Your way more clearly because of seeing Your light in our lives. We ask this in the name of Jesus, the Eternal Light, who shows us the way. Amen.

Book of Order; Presbyterian Church (USA); 2013-’15; W-4.4003.
Fuquay, Rob; The God We Can Know: Exploring the “I Am” Sayings of Jesus (Adult Group Guide); Upper Room Books; Nashville, TN; 2014; Pp. 16-21.