As was already mentioned the Feast of Tabernacles had several ceremonies that keyed in on themes of Jewish history. The water ceremony remembered the wilderness wanderings where God dwelled with his people and provided them water to drink. Jesus worked off this theme in calling himself the source of living water (John 7:37). The second ceremony was a festival of lights. They would light large candelabras on fire to light up the night sky to remember how God went before the Israelites in the wilderness as a pillar of fire at night. Jesus plays off this in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” As with the water in 7:37, Jesus is saying that he is the fulfillment of all these things they had celebrated for over 1000 years.
This takes us all the way back to the prologue where Jesus was called the life that is the light of men (John 1:4). John then tells us the response we are to expect from the world. “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” (John 1:5). We think of this in terms of pagan people not understanding Jesus today but in John you see that many of God’s own people, the Jews, didn’t get it. They had the law and the prophets. They had all the evidence, all the road signs. They had a “heads up” about the Messiah and when he showed up many found it impossible to believe.
There were several things that blinded people to Jesus as Messiah:
- He violated the oral traditions and they equated that with breaking the law. Certainly a law breaker wouldn’t be Messiah.
- He was born in Bethlehem but grew up in Nazareth. People assumed he was born in Nazareth and since the messiah was to come from Bethlehem certainly it wasn’t Jesus.
- He “worked” on the Sabbath by healing the sick. Jesus pointed out that even babies were circumcised on the Sabbath…exceptions were to be made for the right reasons. Yet, some rejected Jesus as Messiah because of his Sabbath day miracles.
- He cast out demons and instead of attributing it to the power of God working through him some believed he did it by the power of the devil. Jesus was quick to point out how flawed that logic was but it still wasn’t enough for some to put their faith in him.
- Jesus spoke of Jesus as his Father and himself as God’s unique son (only begotten). People accused him of blasphemy.
- Jesus referenced himself as God’s temple, that it would be torn down and rebuilt in 3 days. This didn’t make for a happy crowd.
- Jesus went on the offensive against the abuses of the religious authorities of his day and at the same time told the common folks that their righteousness must surpass those they admired the most religiously (the Pharisees).
- Jesus had difficult teachings including selling all possessions to follow him, eating his flesh and drinking his blood (figuratively), and putting anger and lust on level with murder and adultery.
In all of these things people let their presuppositions and assumptions blind them to the truth. What is so sad in all of this is that each and every one of these things that people rejected Jesus over were actually God’s attempts to shine a revealing light on the world and on men’s hearts. The truth of the matter is, Jesus was successful in doing so. When Jesus came to town, what was on the inside of a man was suddenly and unexpectedly brought to the surface. Farmers, carpenters, tanners, tax collectors, and all around every day, ordinary people all taking sides. Some believe while others oppose. Some have faith that grow and respond to the light and life of Jesus. Others wither in rejection of the truth and in stark opposition to the light that God was shining on their lives.
When Jesus shines the light of the world on your life how do you respond? Do you submit to it and allow it to reveal both good and bad in your heart, rejoicing in one and repenting of the other? Or do we so fear vulnerability and shame that we avoid the light, no…reject the light altogether for fear of what it will do in us and to us? Face it. He is the light of the world. That is something we all must deal with. Hopefully we do so in a way that brings to fruition in our being light and life rather than darkness and death. It is either one or the other.
The light of Jesus should help us in the ways you point out. May we all be changed and rejoice in the light and glory of Jesus Christ!