Jesus, the Light of the World
October 25th, 1987 @ 8:15 AM
JESUS, THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-25-87 8:15 a.m.
We welcome the throngs of you who share this hour on radio. You are now a part of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the kind of a sermon that I love to preach: it is an exposition of the entire ninth chapter of the Book of John.
When you turn to the end of the twentieth chapter of the Book of John, he concludes his Gospel—the twenty-first chapter is an addendum written many years after he had written the first twenty chapters—John closed his Gospel with these words: “Many other semeiā, semeiā,” it is translated “miracles” in all the other places in John; here it is translated correctly, semeiā, “signs,” “Many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye might believe,” might be converted, might be saved, “that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name” [John 20:30-31]. Now John’s Gospel is built around seven of those semeiā. They are signs; they are affirmations of His deity and of His saving ministry in the days of His flesh.
For example, John will describe:
- the healing of the nobleman’s son, Jesus the Great Physician [John 4:46-54].
- Then in the next chapter, chapter 6, he will describe Jesus feeding the five thousand [John 6:1-14].
- Jesus the bread of life [John 6:35, 41, 48, 51].
- In chapter 11, Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead [John 11:43-44].
- Jesus the resurrection, and the life [John 11:25].
- The concluding climactic of all of the interventions of God: Jesus raised from the dead [Matthew 28:5-7].
- Triumphant over Death and the Grave [1 Corinthians 15:55-57].
Now, this sēmeion, singular, sēmeion, in the ninth chapter of the Gospel story, Jesus opening the eyes of the blind: Jesus the light of the world [John 9:5]. So the chapter opens: “As Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from his birth” [John 9:1]. How very much like our Lord to notice him. I would say the multitudes passed him by without a thought; but not our Lord. When Jesus passed by, He saw this man, blind congenitally, blind from his birth [John 9:1].
Our Lord was like that: He was thronged by the wretched, and the poor, and the miserable, and the hurt, and the suffering, and the sick. Wherever you saw Him, there would you see around Him lepers trying to touch Him, people in families bringing their paralyzed to lay at His feet. That is our Lord. Isaiah 53:3: “A Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.”
I was moved by a something that happened on the streets of Shanghai in these days gone by. An American newspaper correspondent was sent to Shanghai. There he made the friendship of a Chinese correspondent for his paper in the city. The Chinese gentleman, newspaper man, was a devout Buddhist; and the American was a Christian. The Chinese correspondent asked the American, “You come with me to my temple, and I’ll go with you to your church.” They acquiesced. And they went to the Buddhist temple, and there the correspondent bowed down and worshiped before Buddha, with his little fat, rotund belly, and his hands folded over it, and smiling, as you’ve seen all of your life. Then they went on the Lord’s Day to the church, with a cross on top, and Jesus suffering and dying. And the Chinese correspondent said to the American, “I like my religion and my god so much better than yours. When I go to my temple and bow down, there is my Buddha smiling in affluence and happiness and joy. But when I go to your church, there is your God suffering on the cross. I like mine so much better than yours.” And the American correspondent, not being a theologian, had no word what to say. How would you answer it?
Upon a day thereafter, the American correspondent was in a rickshaw, carried by a coolie, a runner, a peasant. And while the coolie was running through the streets of Shanghai, pulling the rickshaw carrying this American correspondent, he collapsed. The American correspondent, descending from the rickshaw, picked up the man, and he died in his arms, poor, starved, of malnutrition and weakness. The American correspondent called to the Chinese passing by, and they wouldn’t even stop to look. And the American holding that man in his arms, poor, dying of starvation and want, looking into his face, had his answer. Where would you take him? Would you lay him at the feet of the little fat Buddha, with his rotund belly, smiling there in affluence? Or would you take him to the Lord Jesus and lay him at the foot of the cross before One who knew what it was to be hungry [Matthew 21:18; Luke 4:2], and to be poor [Luke 9:58], and to be hurt, and to suffer, and to die? [Matthew 27:26-50].
How like, I say, the Lord Jesus to notice him: as He passed by He saw this blind beggar, congenitally in darkness [John 9:1]. “And the disciples asked Him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” [John 9:2]. That’s a most legitimate theological question, and particularly was it discussed in the rabbinical schools of the day: is sin a result of our fall and the cause of our suffering? This man is blind; he was born blind. Is it the result of sin, either on the part of his parents, or did he sin in the fetus? And they defended that in those rabbinical discussions. There is no doubt but that ultimately all suffering and death is the result of transgression. There’s no doubt but that in the garden of Eden, in the transgression of our first parents [Genesis 3:1-6], all of us inherit the judgment of sin. And there is no less doubt that there are judgments that come in our lives due to our sins.
I think of one of the most poignant here in our congregation. There came to my study a tall, fine-looking young man, a very blonde boy; I’d say he’s twenty-five, twenty-six years of age. There came to my study, and sitting down there before me with many, many tears, many tears, the tall young fellow poured out his heart to me; a homosexual, and had AIDS. But the reason for his coming to me was that he’d repented, that he’d confessed his wrong before God, and he was right in his heart before the Savior. God had forgiven him, and he’d given his life and what strength he had to the Lord. Every service here at the church he sat right there; morning, night, and Wednesday. And I’d visit with him after the service practically every time we gathered here. When I went to England the last of August, upon my return I learned that he had died within a week. I could not believe it. He was so strong and so well; and within a week after I had seen him, he had died, died of AIDS.
No one would have any disposition to argue that there is a concomitant, and a corollary, and an attendant, and an addendum that follows transgression. But there is something over and beyond and besides: not all suffering and not all hurt is due to sin. Jesus said, “This man did not sin, that he was born blind, nor his parents: but that the works of God might be manifest in him” [John 9:3]. There are sufferings that you endure, there are hurts, there are sorrows that God allows in your life in order that you might learn to lean upon God, for His glory.
That was the whole discussion with Job. When Job fell into such unmitigated, indescribable sorrows, his comforters came—and that’s a proverb, a “Job’s comforter”—his comforters came and said, “Job, you are a great sinner, because you suffer such great agony” [Job 4:7-8]. Of course, the whole book is, not so: this is a part of the teaching of God.
What would you think of the sufferings of our Lord Jesus? Was He a great sinner? He bore our sins and our transgressions [Isaiah 53:5-6, 11-12; 1 Peter 2:24].
In the twelfth chapter of 2 Corinthians, Paul says:
Lest I be exalted above measure . . . there was given me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me . . . I besought the Lord thrice… He said, My grace is sufficient for thee: My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities . . . I take pleasure in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses . . . for when I am weak, then am I strong.
[2 Corinthians 12:7-10]
Sometimes God sends suffering and hurt in our lives in order that His strength might be glorified in our weakness.
Then the Lord said this beautiful word, repeated in the eighth chapter of this Gospel and the twelfth verse: “I am the light of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness” [John 8:12]. And He says it again here in the verse: “I am the light of the world” [John 9:5]. Then He opened the eyes of the man born blind [John 9:6-7]. And I want you to notice a thing there that reading it rapidly you would overlook: this is not restoration; he was not a seeing child and then some tragedy took his sight away, he was born blind [John 9:1], he was congenitally blind. This is creation; this is the power of God.
There are many, many things that we can do, there are many, many things that only God can do. Jesus is the light of this world [John 8:12], as the sun is the light for this planet. And only God can create. We cannot make the sun to shine. We cannot control the oceans. No man has a key to the Atlantic; no other man can put the Pacific in the iron safe in his vault. No man can hasten the summer melt of the snow. No man can control the winds. No man can guide an eclipse. No man could do this. The creative power of Christ: it is a sēmeion, as John calls it. It is a picture of our blindness and our depravity and of our dying and death; and Jesus, the ableness of God to heal us, to bring sight to our darkened spirits and life to our dying bodies—Jesus the light of the world [John 8:12].
When our Lord is presented in the Gospel of Matthew in chapter 4:
Zebulun and Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles; The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light; and upon them that sat in the region and shadow of death, upon them light has shined.
As Paul writes it, “For God, who commandeth the light to shine out of darkness,
hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” [2 Corinthians 4:6].
When we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Scarcely for a righteous man would one die: perchance for a good man some would dare to die.
But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Jesus the light and the hope of the world [John 8:12].
I must conclude. When they said to him, “This Man that you say healed you is a sinner, He is a law violator” [John 9:24]. And the man who had been born blind replied, “Whether He is a sinner or not, I know not: but this one thing I know, whereas I was blind, now I see” [John 9:25].
I was asked this week, “Pastor, some of the most marvelous experiences, conversions you’ve ever heard in your life, are right here in your congregation. Why don’t you have some of them come up? And as Reed Ashwill made his testimony regarding their stewardship before God, why don’t you have some of those people come up here and give their testimonies, what God has done for them?” We’re going to do it. After this season of stewardship, I’m going to invite some of these people who have been marvelously saved: “Once I was blind, but now I can see. What God has done for me!” [John 9:25]. I’m going to invite them up here from time to time in these days ahead, and let them tell us what Jesus means to them. I’ll give you one little illustration of it.
In these days gone by, when Ira McCollister was the head of our mission ministry here in the church, they always had a big program down in Coleman Hall and gathered our mission people. And then they’d have a gift for all the children, and it was a just a time of gathering those wonderful souls that were saved out of our missions. That year, that year, the program was different men, different men giving their testimonies of what Jesus had done for them. Sweet people, I don’t exaggerate it when I tell you, for three solid hours, for three hours I sat there and listened to those testimonies, and wept my heart out for gladness and for joy. Those men would stand up and say, “I was a thief and was sent to the penitentiary. And when finally my sentence was served, coming back, I was won to Christ by this godly man here.” And then he’d describe his beautiful life in the Lord Jesus. And another one: “I’d beat my wife when I was drunk. And my children, when I came home, would hide from me out of fear. Then,” and he’d point to this godly man, “I was won to Jesus by the testimony and love and prayers of this godly man. And now,” he says, “I have a Christian home and a Christian family.” That went on for three hours!
Scottie, that’s God! That’s the Lord. That’s Jesus. That’s this man: “This one thing I know: whereas I was blind, now I see” [John 9:25]. What Jesus can mean to me! What the Lord can mean to us! Oh, bless His name world without end, forever and ever! We can’t praise Him too much. We can’t name Him too much. We can’t witness to His grace too much. We can’t love Him too much—Jesus the light of the world [John 9:5].
In this moment when we stand to sing our song of appeal, to give your heart to Him, to bring your family to Him, to answer God’s call in your heart, on the first note of the first stanza, come, and welcome. In the balcony, down one of these stairways; in the throng on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and here I stand” [Romans 10:9-10]. May angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.