Jesus, The Light of The World
December 8th, 1991 @ 8:15 AM
JESUS, THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-8-91 8:15 a.m.
On the radio and on television, you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the senior pastor bringing the message entitled Jesus, The Light of the World. Our text is the twelfth verse of the eighth chapter of the Fourth Gospel. “Jesus spoke unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” [John 8:12].
John avows that this saying of our Lord was spoken during the Feast of the Tabernacles [John 7:2]. That feast honored the living God who guided them in their wilderness wanderings for forty years. And they lived in booths, you remember, in keeping with the way that they lived in those days of Sinaitic Peninsula wanderings [Leviticus 23:33-43; Numbers 29:12-38; Deuteronomy 16:13-17].
And we are told that at the evening hour, when darkness began to cover the earth, that the people who were observing the feast lighted two great, golden lamps on either side of the vast altar of burnt offering. And that light cast its glow over the altar, over the court of the temple, over the city, over the Kidron Valley. It was a reminder of the providences of God who guided His people with a flame of fire by night and a column of smoke by day [Exodus 13:21]. So Jesus, standing there in the court of the temple and looking at those golden lamps, spoke this text, “I am the light of the world” [John 8:12].
Our Lord could have spoken that word in Hanukkah, which is observed just now, the Feast of Lights. It commemorated the cleansing of the temple, when Judas Maccabeus and his fellow patriots won the freedom of the city from the Syrian oppressors. And in rededicating and reconsecrating the holy temple, they had one day’s supply of sacred oil. But in the miraculous favor of God, so 2 Maccabees says, that one cruse of oil, of a day’s supply, lasted eight days. So in the Feast of Lights or the Feast of Dedication, Hanukkah, the light burned for eight days. And so they, in observing the Feast of Hanukkah, the dedication of light, they light one candle for each day until eight are burning. Thus our Lord, in the background of the life of the people, speaks of Himself as “the light of the world” [John 8:12].
First, may I speak of Him as the light of our conscience? You have seen, many of you in Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London, one of the most famous paintings of the world, Holman Hunt’s picture of our Lord, “The Light of the World.” And our Savior is standing before a closed door and no latch on the outside. And it is covered with weeds and brambles and thorns and vetch, and our Lord is knocking at the door. There is a beautiful light from His own face. But you cannot help but notice in His hand, He holds a lantern. And invited in, the light of that lantern represents the light of conscience. And it is a miraculous and marvelous thing, that when Jesus comes into the heart and life of somebody you, how your conscience is quickened.
There are people who have a habit—and I listen to them at the ‘Y’ every day—there are people who have a habit of using four-letter words in their ordinary conservation. But you let Jesus come into your heart and there will be a quickening of conscience. And you will be sensitive to those four-letter words. The light of conscience, Jesus coming into your heart. You may be in the habit of drinking. But you will be sensitive to that bottle when Jesus comes into your heart. You may be a gambler. But if Jesus comes into your life, the light of conscience will make you sensitive to that gambling. You may have an affinity for and a proclivity for pornographic literature, and like the immorality you see on television and read in papers; but you let Jesus come into your heart and you will be sensitive to it. You may have used your money selfishly and for your own purposes, but you let the Lord come into your heart and life, and that tithe and that offering will be like a gift that belongs to God in your hand. And you may be using all of your time for yourself, but if Jesus comes into your heart and life, you will be sensitive to the Lord’s Day and to the service of God in His sanctuary. It’s a miraculous thing, I say, and a marvelous thing: Jesus, the light of the world, the light of our conscience.
Jesus, the light of the world [John 8:12]; He is the light of understanding. These scientists, in their advancements, peer into the darkness of creation and life. They cannot even penetrate that darkness, much less dispel it. With all of their far-flung, far-out theories, they have no idea where this world came from. And when they look at us who have soul and heart and life, and propose that we came from a slimy cell, were it not that they were accredited as scientists teaching in our universities, it would be the silliest thing that man could ever think for, that I came from a slimy cell.
Who made the cell and how did it come to be I? When you peer into the darkness of creation in the beginning of life, where did it come from? And what is its meaning? And, more pertinent of all, what is its destiny? What lies beyond the days of our pilgrimage?
I think of those hieroglyphic writings in Egypt, those picture writings. It’s been only in recent historical years that we’ve learned what they were. Or like those Sumerian cuneiform inscriptions, what did they say? Then was discovered the Rosetta Stone that you can see in the British Museum. And it opened the whole world of that hieroglyphic picture writing and that cuneiform inscriptions, and we could read the story of these ages of the past.
That is exactly what the Lord Jesus has done for us. In our understanding of this creation, and the beginning and meaning of life and our destiny beyond the grave, we have light from the teaching and the presence of the Lord Jesus. He teaches us that our heavenly Father created us by His omnipotent hand. He teaches us that the great purpose of life is to worship and serve Him. And He opens for us the hope of a new heaven and a new earth beyond the grave. Jesus, the light of the world! [John 8:12].
Jesus, the light of the world, the light of life! One of the most unusual passages to me in all this Bible closes the Old Testament. In the last chapter of Malachi, the last chapter of this old revelation, the prophet writes, “The Sun,” S-u-n, “The Sun of Righteousness shall rise with healing in His wings” [Malachi 4:2]. “The Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings, with His rays.” And that is a prophetic picture of the Son of God, the light of the world [John 8:12], who dispels the night and the darkness.
Sweet people, were it not for the rising of the warmth of the sun, this planet on which we live would be buried in interminable and everlasting darkness. And in that darkness, ice and snow would envelop our planet. And terrible winds would fill this atmosphere with icy cold that is beyond description: darkness, and night, and ice, and cold, and death.
What it means, the soft rising of the sun and its rays, its wings of life: the sun rises in the morning and blesses the streams and they flow, and blesses the birds and they sing, and blesses the flowers and they bloom, blesses the fields and they grow, blesses the man and he works, and blesses our little children and they play. [Dr. Criswell sings]
Good morning, merry sunshine,
Why did you wake so soon?
You scared away the little stars,
And shined away the moon.
I saw you go to sleep last night,
Before I ceased my playing,
How did you get way over there,
And where have you been staying?
I never go to sleep, dear child,
I just go ‘round to see
The little children of the East,
Who watch and wait for me.
I wake up all the birds and bees,
And flowers along the way,
And last of all the little girl
Who stays awake to play.
[“Good Morning, Merry Sunshine”; Zuchman, New American Reader, NY, Macmillan 1903]
Don’t you think you need me? [Choir cheers]
Jesus, the light of the world! [John 8:12]. Jesus, the light of life! O God, what a difference He makes when He comes into our homes, blesses our little children and blesses family and every facet of human experience! Jesus, the light of the world!
Jesus, the light of the world, the light of immortality: there is no more basic longing in human life than for life beyond the grave. As far back as there has been people, just so far back, has there been a longing for immortality; life beyond death and the grave. Those ancients did everything in human power to prolong their memory in the hope of a life yet to come. The Seven Wonders of the World, the pyramids were erected in that hope. That other wonder of the world, the Mausoleum in Halicarnassus: Halicarnassus is a city on the eastern Mediterranean, on the southwestern part of Asia Minor. He had a beautiful and wonderful wife named Artemisia. And when Mausolus died, when her husband died, she built that mausoleum, we call it, in memory of her husband, that he might be enshrined forever.
That’s why we embalm the body, just hoping. That’s why a widow would cast herself on a burning pyre in India, to assure the life of her husband. That’s why Socrates drank the poison, in assurance of another life. Or Plato, in his loftiest argument, speaks of the life that is beyond the grave. But however the ancients longed for and sought to penetrate that darkness, to them, even in the Old Testament, to them the life beyond the grave was shadowy and dark. They called it sheol in the Old Testament. They called it Hades in the New Testament. But it was dark and impenetrable.
But in 2 Timothy, chapter 1, verse 10, “Jesus our Savior hath brought life and immortality to light” [2 Timothy 1:10]. Great God, what a glory and what a beauty and what a wonder from His revelations and from His own heavenly presence! Death now to us has no sting. Grave now to us has no victory [1 Corinthians 15:55-57]. And we look forward to that wonderful and triumphant and glorious day when we can see Him, and one another, again; Jesus, the light of the world [John 8:12]—Jesus, the light of immortality.
And one other: Jesus, the light of salvation:
The land of Zebulun and the land of 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 those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.
[Matthew 4:15-16, NKJV]
O God, what a passage! Galilee, “Galilee of the Gentiles” [Matthew 4:15]. You remember in 1 Kings it says that Solomon gave the twenty cities of Galilee to Hiram, King of Tyre? And he visited them and was deeply disappointed [1 Kings 9:11-13]. “Galilee,” the word means “circle,” the circle of cities in Galilee; it was an opprobrious nomenclature. It was full of Gentiles and an amalgamation of all kinds of people and races. There were Phoenicians there. There were Syrians there, Arabians there, Greeks there, and the people were uncultured, crude.
Do you remember at the trial of Jesus, a little woman, a little maid, it says, took her finger and pointed at Simon Peter and said, “You are one of them…You talk like a Galilean!” [Mark 14:69-71]. Remember that? Do you remember also when Nicodemus was seeking to defend the Messiahship of our Lord, they said, “Search and see whether there be in the Bible any prophet that comes out of Galilee” [John 7:50-52]. God forbid; it was a hated and despised country. But Jesus, in the midst of the darkness that enveloped that Northern Kingdom, Jesus brought light and life and salvation to Galilee [John 8:12-28].
Isn’t that right? Matthew sat at the receipt of custom in Galilee and Jesus brought him life [Matthew 9:9-13]. Those uneducated, uncultured fishermen on the sea, Jesus called them into the kingdom of God. And He went around all their cities and towns preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus, the light of salvation! Like a David Livingstone in Africa, or a William Carey in India, or a Adoniram Judson in Burma, or like a Hudson Taylor in China; Jesus, the light of salvation. O God in heaven, what He means in the kingdom of our Lord! Jesus, the light of salvation.
John expatiates on that.
In the beginning was the Word . . . the Word was God . . .
In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness overcame it not.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
He came for a witness of that Light.
He was not the Light, but he was sent to bear witness of the Light.
That was the true Light which lights every man who comes into the world [John 1:1-9, NKJV].
And the next day John saw Jesus coming and said, Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
[John 1:29, NKJV]
Jesus, the light of our salvation!
Strange thing: how humanity in its culture, seeks to minister to the pimples on the skin, when our problem is the sin in the bloodstream of the human heart. You look at it: you take the gun away from the murderer and he is still a murderer in his heart. You take the bottle away from the drunkard and he is still a drunkard in his heart. You take the needle away from the addict, and he is still an addict in his heart. You take the prostitute away from the adulterer, and he is still an adulterer in his heart. But you take sin away from the sinner, and he is a new creation. He is a new man; Jesus, the light of salvation [2 Corinthians 5:17].
O Lord, what a privilege just to call Your name, just to bow in Your presence, much less to worship and sing and to praise all You mean to us in human heart and life!
O come to the light, ‘Tis shining for thee;
Sweetly the light has shined upon me.
Once I was blind, but now I can see:
The light of the world is Jesus!
[“The Light of the World Is Jesus,” by Philip P. Bliss]
And that is our appeal to you.