By Dr. Judi Jackson
One of the most wonderful things God did for me in my young life was to give me older brothers. Before you think “How sweet! Her older brothers protected her,” let me assure you that this was NOT the case. I grew up in an “every person for him/herself” household. However, I thought the benefit of having three older brothers, even if they were mean and ornery, is that I rarely had to be alone … at night … in my house … by myself.
To me, as a young girl, I could think of nothing worse than being alone … at night … in my house … by myself. It wasn’t that we lived in a dangerous neighborhood. It’s just that with the night comes darkness and shadows and weird sounds and, well, scary things. And, in the spirit of full disclosure, I have always been a bit afraid of the dark.
Fast forward to 2015 when my husband is on the road a lot. I’m trying not to be a scaredy-cat but sometimes old habits die hard. How do I fight off the fear now? Prayer, scripture and flashlights in every room!
John 8:12 reminds us that Jesus is one high-powered flashlight for our lives:
I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life. (John 8:12)
When Jesus said these words to people at the temple, He really got their attention. You see, they were in the midst of a week of celebration .. it was their big deal Festival of Tabernacles, where they were remembering all that God had done for them back in the Moses years. One thing in particular was that God provided a pillar of fire at night to show the Israelites where to go. If the pillar moved, they were supposed to move. If the pillar stayed in one place, then they were to stay too.
Remember I said they were having a festival to commemorate what God had done, and part of that festival was the lighting of these large candlesticks, also known as menorahs. This meeting with the people was probably in the daytime, maybe even the day after the menorahs were lit. The people would have remembered the spectacle that the lighting ceremony was.
A modern day example of this is the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics … how each host country tries to outdo the one before it in terms of the spectacle they can make of the lighting of the Olympic cauldron. The one I remember most vividly, probably because it was in our country, was the Olympics held in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1996 … when boxing champion Mohammed Ali, who had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease about 10 years prior to the ceremony, stood high in the stadium, shaking from the ravages of the disease, and doing his part to honor his country by participating in the lighting ceremony.
I don’t know that the lighting of the Festival menorah was that staged or magnificent, but something tells me that it was significant in its own way. So when Jesus spoke the words, “I am the light of the world,” He garnered his listeners’ attention. And then He added, “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Those listening closely may have noticed how similar Jesus’ claim was to the words of Isaiah 9 … we read parts of this chapter a lot around Christmas but maybe have not connected it with John 8. In Isaiah 9:2, the prophet writes:
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.
And then we have the more familiar words of Isaiah 9:6:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Jesus was and is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy and, a little bit at a time, He would drop bombshells like “I am the light of the world” on the religious leaders of His day. Because of the accessibility of the Bible in modern times, we’ve had a lot more time to process His words which may have also given us more time to ignore them. For the next few weeks, let’s consider what it looks like in our lives to not walk in darkness but to have the light of life.
Beginning next week, we’ll use the word LIGHT to build an acrostic for biblical directives on what Jesus is calling us to have in our lives to reflect His presence – His light – to the world around us.
In the meantime? Stay out of the dark … unless, of course, you have a flashlight handy!