"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, '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
There are several statements that Jesus made to clearly identify Himself to the hearers of the gospel. The context of this passage is one of the most interesting in our Lord's ministry. Jesus was in Jerusalem for the last and most important feast of the Jewish year, the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot. It was held in October. Every male Jew was required to attend three major feasts of the year, if they lived within 15 miles of Jerusalem, and this was one of them.
The Feast of Tabernacles was the most joyous of all the festive occasions because it marked the end of the harvest year and it followed the Day of Atonement.
The people of Israel, having made their sin sacrifices and having made things right with God, gathered together to honor Him and thank Him for the bountiful harvests of the year. The celebration, which lasted a week and even continues to this day, was marked by singing and dancing and living outside in colorful booths.
One of the ceremonies which took place in the temple, in preparation for the Feast of Tabernacles, was called the illumination of the temple. We read about this in the Jewish Mishnah, which is an early collection of oral interpretations of the Jewish scriptures, our Old Testament. The ceremony consisted of the erection of four huge candelabras or torches that extended as high as the Temple walls. Once lit, they would light up the whole Temple area and could be seen for miles.
The Mishnah tells us that once the torches were lit, the people, especially the priests, would take torches in their hands and dance and sing praises to God, while the Levites played on harps, lyres, cymbals, trumpets and other instruments of music. They would dance until dawn.
At the end of this annual Feast, the Scriptures tell us that Jesus, before leaving Jerusalem, went into the Temple, into the same area where the celebration of the illumination of the Temple had been held. Perhaps, the charred remains of the torches were still in place. All the people gathered around him, including the teachers and the Pharisees, and Jesus said to them all, "I AM the light of the world" (John 8:12, 9:5). Jesus claimed to be God!
In the song "Here I Am To Worship" Michael W. Smith captures a modern day Feast of Tabernacles celebration. Read these beautiful words to Jesus and let them fill your heart with His light. At the link following, you can listen to the whole song put to music and worship Him.
Light of the World
You stepped down into darkness
Open my eyes
Let me see
Here I am to worship
Here I am to bow down
Here I am to say that You're my God
You're altogether lovely, Altogether worthy. Altogether wonderful to me.
Hillsong Worship: listen and watch
That lights up my heart — how about you? Let the light of Jesus shine brightly in your life, my friends. Remember, He is so proud of you that He dared to call you, in advance, "the light of the world" as well (Matthew 5:14), because He knew that you would someday reflect Him and help light up this dark, dark world around us with His love.