Key Verse: 9:5 “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
In today’s passage, Jesus heals a man who had been blind from birth. In verse 5, Jesus said, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” As we study this passage, we want to learn how Jesus is the light of the world for this man and for us.
I. The meaning of life (1–4)
Human beings are physical animals, but we also are spiritual beings. As physical animals, we need food, water and shelter to survive. As spiritual beings, however, we need much more. In this section, Jesus helps his disciples learn the answer to each person’s fundamental question: What is the meaning of my life?
First, the cause of suffering (1–2). Read verses 1–2. “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disci¬ples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his par¬ents, that he was born blind?’” Like most of the people of their time, Jesus’ disci¬ples thought that suffering was God’s punishment for sin. In their mind, the only question was, “Whose sin?” It was hard for them to under¬stand how a man who had been blind from birth might have sinned in his mother’s womb, so they guessed that he had been born blind because of his parents’ sin. Their view of God was harsh and cruel: How could God punish a baby for his parents’ sin? It didn’t seem fair!
In reality, Jesus’ disciples probably were thinking about their own lives. When¬ever some¬thing went wrong, they wondered, “Why is God doing this to me? What did I do wrong?” They thought that God was a merciless policeman, like Inspector Javert in Les Miserables. They feared that if they made just one mistake, God would punish them by ruining the rest of their lives. Their warped view of God made them negative and fatalistic.
Many college students have the same fears: They worry that one mistake will ruin their lives. If they don’t get a high score on their exam, they won’t get a good grade in their class. If they don’t get a good grade, they won’t get into the right major, the right graduate school, the right medi¬cal school, the right law school or the right career. Then their whole lives will be ruined! So they worry a lot. Ironi¬cally, the more they worry about their grades, the harder it is for them to study. In order to try to forget their anxiety, many students indulge in alcohol, drugs and sex. Others try to escape through TV, video games, computer games, YouTube or Facebook. Ulti¬mately, however, these activities make their problems worse and their thinking becomes fatalistic and dark.
Second, the work of God (3–4). How did Jesus answer his disciples? Read verse 3. “‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this hap¬pened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.’” The disciples gave Jesus a multiple-choice question: “Is it (a) The man’s sin or (b) His parents’ sin? Jesus, however, rejected both of their choices and answered, “(c) None of the above”! Jesus refused to see the man’s condition as a punishment for sin. Instead, Jesus saw his condition as an opportunity for the work of God to be displayed in his life!
There is a sense in which we could say that all suffering is the result of sin (Gen 3:17–19; 6:11–12), but that doesn’t mean that all suffering is tragic. Read verse 3 again. “‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this hap¬pened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.’” To Jesus, the important question was not, “Why is this man suffering?” but rather, “How can the work of God be displayed in his life?” No one suffered as much as Jesus did. During his lifetime, he suffered great rejection, hatred and per¬se¬cu¬tion. He suffered with the perverseness of the Phari¬sees, the capriciousness (changeability) of the crowds and the childish¬ness of his own disciples. Ultimately, Jesus was beaten, flogged, crucified and killed by wicked men. Then he suf¬fered the full wrath of God as the punishment for our sins. Hum¬an¬ly, Jesus’ suffering looks tragic, but spiritually it was the greatest victory in the history of the world! Through his suffering, Jesus won the victory over sin and death on our behalf! Through his suffering, Jesus reconciled dirty sinners to a holy and righteous God! Through his suffering, Jesus demonstrated the love of God for unlov¬able sinners. Through his suffering, Jesus revealed the glory of God to the world. Praise and glory be to Jesus Christ our Lord!
Read verse 4. “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is com¬ing, when no one can work.” In Jesus’ time, there was no electricity or gas lighting. Every¬one had to complete their work during the daytime: at night no one could work. In this short parable, “day” refers to each person’s opportunity to carry out the work of God. During our brief life¬times we have a limited opportunity to do God’s work: after that our opportunity is gone. To Jesus, the meaning of life is to do the will of God and to finish his work (4:34). To Jesus, then, the real tragedy of a person’s life is not suffering, but rather failing to complete the work God created him or her to do. Many peo¬ple fail to do God’s work because they are trying to avoid suffering. Ironically they still suffer, and their suffering is unbearable, because it is mean¬ing¬less. The most miserable people are not those who suffer, but rather those who suffer meaninglessly.
Part II. The light of the world (5–11)
So far, Jesus and his disciples seemed to be having an esoteric theological discussion. Jesus, however, wanted to teach his disciples an important lesson. Read verse 5. “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” What does it mean that Jesus is the light of the world?
First, Jesus is the light of the world because he opens the eyes of the blind (6–7). Read verses 6–7. “Having said this, he spat on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.” This man had been born blind: he had never seen the light of day. He had never seen his mother’s face. When people talked about the beauty of a sunset or the colors of a rainbow, he didn’t have any idea what they were talking about. But Jesus made some mud with saliva and put it on the man’s eyes. Then he sent the man to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. So the man went and washed and his eyes were opened. For the first time, he saw the deep blue sky and puffy clouds. For the first time, he saw a graceful Monarch butterfly and playful squirrels. Jesus’ healing grace instantly transformed his life. Now he could see where he was going without depending on someone else to lead him. Now he could get a job and make a living. Finally, he could get married and have a family.
As Jesus had opened the man’s physical eyes, he also opened the man’s spiritual eyes. At first, the man’s confession of faith was merely factual: “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” As he held on to this “one thing he knew”, however, his spiritual vision became clearer and clearer. He confessed that Jesus is a prophet (17). He testified that Jesus is a godly man who had healed him by God’s mighty power, according to God’s will (31,33). His con¬fes¬sion was not merely intel¬lec¬tual: he decided to follow Jesus as his disciple in order to know God deeply through Jesus (27). Later, Jesus found the man and revealed to him that he is the Son of Man. The man confessed, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshipped him. (35–38)
From birth, this man had lived in a world of darkness. He didn’t know where he had been or where he was going. In the same way, he had been living in spiritual darkness. He didn’t know where he came from or where he was going. Then Jesus opened his eyes. Jesus is the light of the world because he opens the eyes of the blind (Isa 35:5; Eph 1:18).
Second, Jesus is the light of the world because he gives us the light of life. The greatest darkness over mankind is the shadow of death. King Solomon was like Donald Trump: he was very wealthy and he had many wives. In addition, Solomon was very wise. Yet despite all these bless¬ings, he despaired, “Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” because he knew that one day he would die and lose everything he had worked his entire life to achieve (Ecc 1:2; 2:15). Converse¬ly, the prophet Isaiah was an ordinary man, but he prophesied that Jesus would come to shine the light of life on those living under the shadow of death (Isa 9:2; Mt 4:16).
It is sin that gives death its cruel sting, because sin separates us from holy God (Isa 59:2). If we die in our sins, then we will forever be separated from God’s light, God’s life and God’s love. In the Bible, this separation is called “the second death” and it is hell. But thanks be to God! Although the wages of our sin is death, the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord! (Rom 6:23) Through Sh. Isaac A. Kim’s message on John 8:1-11, we learned that Jesus did not come to condemn sinners, but to save them from their sin. Praise and glory be to Jesus! Jesus solves our sin problem and saves us from eternal death: In him is life and that life is the light of men (Jn 1:4).
When we have the hope of eternal life in Jesus, we don’t have to be afraid of anything. What are you afraid of? Are you afraid of dying? In Jesus you don’t have to be afraid, because Jesus is the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Jesus will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Jesus will never die! (Jn 11:25-26). Do you believe this?
Are you afraid of failure? In Jesus, you don’t have to be afraid anymore! Near the end of his Last Supper with his disciples, Jesus encouraged them, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33) In this world, we can expect to have a lot of trouble. We will toil, we will suffer and sometimes we will fail. But we can take heart, because our final victory in Jesus is assured! (cf. Rom 8:37)
Are you afraid of suffering? Nobody likes suffering, but in Jesus our suffering can accom¬plish a great purpose. In Jesus, our suffering can reveal the glory of God (v.3). In Jesus our suffering can refine our faith, transform our character and develop our hope in the kingdom of God (1Pe 1:7; Rom 5:3–4). Most of all, in suffering we can experience the love and tender care of Jesus more intimately than before.
In John 8:12, Jesus declared, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” As long as we follow Jesus, we don’t ever have to be afraid again! Praise Jesus who calls us out of darkness into his wonderful light!
From the day she was born, my sister Kathryn was precious to me. After I received Christ, my greatest fear was that my sister would die without making a clear confession of faith. I was afraid that I would lose my faith and curse God. I was afraid that I would be overwhelmed in grief and guilt. On July 14, 1999 I received a late-night phone call: my sister had been in a car accident. Before we could fly to Denver, she had died. My worst fear had come true, but I didn’t need to be afraid. Jesus was with me in my sorrow. He comforted me with his love and sustained me with his strength. Last night, as we sang Blessed Be Your Name I came to understand the mean¬ing of the lyrics for the first time. Since the day she was born, my daughter Abigail Kathryn has been even more precious to me than my sister was. As we sang, “You give and take away / You give and take away” I thought, “What if God takes away the precious daughter he had given me? What will I do?” I couldn’t sing for several minutes until I remembered the key verse of this passage: Jesus said, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Then I realized that in Jesus, I didn’t have to be afraid, even of such a terrible tragedy. Then I could finish singing the song. “You give and take away / You give and take away / My heart will choose to say / Lord, blessed be Your name / Blessed be the name of the Lord / Blessed be Your name / Blessed be the name of the Lord / Blessed be Your glorious name”.
Third, Jesus is the light of the world because he restores our true identity in God (8–11). Our sin problem affects not only our eternal destiny, but also our present life, especially our identity. Sin corrupts the noble image of God in people and makes us ugly and ashamed. Look at verses 8-11. Sin so corrupted the image of God in this man that he was not known as “a child of God”, but rather, as “The Man Who Sits and Begs” (8). But thanks be to God! Jesus gave him a new iden¬ti¬ty as “The Man Whom Jesus Healed”. What a glorious new identity he received in Jesus!
Without Jesus, our identity is corrupted by sin. So the Samaritan woman was known as “The Immoral Woman” and Simon Peter was known as “The Undependable Man”. In Jesus, how¬ever, Simon Peter’s identity was changed to “Peter, the Rock” and the identity of the Samaritan woman was changed to be “A Holy Missionary to the Samaritans” (4:28-42).
What, then, is our new identity in Jesus? Jesus gave us a hint in our key verse. “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Jesus did not plan to stay in this world forever: he had to die on the cross for our sins and return to his Father in heaven. Therefore, it is imperative that Jesus’ disciples continue to shine Jesus’ light in this dark world. So in The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus charged his disciples: “You are the light of the world” (Mt 5:14a; cf. 4:34).
How can we shine Jesus’ light? First Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may dec¬lare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Jesus has saved us and called us to be men and women of mission. In order to carry out this mission, we have to do one thing: to dec¬lare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light. The Samaritan wo¬man is our role model. She declared Jesus’ praise by testifying to the grace that she had rec¬eived in Jesus. Then she invited her townspeople to know Jesus for themselves through Bible study.
Our mission sounds simple, but it isn’t easy. In order to shine the light of Jesus into this dark world, we will suffer for a little while. But Jesus taught us that suffering for his name does not make us miserable. When we suffer to do the work of God, Jesus is with us to comfort us and to give us victory and great joy, even in the midst of our suffering.
This principle is not only true for The Twelve Apostles, but for anyone who wants to live a glorious and noble life in Jesus. In Chicago, Dr. Ben Toh suffers a lot in order to carry out God’s mission, yet he is strangely joyful. Once I overheard his advice to one of his Bible students. “Look at me. Do I look happy?” The student couldn’t believe that he could be happy if he lived a life of mission, but he had to admit that Dr. Ben seemed to be happy. To do the work of God, his coworker, Sh. Christy Toh, suffers even more, yet she seems to be even happier than he is. In our West Coast UBF chapters, there are many similar examples, too many to mention here.
Throughout my youth, there were two dark shadows over my life. Firstly, I didn’t feel that anyone loved me enough, not my parents, not my friends, not even one or two girlfriends. Second¬ly, I felt shame and guilt for my hidden sins and secret lusts. Then, two students invited me to study the Bible. Without knowing why, I agreed to study. After several months, God healed my spiritual blindness and opened my eyes to find my Savior in Jesus Christ. Immedi¬ately, the light of Jesus flooded my soul. Jesus’ love filled my heart and quenched my thirst, and Jesus’ blood cleansed my sins and set me free from all my shame and guilt.
Lately, however, other shadows have darkened my life. God has called me to serve him as a math teacher in an inner city high school. I believe that it is God’s will and God’s plan to learn his shepherd’s heart for lost sheep and to pioneer Bay Area college campuses. However, I am still trying to do this work by my own might and power, rather than by God’s Spirit. Because of this lack of faith, I often allow my work to take over my life. Even though I planned to go fish¬ing, I didn’t go. Even though I knew that I needed to meet Jesus every morning, I skipped our meetings nearly every day. Then my thinking became futile, and my foolish heart was darkened. I became afraid that if my school does not improve, all my hard work will be in vain. I lost hope that God could use me to pioneer Contra Costa College and UC–Berkeley. I became ashamed of my unfaithfulness and unfruitfulness. But thanks be to God! Jesus said, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Through this verse, Jesus has again shined his great light into my heart and dispelled all my darkness. Once again, I believe that he wants to use me to shine his great light upon students who are walking in darkness at my high school, at Contra Costa College and at UC–Berkeley.