Believers, like the blind man in John 9, go through many difficulties in this dark world that opposes the light of Christ. We, too, face rejection, hostility, persecution, and suffering. In the midst of these difficulties, though, we grow evermore in our knowledge of our Savior. We know that the end of it all, we will see the face of Jesus – the Light of the world.
Our world today has a confused understanding of who Jesus is as various peoples and groups vainly try to mold our Savior into the person they want Him to be. Even within the church, the person and the work of Christ is unclear to many people. We need constant reminders from God’s Word of who Jesus is so we can keep our eyes fixed on the Messiah and grow in our trust and love for Him.
The world’s ambiguity in this area is why Jesus’ self-descriptions in John are so important for believers’ lives. In the Gospel of John, Jesus made seven statements beginning with the phrase, “I am the …” and went on to describe something about who He is and why He came into the world. The second of these statements is found in John 8:12, where Jesus declares that He is the Light of the world, and that those who follow Him will no longer walk in darkness.
The theme of light traces its origin back to the beginning of John’s Gospel, where the apostle informs his readers in the first chapter that Jesus inherently has life within Himself, and that He is the giver of life. Jesus’ life is the light of men, bringing illumination and truth to humanity. Additionally, John sets up a duality between light and darkness at the outset of his Gospel. Jesus is the light, but there is also darkness that is opposed to the Light. The Light of Christ shines amid this darkness, and the darkness is unable to understand it or extinguish it.
John’s introduction of these concepts set the stage for what is to follow, especially in terms of the conflict that will arise between light and darkness, between Jesus and the devil, and between those who are followers of Christ and those who are the children of the devil.
Not only does the theme of light flow out of the literary context of the Gospel of John, but it also fits the historical context as well. John 7:2 tells readers that these events all transpired around the Feast of Booths (or Tabernacles). Light was a significant part of the celebration. In the temple court, they would light four huge lamps to celebrate this Feast, and men would dance throughout the night with burning torches in their hands, singing songs of praise for God’s salvation of Israel from Egypt.
John 8:12 almost certainly takes place in the context of this feast, making Jesus’ pronouncement that He is the Light of the world that much more striking. The Jews, in response, ignore Jesus’ claim to be the Light of the world and instead try to execute Jesus for blasphemy. After this scene concludes, readers are left to wonder what Jesus meant when He called Himself the Light of the world, which is elucidated in John 9. John 9 is a validation and exposition of Jesus’ claim that He is the Light of the world – the story of our Lord bringing light to the darkened eyes of a blind man.