Chapter 24.1 Light of the World
Tabernacles to Dedication A.D. 29 (about three months from autumn to winter)
Light of the World, composite digital image by L. Lovett, 2006
Light of the World, composite digital image by L. Lovett, 2006 (CLICK on the image above for a LARGER version)

Midway through the Festival of Tabernacles, Jesus came into the Temple and began to teach. The leading priests were astonished when they heard him and asked, “How does this untrained man have so much knowledge?”

Christ told them, “I am not teaching my own ideas, but those of God who sent me. I represent one you do not know, and he is true. I know him because I have come from him, and he sent me to you. Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own. Those who present their own ideas are looking for praise for themselves, but those who seek to honor the one who sent them are good and genuine.”

On the last and greatest day of the feast, a multitude gathered around Christ on the Porch of Solomon. He used an allegory of the Holy Spirit who would be given to everyone believing in him after he returned to heaven, declaring, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink; for the Scriptures declare that rivers of living water will flow from the heart of those who believe in me.”

When the people heard this, some of them were convinced, “He must be the Prophet.” Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others argued, “Surely the Messiah is not to come from Galilee. For Scriptures clearly state that the Messiah will be born of the royal line of David in Bethlehem.”

Temple guards, sent by the Pharisees and chief priests, had been ordered to arrest Jesus, but no one laid hands on him. He left with his disciples, descending the stairway to the streets and quickly returned to Bethany.

When the high priest Caiaphas saw the Temple police returning empty-handed, his sallow face stiffened with anger. “Why didn’t you bring the Galilean?” he demanded.

The guards explained, “No one ever spoke as this man speaks!”

“Have you, too, been led astray?” one of the Sadducees mocked. “What do these ignorant crowds, who care nothing for the Law, know about it? Has a single one of our rulers believed in him, or any of the Pharisees?”

There was one secret believer. Nicodemus intervened, “Is it legal to convict a man before he is given a hearing?”

Another Pharisee taunted him, “Are you from Galilee, too? Search the Scriptures and find for yourself that the Prophet does not come from Galilee!”

The argument raged bitterly back and forth until Caiaphas, realizing it would achieve no unity of purpose, stopped trying to arrest Christ publicly. There were other ways of getting rid of troublemakers, ways he knew well.

Great Light

Lights in the Temple had blazed for the seven feast days. They represented the Shekinah glory—that supernatural cloud of light representing the visible presence of Yahweh which guided the Israelites during their wanderings in Moses’ day. It was also written that in Messianic times God would kindle the Great Light for them, and nations of the world would point to the one who lit the whole world.

On the day after the close of the feast, the festive lights were extinguished and it was a special eighth day, Shimini Atzeret. Now Jesus appeared as the Great Light and he announced it to the people, “I am the Light of the World. Anyone who follows me will never walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

Some of the multitude made the connection between the Shekinah glory and the Savior’s light in which they would be able to see God. However, all of the Pharisees understood the Messianic meaning in Christ’s words, but most did not want to see it. They demanded, “Tell us who you really are!”

Jesus replied, “I am the one I have always claimed to be and say only what I have heard from the One who sent me. When you have lifted up the Son of Man on the cross, then you will realize that I am he and that I do nothing on my own, but speak what the Father taught me. The One who sent me is with me, for I always do those things that are pleasing to him.”

Now the Savior turned to those who believed in him, “If you allow your lives to be guided by my teaching, you will become real disciples of mine. In that way you will come to know the truth—and the truth will set you free. If the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed! I assure you, anyone who obeys my teaching will never die.”

The leaders objected, “Even Abraham and the prophets died, but you say that those who obey your teaching will never die. Are you greater than our father Abraham who died? Are you greater than the prophets who died? Who do you think you are?”

Christ answered, “If I am merely boasting about myself, it is not valid. But it is my Father who says these things about me. Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad.”

One of them asked, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?”

Then the Lord spoke plainly, “In all truth I tell you that before Abraham existed, I AM!” This statement meant he was the Shekinah glory, the Messiah of Israel. There was only one meaning: before Abraham came into being, Christ already was. The Son of God declared his eternal preexistence, his supremacy of being. He was the great “I AM” of the Old Testament, Yahweh whom Moses knelt down and worshipped by the burning bush.

This delighted those who believed in him as their Messiah. But the Pharisees also understood Jesus’ claim to deity—the very root of the matter—and his words were blasphemy in their minds. It now become quite clear to them he had to be removed. Their fury proved powerless because his hour had not yet come, and the Master once more passed out of their sight. His Passion was still six months away and someone needed his light the next day.

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