In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. John 1:1-9
Dear Faithful Seed Sowers:
Let’s recap the book of John quickly: in John six Jesus feeds the five thousand and proclaims for the first time that He is the Great I Am by saying, “I Am the Bread of Life.” In Chapter seven Jesus confronts the religious leaders and at the beginning of chapter eight we are told the story of the woman caught in adultery. Then Jesus goes out into the temple courtyard and proclaims “I Am the Light of the World. Here is where we will spend our time today.
I would like to set the scene for you so that you can enter into the story. The Feast of Tabernacles is going on in Jerusalem. This is one of the three, major feasts or festivals held in Jerusalem. There are millions of people who make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the feasts in order to celebrate all that God had done for them in the past. The Feast of Tabernacles was held in the fall and was also called the Feast of Booths. The Hebrew word is “Sukkoth.” The people came to Jerusalem and lived in booths made of tree branches. This was to remind them of how their ancestors’ wandered in the wilderness for forty years. This festival lasted seven days. They told stories of how God provided water from the rock in the desert and of daily manna that fell from heaven. They remembered how God provided a cloud by day to guide them and a fire by night to warm them. Compare these festivals to a sort like our Christmas and our Easter…these were the big, Jewish holidays!
In the midst of this festival Jesus tells the people exactly who He is. On each morning of the day of the festival, the Jews made procession to the pool of Siloam. They drew water out of the pool with their golden pitchers. Then they processed back to the temple area and poured the water from their golden pitchers onto the altar of sacrifice. The people would sing and shout and praise God for God’s provision of water from the rock in wilderness. It was in the midst of the last of these morning processions that John recorded these words, “On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’” John 7:37-38
Jesus tells the crowd gathered that he is the living water. Turn to Him and you will never be thirsty again.
During the Feast, they poured water from the pool of Siloam onto the altar of sacrifice. That was only the first part of the daily celebration. The second part of the daily feast started at dusk, in the court of the women. They lit four, huge candelabras. So brilliant was the light from these candelabras that “there was not a courtyard in Jerusalem that did not reflect their light.”[i]
Think of how we light the torch for the Olympics…same idea! Just imagine how bright and brilliant those candelabras were. The light reminded them of the fire by night that protected them, provided for them, and guided them. The fire would also remind them of the cloud by day that sheltered them from the desert heat (140 degrees).
In the midst of this great Festival, with millions in Jerusalem, Jesus proclaims, “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)
In May 1995, Randy Reid, a 34-year-old construction worker, was welding on top of a nearly completed water tower outside Chicago. According to writer Melissa Ramsdell, Reid unhooked his safety gear to reach for some pipes when a metal cage slipped and bumped the scaffolding he stood on. The scaffolding tipped, and Reid lost his balance. He fell 110 feet, landing face down on a pile of dirt, just missing rocks and construction debris. A fellow worker called 911.
When paramedics arrived, they found Reid conscious, moving, and complaining of a sore back. Apparently, the fall didn’t cost Reid his sense of humor. As paramedics carried him on a backboard to the ambulance, Reid had one request: “Don’t drop me.” (Doctors later said Reid came away from the accident with a bruised lung.)
Sometimes we resemble that construction worker. God protects us from harm of a 110-foot fall and we’re nervous about a three-foot height. The God who saved us from hell, death and the grave can protect us from all the dangers we face this week.[ii]
Jesus stood in the midst of the courtyard of the women and proclaimed “I Am — YAHWEH— I Am the light of the world!”
You don’t have to fear!
You don’t have to worry!
You don’t have to fret!
I Am who I Am and I AM who I always will be and I have heard your cry! I will be who I will be! I will be here to light your path…today, tomorrow…always.
In Psalm 27:1 David the Psalmist says — “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?”
What I am about to share with is true. It sounds crazy but I have a witness–my wife, Jac. In 1994 Jac and I took a trip to a parent event for our eldest daughter’s sorority. Jennifer attended the same college that we did so it was always a good time to return to campus–8 hours away (NMSU now Truman State). We were driving home late at night on the back roads from Kirksville, MO. Way far in the distance we started to see a light in the sky. We wondered if it was a fire or fireworks (it was February). The closer we got, the brighter in the sky it got. It looked like a lit-up cloud. The closer we got to the freeway (I-80), the bigger and brighter the cloud became. We turned onto the freeway and headed east for home. Guess what? That cloud followed us. It didn’t matter if we went 80 mph or 50. It didn’t matter if we stopped for food or gas. We didn’t have our camera and we didn’t have a cell phone. Jac and I were freaked out. The cloud followed us from Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Rochelle, Illinois. As we passed the Rochelle water tower, the cloud stopped and disappeared. We even stopped, turned around and went back over the bridge to the water tower just to make sure! Just a few weeks earlier, the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary had called me to offer me a full scholarship to attend seminary. I was 39 years old and I wanted to go to seminary but I thought I’d wait til the kids all graduated high school and then sell the house and go to seminary. NOPE. God had other plans. I was offered a NEVER HEARD OF FULL SCHOLARSHIP with a commuter room included. We prayed about the offer, talked with the kids (who all said, “GO!”) and I was set to quit the family business in August and go back to get my Masters of Divinity.
Jac and I often talk about this crazy cloud. One thing for sure, Jesus is the light of the world! In the end, I think I’ve decided that this was my Gideon’s fleece of a sort; a sort of “ENTER THE PROMISED LAND OF SEMINARY, DAVE!” In five months, I will celebrate my 25th anniversary of ordained ministry. Sometimes the ways of God are so far above my own–it’s just time to go take a tylenol and lay down to recover!
Are you afraid today?
Do you think that God has forgotten you?
Are you in a dark place in your life?
Have you fallen 110 feet and don’t think you’ll be able to get up?
The Good News is that God is with us!
God protects us. When Jesus told the people in the middle of that courtyard, “I AM the light of the world” they immediately envisioned God creating Light and separating darkness. They immediately envisioned a cloud of light by day and a cloud of fire by night. Protected from the desert heat, and the freezing nights—Jesus is saying He is the light that will protect us from the darkness.
COUNT ON IT! Our God is greater than our darkness.
See you Sunday!
God loves you and so do I,