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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, January 13, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading | John 8:12–19

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Then the Pharisees said to him, “You are testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid.” Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid because I know where I have come from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is valid; for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is valid. I testify on my own behalf, and the Father who sent me testifies on my behalf.” Then they said to him, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” (NRSV)

Although the bulk of this passage is Jesus dismantling a Pharisaic argument that Jesus’ testimony about his identity is invalid because he needs another witness (scintillating stuff!), we shouldn’t miss a couple of remarkable things that bookend Jesus’ words: that he is the “light of the world” and stating that knowing him is knowing the Father.

Light and darkness is a prominent theme throughout the Gospel of John, appearing first in John’s famous prologue (“the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it”—John 1:5) and five subsequent times throughout the Gospel. The light-darkness theme has roots in several passages from Isaiah in which darkness refers to the oppression of the Hebrew people at the hands of the Assyrians and Babylonians, so there may be a connection being drawn between similar oppression at the hands of the Roman Empire.

Larger than that, though, is the connection being drawn to the very act of creation in Genesis 1—something that the prologue of John’s Gospel invokes as well. The imagery of Jesus as light, as pre-existent Word, and as God is powerful throughout this passage—indeed, Jesus directly tells the Pharisees that if they knew him, they would know his Father as well—and this point is further driven home in the following verses when Jesus refers to himself using “I AM”—the name of God shared with Moses back in Exodus 3.

In this season after the Epiphany, in which we come seeking to better understand who Jesus was and is, passages like this remind us that Jesus should not be merely reduced to a great teacher or preacher, for to know Jesus is to know God.

Almighty God, may the light of your Epiphany not only illumine the many needs of this world but kindle my heart to respond according to your word and love. Amen.

Written by Matt Helms, Associate Pastor for Children and Family Ministry

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