John 09:01-41, “Blind Man Seeing, Seeing Men Blind”

Christ Healing the Blind Man
Christ Healing the Blind Man (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)



Have you had your eyes checked lately? How is your vision? I know a blind lady with perfect vision. And I know people with perfectly good vision who are totally blind. Today we will see a man who was born blind but who obtained perfect vision. And we will see men with perfect vision who could not see because they would not see.

Of the five main senses that God has given man—sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing—many of us would consider sight the most important. A lot of deaf people live fairly normal lives. They can drive vehicles, go where they want to go, read books, even watch television. But the sightless person faces many more challenges. Many are very creative and seem to overcome obstacles and shine in areas where many of us do not shine.

In John 9, we find the story of a man born blind who by the end of the story, had perfect vision. But those who claimed to have perfect vision, turned out to be totally blind. This is the story of two responses to Jesus: a blind man who sees Jesus for he is, and seeing men who would not see. And then there’s the question that keeps coming up in this story: Who sinned?


1.1.The Question: Who Sinned?

The story begins when Jesus and his disciples come upon a man who had been blind from birth.

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth (John 9:1 ESV).

Jesus looks at the man, and the disciples, apparently taking their cue from this look, ask Jesus about the cause of the man’s blindness.

And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2 ESV).

The man was born blind. There had to be a cause. The disciples take for granted that someone has sinned. Their only question is, “Who sinned?”

Did this man sin? He is the one who is blind. He must have done something terrible to be born blind. But how could that be? Some of the Pharisees had the idea that it was possible to sin while still in the womb, before one was even born. Did this man somehow sin while he was still in his mother’s womb, something so bad that God would make him suffer with blindness from birth? That really didn’t sound right.

Perhaps it was his parents:

“Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” (John 9:2 NLT)

The disciples assume that sin was the cause of this tragedy. In the Book of Job in the Old Testament, Job was the richest man of the east. He lost everything that he had: his wealth, his health, and even his family. All except for his wife who told him to curse God and die. Some friends came to comfort him, but they were so shocked at his appearance, that they could not speak for seven days. When they finally opened their mouths, all they could do is accuse Job of sinning. They said that God would never allow this to happen to a righteous man. But they were wrong. The first verse of Job tells us that Job “was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1 ESV). In the closing chapters, God himself rebukes Job’s miserable comforters for falsely accusing him.

Still the question persists. We are all too ready to point the finger, to assign blame. 1 Corinthians 11:30 tells us that sometimes sickness and even death is the result of sin. But not always. And not in this case.

“Rabbi,” the disciples ask, “who sinned?” The disciples are right to expect Jesus to know. In John 2:24-25, John tells us that Jesus knew all people; he himself knew what as in man. Jesus knew who was going to betray him (John 6:64). He knew all that was going to happen to him (John 18:4). And Peter will say to him, “Lord, you know everything” (John 21:17). The question was not the best, but the disciples were right to ask Jesus. Jesus knew why this man was born blind. Who else could explain that? Who else could explain why bad things happen? Who else could tell why a man was born blind? These are questions that only God himself could answer. On every page, John is showing us that Jesus is God the Son, God in the flesh, the Word made flesh (John 1:1, 14).

1.2.The Answer

Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:3-5 ESV).

“You are wrong on both counts,” Jesus said. One translation puts it this way:

Jesus replied, “Neither one—not he, not his parents. Nevertheless, this is an opportunity for God’s acts to be exhibited in him (John 9:3 MIT).

How do you see problems? Are you looking for the cause? Or are you looking for the solution? Jesus looks at this problem—a man’s blindness—and sees it as an opportunity to do something for God. The disciples are saying, “Who did this? Who is to blame? Who is at fault here?” Jesus says, “This is an opportunity to do something that will reveal the glory of God.” This is not some academic exercise. This is real life. There are people all around who need your help. We don’t need to be pointing the finger, assessing blame, trying to figure our who is at fault. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite passed on the other side when they saw a man who had been left half dead on the roadside. The Samaritan went to the man, bound up his wounds, and showed mercy on him. Jesus tells us to do likewise.

We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work (John 9:4 ESV).

God has give us work to do. “We must work the works,” Jesus said, and now is the time to do it.

1.3.The Solution

The Healing (vs. 6-7).In this chapter of 41 verses, only two describe the actual healing.The description is repeated in verses 11 and 15 before the friends of the blind man, and before the Pharisees, but nothing new is added.Jesus spat on the ground, made mud with his saliva, and smeared the man’s eyes with the mud.He then told the man to go wash in the pool of Siloam.We are not told how the man got their, but he came back seeing.

The man was blind at birth. He had known nothing but darkness for his entire existence. Nothing but thick, impenetrable, blackness all around. Never had he even seen a flicker of light. But before the story ends, he would see more than a flicker of light. This man would see the Light of the World:

As long as I am in the world, (Jesus says,) I am the light of the world” (John 9:5 ESV).

It was in chapter 8:12, in the debate with the Jewish authorities that Jesus declared that he was the Light of the World. Now that Light will shine in the dark corners of this blind man’s soul, making everything clear and brighter than the noonday sun.

In two verses, John describes the healing:

Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing (John 9:6-7 ESV).

Jesus spat on the ground, made mud with his saliva, and smeared the man’s eyes with the mud. He then told the man to go wash in the pool of Siloam. Spit. Mud. And a pool named Siloam which means Sent.

The waters for this pool were probably sent from a spring. In John 4, Jesus said that he was the source of living water. Now in chapter 9:4, he says that he must work the works of him who sent him. Jesus is the one and only Son of God sent from the Father. You need to go to the one who was sent from God.

How did the blind man find the pool? We are not told. Perhaps with a walking stick. Perhaps he asked someone to take him there. However he got there, he obeyed. He went. He washed. And he came back seeing.


2.1.The Blind Man Sees!

Yes, he came back seeing. He came back to his place. He came back to his neighborhood where people had seen him sit and beg all his life. They knew the blind man, but this could not be him!

The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man” (John 9:8-9 ESV).

This man’s appearance was greatly changed. He is no longer blind. His eyes are open. They are bright and shining. They are alive! “Is this the man?” “No, it can’t be!” “But it must be!” “Yes, I am the man! I am the man!” They could hardly believe their eyes that this was the same man.

So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” (John 9:10 ESV).

2.2.The First Step Toward Perfect Vision: “The Man Called Jesus”

Here we come to the man’s first step toward perfect vision. “How were you eyes opened?” they asked him.

His response: “The man called Jesus…” He does not know much about Jesus. He has heard of him. He has possibly heard of his teaching or of his miracles, but all he can say is,

“The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know” (John 9:11-12 ESV).

The first steps of faith in Jesus begin simply.

Here we have a remarkable event. Everyone knows that this man was born blind. They know that he used to sit and beg for his living. Suddenly, all that has changed. The man can see! How did this happen? Spit, mud, a pool called Siloam, and—oh yes—a man called Jesus. What does this mean? How could this happen? There must be an explanation! Let’s ask the religious authorities! They will know what this means! Let’s take this man to the Pharisees.


They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind (John 9:13 ESV).

3.1.Not On the Sabbath!

It is only now that we learn that this healing took place on the Sabbath:

Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes (John 9:14 ESV).

There it is again: Jesus made mud. Five times in this chapter we read that Jesus made mud and anointed the blind man’s eyes with it. Now we learn that it was the Sabbath that Jesus had made the mud and anointed the man’s eyes.

This brought Jesus into conflict with the Pharisees on several accounts:

  1. Since the man’s life was not in danger, they thought that Jesus should have waited until another day to heal (cf. Luke 13:14).
  2. The Jewish authorities had a list of 39 activities that they had forbidden people to do on the Sabbath. One of the 39 activities forbidden in the Mishnah was kneading like when you knead bread dough.[1] Jesus had kneaded the clay with his spittle to make mud.
  3. Anointing the eyes on the Sabbath was also forbidden in the Talmud.[2] But Jesus was not too concerned about the traditions of the elders.He was bound only by the Word of God not by man-made traditions that were added to the Word of God.

Why did Jesus use mud and spit? This was no accident. Jesus purposefully made mud on the Sabbath. He used mud to unleash a controversy on the Sabbath. Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath, and he showed that the point of the Sabbath is rest and restoration of our bodies. The very first time the Sabbath is mentioned in the Bible is in Exodus 16, when God gives the Israelites the manna in the wilderness. It is not mentioned before. It is in the wilderness that God gave his people the Sabbath, telling them that they were not to gather manna on the Sabbath. The point of the Sabbath is that God’s manna—God’s provision of the Bread of Life, Christ Jesus our Lord—eternal life is not of works; it is the gift of God.

Jesus made mud on the Sabbath to bring about the controversy that we find in John 9.

So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them (John 9:15-16 ESV).

The religious authorities are divided. Some of them say that Jesus is a sinner, that he is not from God. But others wonder how he could open the eyes of a man born blind if he were a sinner. So these Pharisees, these religious authorities, these doctors of the law are now reduced to ask a poor blind beggar his opinion: “What do you have to say about him?It was your eyes he opened” (John 9:17 ESV).

3.2.The Second Step of Faith

He said, “He is a prophet” (John 9:17 ESV).

We see that the blind man has progressed in his understanding.When asked by his acquaintances how his eyes were opened, he could only say that it was done by “a man named Jesus” (v. 11).Now he calls him a prophet.Perhaps we find this insufficient, but this directly contradicts what some of the Jewish authorities were saying. They were saying that he was not from God. In declaring that Jesus was a prophet, the blind man was saying that Jesus was from God.


This miracle was so extraordinary, that the Pharisees were not yet convinced that it had happened. The formerly blind man has taken a second step in his faith while the Jewish authorities have taken another step in unbelief. Perhaps this was just a farce. So they interrogate the man’s parents:

¶ The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him” (John 9:18-23 ESV).

But the parents would only confirm that this was their son and that he had been blind.To say any more risked excommunication from the synagogue and from Israel.

John Piper says, “The point is not mainly to be too hard on them, but to throw into stark relief how unfearing this beggar is.”


5.1.Name of the Game: Intimidation

Not satisfied with the responses of the parents, the Pharisees called for the blind man again. “Give glory to God,” they charge him. In Joshua 7:19 this formula is used to encourage Achan to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

“We know this man is a sinner,” they said.The Pharisees no longer seem to be divided. There is a united front. At any rate, those who wondered how a sinner could give sight to the blind kept silent.Maybe they too were fearful of the consequences.

“We know that this man is a sinner,” declared the religious experts. “Join us in our blasphemy or we’ll excommunicate you out of Judaism.”[3] This is huge. If you get disciplined by your church, you can either accept it or go find another church. But this is being marked and cut off from Israel.

Nonetheless, this line of intimidation will not work.Try as they will, they cannot get him to move “from a position he knows to be right.He does not know anything about Jesus and thus does not know whether or not he is a sinner.But he has one important certainty: I was blind from birth. I never saw the sun rise or set. I never saw the beautiful flowers that I could smell. I heard birds sing but could never admire them in flight. I heard my mother’s lovely voice, but was never able to look into her face. “I know one thing: I was blind, but now I see” (v. 25).

Nobody is going to shake a man out of a certainty like that. A man with an experience, it is said, is never at the mercy of a man with an argument. And, as it was Jesus who gave him his sight, nobody is going to make him takes sides against Jesus.”[4]

5.2.Tell Us Again!

So they ask him again how Jesus opened his eyes.Perhaps through a second round of interrogation, they could uncover some contradictions and show that this was nothing more than a sham.With a twinkle in his eye he responded, “I told you once and you didn’t pay attention,” he said.

“…Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” (John 9:27 ESV).

This word “also” indicates that the blind man has begun to think of himself as a disciple of this Jesus.

Step 1: The man called Jesus.

Step 2: He is a prophet from God.

Step 3: I’m a disciple.

Unable to resist his logic, the Pharisees, as refined and sophisticated as they were, began to hurl insults at the man.

And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from” (John 9:28-29 ESV).

Here the religious authorities inadvertently admitted their ignorance: “We don’t even know where he comes from.”

They left themselves wide open.”Now that is remarkable.You don’t know…”The man had been blind all his life, but behind those blind eyes was a logical mind. The blind man marshals his argument:

  1. “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes (John 9:30 ESV)
  2. You say he is a sinner, but “we know that God does not listen to sinners” (John 9:31 ESV).
  3. if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him (John 9:31 ESV).
  4. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind (John 9:32 ESV).
  5. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing” (John 9:33 ESV).[5]

Unable to resist his argument, the Pharisees insulted him and resorted to violence: “You were born steeped in sin, and now you are lecturing us?”Then they threw him out.This probably means that they excommunicated him, since it is emphasized in both verses 34 and 35.In any case, it was not a good sign.It meant trouble for the man.


This is amazing: Jesus sought him out. He was cast out; Jesus sought him out. To whom will he turn; he doesn’t need to turn. It is no accident that the next chapter is about the good shepherd who gathered his sheep.[6]

Jesus came looking for the man.He heard that the blind man had been excommunicated, so he sought him out.As Chrysostom put it: “The Jews cast him out of the Temple; the Lord of the Temple found him.”[7]

Now the blind man had never seen Jesus’ face, but he recognized his voice.”Never in all his life would he forget the voice that had told him to go and wash in Siloam!”[8]

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (John 9:35 ESV).

Jesus was obviously looking for people to “believe in the Son of Man.”And if Jesus wanted him to believe in the Son of Man, the formerly blind man was willing to believe in him.But who was he?This man was so fundamentally honest that he would neither cower to the Pharisees, nor would he profess faith in someone he did not know.”Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”Jesus said, “You have now seen him, for it is he who is speaking with you.”

The words of Jesus brought a new enlightenment.At that moment the man opened his eyes and saw something he had never seen before.He had begun by called Jesus “a man named Jesus.”Then he called him a prophet.Then he marshaled an argument proving that Jesus was from God.Finally he recognized that Jesus was the Son of Man, and bowed down and worshipped him.

This man worshipped Jesus. The word is προσκυνέω (proskuneo) and this is the tenth time that we find it in John’s Gospel. The first nine times are in John 4:20-24 where Jesus says that God is seeking true worshipers who will worship Him in spirit and truth.

In speaking of Jesus, the Word made flesh, John says in 1:18,

No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known (John 1:18 ESV).

This man worships Jesus.


In verse 39 Jesus says, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”It is strange to hear Jesus speak of coming for judgment.In 3:17 we read, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.”

“It is not the purpose of the shining of the sun to cast shadows.But where the sun shines upon opaque objects, shadows are inevitable.It is not the purpose of the coming of the Son of God to bring condemnation.But when his offered salvation is rejected, condemnation is inevitable.”[9]

The Pharisees, despite their advantages, regressed in their understanding.They started with the firm conviction that Jesus was not from God (v. 16).Then they questioned the reality of the miracle he had done (v. 18).They declared their certainty that Jesus was a sinner (v. 24), and made other statements revealing their spiritual ignorance (v. 29).Finally, they were shown to be both blind and sinful (v. 41).[10]

In answer to the question, “Who sinned?” several possibilities were suggested.The man himself.The mans parents.Jesus was accused of sin.But the guilty ones in this story are those who insist that they see.”If you were blind,” Jesus said, “you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”

There is a kind of blindness that is rooted in willful rebellion against God, a moral spiritual blindness, that does not remove guilt. There is a blindness that does not want to see the light, or confess that our works are works of darkness. This does not diminish our guilt; it is our guilt. It does not remove accountability.

The first glimmer of light in the soul is to say, “I’m blind.”[11]

If we will acknowledge our blindness, Jesus will show us the light.But if we insist that we see, there is nothing that he can show us.


This blind man is us. We were all born blind. It takes a work of God to open our eyes to see the truth.

Four questions:[12]

  1. Do you worship Jesus?
  2. Do you find your worship of Jesus deepening or weakening in the face of threat and danger. It took a miracle for this man’s faith to get stronger and stronger as the opposition intensified.
  3. Does your worship falter or flourish when your family is unbelieving?
  4. Do you confess Jesus openly and defend him with your personal testimony? 95% of Christians are saved through seeing the truth of the gospel.

Three statements:

  1. God has wise good, Christ-exalting purposes that happens to you.
  2. Jesus is the path to the full, final, joyful experience of that good purpose.
  3. Jesus sought out this nobody, this beggar, and He is seeking you right now. That is why you tuned in today and heard this story. He wants to make you a worshipper of Jesus.

Ask Jesus to open the eyes of your heart.

See also “Gospel of John”:

[1]Shabbath 7:2

[2]According to a later Jewish tradition (Babylonian Talmud Abodah Zarah 28b) there was an opinion that it was not permitted to anoint an eye on the Sabbath.The Jerusalem Talmud Shabbath 14d and 17f says that one may not put fasting spittle on the eyes on the Sabbath.See Brown, The Gospel According to John, 373.

[3]John Piper

[4]Leon Morris, Reflections on the Gospel of John, 359.

[5]Morris, Reflections on the Gospel of John, 360.

[6]John Piper

[7]Barclay, The Gospel of John, 49.

[8]Morris, Reflections on the Gospel of John, 364.

[9]Morris, Reflections on the Gospel of John, 366.

[10]Morris, Reflections on the Gospel of John, 357.

[11]John Piper

[12]These questions and statements are suggested by John Piper.


John 08:12-30, “Jesus, the Light of the World”

Light of the World
Light of the World (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
John’s gospel is all about Jesus. On every page John is telling us who Jesus is. He tells us who Jesus is through the testimony of others such as John the Baptist. John shows who Jesus is through the signs or miracles that Jesus does that point to his identity. John tells us what we are to understand through his comments on the events, on what people understood or misunderstood. And he shows who Jesus is through the very words of Jesus, his discourses and the claims that Christ makes about himself.

John tells us his purpose in writing near the end of his Gospel:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:30-31 ESV).

John writes all these things to show us that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. He writes so that we will believe in Christ. “Believe in Christ.” What does that mean? Believing in Christ means that Jesus Christ himself is the focus and the object of our faith and worship. It is through this faith in Christ, the Son of God, that we may have life in his name.

We come then to John 8:12 where Jesus makes a tremendous claim about himself. He makes one of his great “I AM” declarations: “I AM the light of the world.”

1.  I Am the Light of the World (8:12-20)

John 8:12 I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

1.1.        The Claims of Jesus

This is not the first claim that Jesus makes, nor will it be the last.

  • John 6:35 I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
  • John 10:11 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.
  • John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
  • John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,
  • John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
  • John 15: (1), 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Jesus is doing the one thing that you and I should not do: he is making astounding claims about himself. As we have mentioned before on this broadcast, Jesus does not simply say that he will show us the way; he says, “I AM the way” (John 14:6). He does not say, “I will show you the Father.” He says, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:9).

These are breathtaking claims. They knock us back. They push us against the wall. We cannot simply say that Jesus was a wonderful teacher. If I were to announce to you today, “I am the light of the world,” you would have every right to dismiss me as a lunatic. But Jesus is continually making statements like that, and he makes several such statements in this passage in John 8. He makes these statements in chapters 6, 7, and 8 which all go together. Is he a lunatic? Or is he who he claims to be?

1.2.         The Feast of Tabernacles

Let us understand that chapter 8:12f. is a continuation of chapter 7, and that chapters 6, 7 and 8 give us pictures from Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness. You will remember that God used Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. God struck the land of Egypt with 10 plagues and Moses led the children of Israel out of Israel, across the Red Sea, and they were on their way to the Promised Land.

1.2.1.     The Bread of Life

But the Israelites refused to believe that God would give them victory in the Promised Land, so they were left to wander in the wilderness for 40 years until a new generation arose and took their place. Yet God graciously provided for the Israelites in the wilderness. He gave them water and manna – bread from heaven – and even meat to eat for 40 years.

The Feast of Tabernacles was a celebration of that time of God’s provision in the wilderness. In chapter 6, Jesus has already given us one picture from the wilderness years. He multiplied the loaves and fed the multitude. Then Jesus told them that he was the true manna, the bread of life that had come down from heaven. He told them that he himself was the source of life.

1.2.2.     The Living Water

Now Jesus is in Jerusalem at this Feast of Tabernacles in chapters 7 and 8. Here he gives us two more pictures from the wilderness period: one has to do with water, the other has to do with light. During the Feast of Tabernacles, it is the dry season in Israel: September or October. The hills are barren and parched.

Just like on some of our smaller islands, water can become a crucial issue, water was not taken for granted in Israel. The Israelites remembered during this Feast of Tabernacles their 40 years in the wilderness. They remembered having no water. They remembered Moses striking the rock and the water miraculously gushing from it. This is the second picture from the wilderness period: the water is gushing from the rock. Paul says that Christ was the spiritual Rock that followed them in the wilderness (1 Corinthians 10:4).

During the Feast of Tabernacles, special sacrifices are being made each day of seven days of the feast. Special ceremonies are conducted: The priest draws water from the Pool of Siloam into a golden pitcher as a choir sings Isaiah 12:3, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” The priest leads a procession of people back to the temple where the priest climbs the altar steps and pours the water onto the altar as the crowd continues to sing. On the last day of the feast, the seventh day of the feast, this ceremony is conducted seven times.

It is on this last day that Jesus stands and calls out with a loud voice, “If any one is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Out of his belly will flow rivers of living water.” John explains that Jesus was speaking about the Holy Spirit. Jesus says, “Come to me. I am the source of spiritual life.” These are amazing claims:

“I am the bread of life come down from heaven.”

“I am the source of living water.”

1.2.3.     The Light of the World

And now in John 8:12, still at the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus makes another startling statement: “I AM the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

This brings us to the third picture from the wilderness period. The entire Feast of Tabernacles was a celebration of God provision in the wilderness. In the wilderness, God had led the Israelites with a pillar of fire by night. We read in Exodus 13 that as the Israelites were fleeing from Egypt,

And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people (Exodus 13:21-22 ESV).

God parted the waters of the Red Sea and led the Israelites to the other side, but…

The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. 24 And in the morning watch the LORD in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic, 25 clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from before Israel, for the LORD fights for them against the Egyptians” (Exodus 14:23-25 ESV).

This pillar of fire was commemorated during the Feast. Sixteen golden bowls were filled with oil and cloth wicks. The rabbis said that when the bowls were lit at night, all Jerusalem was lit up. There were no streetlights in Jerusalem. No electric lights. Like any of our villages far removed from power lines, it would be quite dark at night. But the light from these sixteen lamps reflecting on

“Jerusalem’s yellow limestone walls must have been spectacular. Choirs of Levites would sing during the lighting while “men of piety and good works” danced in the streets, carrying torches and singing hymns. On this final day of Tabernacles, Jesus is teaching in the treasury (8:20) located within the Court of the Women [where the sixteen bowls have been lit]… Imagine the scene! In the very court where the lighting ceremony takes place, Jesus stands beneath sixteen lit bowls of oil and says that he is not only the true light of Jerusalem, but of the whole world![1]

“I am the light of the world,” Jesus says. Jesus does not say, “I have had a vision. I have received a revelation. I have seen the light and I will share it with you.” Jesus says, “I AM the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Who is the light of the world? In Psalm 27, David says,

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? … (Psalm 27:1 ESV).

Jesus says in effect, “The light that the Israelites saw in the wilderness, that was me. I am the LORD who is your light and your salvation.”

Time and again, Jesus is showing that He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures. The whole Bible points to Him. He does not say, “I have found the light.” He says, “I am the light.” Not just the light of Jerusalem or even the light for the Jews. Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.”

1.2.4.     Rejecting His Claim

This is not a message that the world wants to hear today. Today we want to say that we have our own light. We want to say that there are many ways to God. We want to say that we all worship the same God in our own way. The world has become quite intolerant of anyone who claims to know the truth. But this is hardly surprising for the Pharisees reacted strongly to Jesus when he claimed to be the light of the world:

The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid” (John 8:13 NIVO).

This is exactly what John told us would happen in the opening verses of this Gospel:

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him (John 1:4-11 ESV).

Some people reject the claims of Christ out of hand. They simply deny him without giving any due consideration to his birth, his sinless life, his miracles, his death on the cross for us, or his physical resurrection from the dead. They refuse to see the absolute uniqueness of Christ, that there has never been nor shall there ever be anyone like him to walk on this earth.

Others diminish his claims. They do not want to accept what the inspired writers of the New Testament have written about Christ. They do not want to accept, for example, the words of John in 1:18 that Jesus is “the only God, who is at the Father’s side…” They will make him smaller. “A mighty god,” but not God Almighty. John says in 1:3, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made,” but others will say that he too was made. There are many ways to deny Christ. Whether you reject Jesus Christ outright or simply see him as a great teacher or prophet or as some half-god, that is darkness.

Jesus declared that he was the Light of the World. The Pharisees challenged Jesus that in a court of law, the testimony of only one person would not be accepted. They had apparently forgotten what Jesus had said back in chapter 5. Jesus had claimed to be equal with God. John tells us that explicitly in 5:18: “by calling God his own Father,” John says, “he made himself equal with God.” In chapter 5, Jesus calls to the witness stand John the Baptist, his own works which the Father gave him to do, the Father who sent him, the Scriptures, and Moses, saying that they all bear witness to him.

Again the Pharisees are refuting his claim. But Jesus responds,

“Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going (John 8:14 NIVO).

Jesus here adds another dimension to the discussion. “His words are true, and his judgment is true” not simply because they are convincing, but because of his origin. The Jewish authorities are wrong about him. They do not know him. They do not know that he was born in Bethlehem as the prophet Micah had announced 700 years before. They fail to remember that Isaiah had prophesied that the people of Galilee would see a great light:

But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. 2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone (Isaiah 9:1-2 ESV).

Jesus says, “My testimony about myself is true because I know things about myself that you do not know. I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or here I am going.”

They are judging Jesus but they know neither his origin nor his destiny. They are judging, Jesus says, according to the flesh. They are using human standards to judge him, but they have no spiritual insight. They have failed to perceive through the Scriptures, through the miraculous signs that Jesus performed, or through the testimony of John the Baptist to the light that Jesus is indeed the light of the world. They are walking in darkness. They have failed to see the light. They refused to consider his claims to be the bread of life, the source of spiritual life, and the light of the world.

Unlike the Pharisees who judge from a purely natural standpoint – a purely earthly perspective, Jesus judges no one from an earthly perspective:

Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me (John 8:16 ESV).

His judgment is true. Though his Father has sent him, he is not alone. His Father is with him. His perspective is the Father’s perspective. His judgment is the Father’s judgment.

So while they have rejected his testimony out of hand, Jesus reminds them that the testimony of two people is true. Jesus counts as one; the Father counts as the second person:

In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. 18 I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me” (John 8:17-18 ESV).

Now this is a remarkable declaration. Though Jesus claims equality with God in John 5:18, he does not say that the Father is the Son or that the Son is the Father. “I am one who bears witness about myself, and the Father is another who bears witness about me.” He states here that the Father sent him: “the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”

“Where is your Father?” the Pharisees ask (John 8:19). They do not understand what Jesus is talking about. Jesus’ response is powerful:

“You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also” (John 8:19 ESV).

They don’t know. They don’t know Jesus. They don’t know where he came from. They don’t know where he is going. And they don’t know his Father.

“If you knew me,” Jesus says, “you would know my Father also.”

Who could make such a statement? Who is his Father? His father is God. “If you knew me, you would know God.” “To know me is to know God.” That’s what Jesus said. Those are powerful words. Spoken by anyone but God himself, those words would constitute blasphemy.

Once again, the Jewish authorities want to seize him, “but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.”

2.   I Am Going Away! (8:21-30)

Jesus has already told the Jewish authorities that he knows where he came from and where he is going; they know neither where he came from nor where he is going. Now he tells them, “I am going away.” He is going away, but he does not tell them where. He only tells them that where he is going, they cannot come, and that they will die in their sin (8:21).

Where is Jesus going that they cannot come? Where could Jesus possibly go that they could not go? What does he mean?

 The people asked, “Is he planning to commit suicide? What does he mean, ‘You cannot come where I am going’?” (John 8:22 NLT).

As a matter of fact, Jesus is referring to his death. He will die, and it will be a voluntary death. But it will not be suicide.

 No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded” (John 10:18 NLT).

He will die and he will rise and he will return to his Father. They will continue to look for the Messiah, but because they have rejected him — Jesus Christ the Messiah — they will die in their sin. What sin is that? The great sin of refusing to believe.

Again he tells them,

 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am…, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24).

“You will die in your sins unless you believe that I am.”

“Unless we believe that you are—what?”

The original language, the Greek, just leaves it hanging. Some translations add the word “he” (ESV) or “the one I claim to be” (NIVO), but Jesus is using the divine name that God used when he revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush in Exodus 3:14.

But the crowd misses the point altogether. It is God’s divine name (“I am”) that they cannot understand since they are “from below,” since they judge “according to the flesh.” Jesus is not simply a prophet with divine things to communicate, but he bears divinity in himself. He is not a man with religious insight (from below, from the world), but God’s Son (from above, from heaven). This prompts his audience to ask its most important question. Not: “What do you mean?” But: “Who are you?” (8:25). It is Jesus’ divine identity, his mysterious divine incarnation that makes everything about him important.[2]

“Who are you?” they ask. That is the whole point. Who is Jesus? Who is the Christ? Again, John is writing these things so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. — The Son of God. Like Father, like Son. The Son has the same nature as the Father. He is the “I AM.” He is the God who revealed himself to Moses as “I AM WHO I AM.”

“Who are you?” they ask. “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning.” What Jesus says here in chapter 8 is consistent with what he has said about himself from the beginning.

What we believe about Jesus Christ has eternal consequences. “Unless you believe that I AM,” Jesus says, “you will die in your sins.”

John writes this Gospel so that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, we may life in his name (20:31). Through every page of the Gospel, John is showing us that Jesus is God in a human body. Jesus is God in the flesh. “If you knew me, you would know the Father,” Jesus said (8:19).

So what happens if we don’t believe? What happens if we do not believe what Jesus said about himself? We will find ourselves in the same position as the unbelieving Jewish authorities. “Unless you believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.” Why? Because of our sins. The wages of sin is death.

 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God (John 3:17-18 ESV).

You see, we have all sinned, but Christ came to take away our sins. Jesus came that we might have life. If we refuse to come to him on his terms, we will die in our sins.

 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life (John 5:39-40 ESV).

Jesus is the Light of the World. The light shines in the darkness. The light reveals the dark places of our hearts. Do we come to the Light, or do we refuse to come that we may have life?

 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God” (John 3:19-21 ESV).

In verse 28, Jesus said to them,

“When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am…”

The Son of Man? Who is the Son of Man?

 As my vision continued that night, I saw someone like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey him. His rule is eternal– it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed (Daniel 7:13-14 NLT).

The Son of Man would be lifted up on the cross. God himself would bear our sins on the cross.

As he was saying these things, many believed in him (John 8:30 ESV).

We read in Mark’s Gospel that a lame man was carried into Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “Your sins are forgiven.” Everyone gasped, “Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” Then Jesus said, “So that you may know that the Son of Man has the authority to forgive sins,” and he turned to the lame man and said, “Rise up and walk.” And the lame man was healed and walked.

If a friend of yours sinned against you, and I told your friend, “I forgive you,” you would ask me what right I had to forgive sins committed against you. And you would be right. Who can forgive sins against God but God alone? Jesus can forgive sins because he is God.

Jesus is the Light of the World. He bore your sin on the cross. Have you put your trust in Him?

[1]Burge, Gary M. (2009-08-22). John (The NIV Application Commentary) (pp. 213-214). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

[2]Burge, Gary M. (2009-08-22). John (The NIV Application Commentary) (p. 216). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.


p class=”p1″>See also “Gospel of John”: