Isaiah 49:1-7, John 8:12-27
The renowned artist Paul Gustave Dore once lost his passport. When he came to a border crossing, he explained his predicament to one of the guards. Giving his name to the official, Dore hoped he would be recognised and allowed to pass. The guard, however, said that many people attempted to cross the border by claiming to be persons they were not. Dore insisted that he was the man he claimed to be. “All right,” said the official, “we’ll give you a test, and if you pass it we’ll allow you to go through.” Handing him a pencil and a sheet of paper, he told the artist to sketch some people standing nearby. Dore did it so quickly and skilfully that the guard was convinced he was indeed who he claimed to be. His work confirmed his word!
We ask this question, “Who are you, Jesus?” Is He who He claims to be, and if so, what implications does it have for us?
“I am the light of the world”
More than once did the Pharisees and other religious leaders try to question Jesus Christ. “What sign do you show us for doing these things,” they asked when He cleansed the temple. “Is He not the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?” “How can this man teach so well without any learning?” “By what authority do you do these things?”
People in the crowd had different opinions. “He is the prophet.” “He is the Christ”, others said. No, He is from Galilee and the Messiah will must be from Bethlehem. Others thought He was demon-possessed and wanted to arrest Him.
There are many opinions about who Jesus is, even in our day. Some say He is a lunatic, others say He was the perfect and moral exception to sinful man. Some say He was a great teacher, and even Islam thinks He was a great prophet (however not the Son of God.)
What to do say about Jesus? What would you answer your neighbours going home today if they want to know about Jesus Christ whom you worship? Even more so, if you told them in communion your celebrated his death and his resurrection? This is a very critical question: who is Jesus?
Our Lord announced that He is the light of the world. Why is He the light? Why does the word need light?
We have to go back to chapter 1. In verse 3-5 we read:
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 all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:3–5, NIV)
Add to this verse 9:
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. (John 1:9, NIV)
From this we understand that between creation (and God declared it to be good), which happened right at the beginning and the coming of Christ, something happened which spiritually, ethically, cosmologically and sociologically plunged God’s creation into darkness. We only need to read through the first few chapters in the Bible to understand that man’s rebellion – which the Bible calls sin – was the cause. After sin death, rebellion, pestilence, sickness, pain and sorrow entered into our lives. And every human being born into this world carries the cancer of sin within him or her. In Romans 5:12 Paul states it clearly,
“… sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned…” (Romans 5:12, NIV)
Logically Paul also concludes,
“… all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23, NIV)
God, although He could do so if He wanted, did not leave us in this hopeless dark state of lostness; He loved the world, and gave his only Son, Jesus Christ so that whoever believes in Him will not not perish but have eternal life. This is why Jesus came; He could proclaim, “I am the light of the world”.
Let’s see how our Lord expressed this. Three very important truths stand out – and we need to understand this very clearly.
Sinners have one home, and Christ another
We read verse 21:
“I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.” (John 8:21, NIV)
The way we are born – rebellious sinners – means we cannot go to where Jesus has gone if it depends on us.
Sinners can only judge by human standards
Jesus said to the Pharisees:
“You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.
Without Christ sinners remain dead
I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.” (John 8:23–24, NIV)
To become fit for heaven, the eternal home of God, we need a new nature; we need to be washed from our sins and be born from above: our darkness need to become light. This is what Jesus meant when He said He is the light of the world: He is the one who came into the dark world of sinners, He died for sinners (yet He Himself never sinned), He took their sins away, and gave them eternal life, which is the light of life.
Before you cannot confess these things about who Jesus is, and how He his act of mercy changed your life, you would not be able to tell your neighbours who Jesus is.
Is this your experience? Is this what you believe about Jesus Christ? Is this what you know about our Lord?
“I am not alone”
The next thing Jesus said about Himself is that He did not act of his own accord. In verse 16 He declared,
I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. (John 8:16, NIV)
This is crucial about Jesus. Any so-called modern-day prophet who calls himself/herself a prophet cannot claim the same as Christ did. There are indeed many prophets – false prophets – in our day. Our Lord warned his church,
“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. (Matthew 24:4–5, NIV)
But the real Messiah was the One sent by the Father. Apart from the fact that John the Baptist was the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy about the one who would prepare the way of the Messiah, there was the audible voice from heaven declaring Jesus Christ as the Son of God when John baptised Him. No other prophet could claim this. Add to this all the prophecies about the Messiah – the place of his birth, his family line, the place where He would minister predominantly, the names the angel gave Mary to give him, and much more – and we know He was the Messiah who was with God in the beginning and Who was sent be God to be the atonement for the sins of many.
Isn’t it just marvellous to know that Jesus Christ is not acting on his own accord; He is not alone. John said,
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14, NIV)
My dear friend, if this was not so, we would have wasted our time being here today; you could ask your collection back; we would need to call missionaries back from the mission field; we can sell this property; we would need to publicly admit that all is just one big lie.
But it’s not! His Name was Immanuel – God with us.
“I am from above”
Verse 23 teaches us,
“You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. (John 8:23, NIV)
Once again, what marvellous message is these words of our Lord to the ear of the believer. There is no saviour from amongst us. We try our best, but we cannot attain the righteousness which would satisfy the Father. We might look around and search for the best human being we know and ask him/her to stand in our place to atone for our sins before the Father, and we will not find anyone.
Even if we had big men like Moses or Abraham or David with us, they would not do. Moses fell short and could not enter the Promised Land; Abraham, although mighty in faith, gave his wife away to another – twice: he failed. David, although a man after God’s own heart, lied, killed, stole and committed adultery.
But there was this night when all was calm and the shepherds were minding their sheep when the heavens opened with angel voices singing a message of good joy:
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:10–11, NIV)
Paul puts this in another perspective,
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:6–8, NIV)
Who are You, Jesus? I am from above, from heaven, to prepare a people for God, and then take them to heaven.
One last about word Jesus, as He declared Himself. Verse 28:
“When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am [he] and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught Me. (John 8:28, NIV)
English cannot express what the Greek literally says in this verse. There it just says “I am”. When Jesus Christ did what God sent Him to do – after the cross and his resurrection – the people would know one thing: He is what He proclaimed He was. Does it ring a bell? “I am!” He also said that He and his Father are one. His Father said about Himself “I am”.
Who are you, Jesus? Like the Father, “I am”. He is God.
Go, tell your neighbour you worship Jesus Christ who is God.
Jesus, who are You? He answers,
- “I am the light of the world” – I take the darkness of sin away and give eternal light
- “I am not alone” – I am one with the Father, working on his behalf.
- “I am from above” – I am from eternity, and give eternal life
- “I am” – I am God, one with the Father.
Him, my dear brother and sister, we worship as our Lord, our Saviour, our Mediator and our God. Amen.
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 4 December 2016