The Gospel of John: a commentary & meditation 
"Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness"

Scripture:  John 8:12-20

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." 13 The Pharisees then said to him, "You are bearing witness to yourself; your testimony is not true." 14 Jesus answered, "Even if I do bear witness to myself, my testimony is true, for I know whence I have come and whither I am going, but you do not know whence I come or whither I am going. 15 You judge according to the flesh, I judge no one. 16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone that judge, but I and he who sent me. 17 In your law it is written that the testimony of two men is true; 18 I bear witness to myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness to me." 19 They said to him therefore, "Where is your Father?" Jesus answered, "You know neither me nor my Father; if you knew me, you would know my Father also." 20 These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

Meditation: Do you know what it's like to be in total darkness, confused, disoriented, not knowing where to turn for help?  When the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years, confused and disoriented, and wishing they were back in their familiar huts at Egypt, God made his presence known to them through a pillar of fire at night and a cloud by day.  This light not only brought them assurance of safety and care, but it literally guided them through a trackless wasteland.  Around the time of the Feast of Tabernacles, also known as the Festival of Lights, Jesus proclaims that he is the "light of the world". This statement must have made a striking impression on the Jews who had gathered in Jerusalem for the occasion.  For eight nights the great candelabras which stood in the Temple courtyard lit the Jerusalem skyline with a blaze of dazzeling light. Jesus' statement very likely came at the end of the Festival when the great lights where extinguished.  In so many words, Jesus says he is the one, true light which no one can extinguish or diminish (see John 1:4-5).  He is light not only for God's chosen people Israel, but for all people and   nations as well.

Many of the scribes and Pharisees reacted with shock and treated Jesus with hostility. They understood that such a claim had to do with the work which only God could do. The word light was especially associated with God. The Lord is my light (Psalm 27:1). The Lord will be your everlasting light (Isaiah 60:19). When I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me (Micah 7:8). Jesus chastises the scribes and Pharisees for making bad judgments based on wrong assumptions and evil intentions.  Jesus bases his judgment not on human knowledge and perception but on God's knowledge and revelation. Jesus is both just and merciful as none other can be. His light both exposes the darkness of sin in us, which is hidden from others, and heals our sinful infirmities as well. Jesus' light also produces abundant life and fruit in us.  Just as natural life depends on light (without it nothing could live or grow), so the light of heaven produces spiritual life in those who receive it. The light which Jesus gives enables us to walk freely and confidently without stumbling in the darkness of sin and disbelief. His light warms our heart to the truth of God's love and it opens our vision to the reality of God's kingdom. Do you walk confidently in the light of God's truth and love?

"O gracious and Holy Father, give us wisdom to perceive you, diligence to seek you, patience to wait for you, eyes to behold you, a heart to meditate upon you, and a life to proclaim you; through the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ our Lord." (Prayer of Saint Benedict)

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(c) 2004 Don Schwager