“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” So the Pharisees said to Him, “You are bearing witness about Yourself; Your testimony is not true.” Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about Myself, My testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. 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. In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. I am the one who bears witness about Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness about Me.” 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.” 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.” (John 8:12–20, ESV) (Caps added to pronouns in ESV referring to God the Father, Son, and Spirit)
His words were simple. He told them that He was the light of the world. Around them was darkness and confusion. There was the burden of the law which they could not fulfill. There was the burden of living under a foreign oppression under which they had no power. There was a lost-ness for which they had no answer other than to know that one day God would hear their voice and send His once and for all deliverer. Those who knew the Scriptures knew that God was the originator of light. He created light according by the power of His word (Genesis 1:3-5.) He was the creator of the sun, moon, and stars placing them in the heavens to provide light by day and night (Genesis 1:15-18). In Exodus they read from Moses that God led by going before them in a pillar of fire by night in order to give them light (Exodus 13:21-22). They knew of the golden lampstand of the tabernacle hammered from pure gold (25:31-40). They may have known the words of Job in chapter 17 (and elsewhere) and his words about the light of God. They may have known the many words of the psalmists where we read things such as:
“For it is You who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness.” (Psalm 18:28, ESV)
“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?” (Psalm 27:1, ESV)
“For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.” (Psalm 36:9, ESV)
“Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.” (Psalm 97:11, ESV)
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105, ESV)
“If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” (Psalm 139:11–12, ESV)
Then there are the words of the prophets. Isaiah wrote of the last days, “It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us His ways and that we may walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD.” (Isaiah 2:2–5, ESV)
“And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.” (Isaiah 42:16, ESV)
“He says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”” (Isaiah 49:6, NASB95)
The verses of Scripture continue to proclaim God as the source of light, and as spoken through Isaiah they also proclaim the One coming as a light to the nations. God made a promise to His people and Isaiah is one of those used by God to speak its ultimate fulfillment with boldness. “No longer will you have the sun for light by day, nor for brightness will the moon give you light; but you will have the Lord for an everlasting light, and your God for your glory. “Your sun will no longer set, nor will your moon wane; for you will have the Lord for an everlasting light, and the days of your mourning will be over.” (Isaiah 60:19–20, NASB95)
Jesus stood before the crowd and boldly proclaimed to them that He was that light, and that anyone who followed Him would never walk in darkness. For those who believed this must have given them great hope and proven a great relief. For those who opposed Him the intensity of their disdain must have been ratcheted up immensely. Before them stood One who claimed to be the very fulfillment of all that God had promised. We see this in the Pharisees who challenged Him as one man against many. “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.”
Earlier in John 5:31 when Jesus was questioned by the Pharisees after healing the lame man in His previous trip to Jerusalem, Jesus had said, “If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true.” (John 5:31, ESV) The Pharisees likely thought it was their great opportunity to use Jesus’ own words against Him, by pointing to Him as a singular voice on this matter. Being a single voice they asserted that He then would be a liar. What they missed or neglected to consider was that in this earlier confrontation Jesus also went on to demonstrate in various ways just how He was not that singular voice, but was rather the consistent fulfillment of many voices that had gone before and even accompanied Him.
He responded here to the Pharisees by saying, “Even if I do bear witness about Myself, My testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. 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. In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. I am the one who bears witness about Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness about Me.” He said a whole lot to them in this one response. He told them that just because He was speaking about Himself did not make Him a liar. He was telling them the truth. They did not know Him. They did not know where He came from, and their standard of judgment was woefully inadequate. He reaffirmed that He indeed was sent by the Father and then He went on to reassert that the Father Himself spoke of Him. In John chapter 5 Jesus cited the works which He did beyond that which any man could do as a proof. He cited the words of the prophets and the Scriptures. He cited the work of the Spirit in the hearts of those whose hearts truly wanted to seek after God, and He cited the words of Moses before them who all spoke for God of the truth of Jesus’ claims. The Father had spoken of Him and the Pharisees were determined to reject Him regardless of any proof that Jesus might give. They were insistent upon living in darkness under to overwhelming proof of the Light, and as such they were going to be judged accordingly.
Refusing to equate God the Father as the Father of Jesus, the Pharisees demanded to see Jesus’ father so that he could speak for himself. His response was, “You know neither Me nor my Father. If you knew Me, you would know My Father also.” He didn’t mince any words. They did not know God and they did not know the Son of God. They were so closely aligned that you could not know one without the other. You could not accept one and reject the other. This is simply how it was, and how it continues to be today. In another one of Jesus’ “I am” statements He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, ESV)
Our passage for today concludes, “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.” Since that time every single one of those Pharisee’s time has come. They have all died and unless any of them trusted in Christ prior to that date they remain judged awaiting that day when they are eternally sentenced for their refusing to believe. For those who believed and who also died, their eternity is totally different, having stepped from death into life. They truly have the light of life that never changes or fades.