In Chapter seven, He compared Himself to the manna and the stream of living water that got the children of Israel through the dessert wandering. Here, He declares that He is the “Light of the World.” This too is a picture of the dessert wandering, where the Israelites followed a column of fire by night and cloud by day.
Jesus is teaching that God’s way of living is all about following the lead of Christ, the lead of truth. “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.” Jesus hold the key to life as it should be lived. God’s plan for life. Reality. “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”
The Jewish leaders protest Jesus’ claim. They declare that He lacks evidence to be claiming truth. Jesus exposes their flaw. They judge according to the flesh. According to the world. According to the lies that father of lies has convinced a broken world to accept. They fail to see the truth, to see the light. They employ their flawed judgement and call light darkness, the truth a lie.
Jesus says He does not judge. In part that is a call-back to 3:17. The Christ was not sent into the world to judge it, but to save it. Judgement has already been delivered and Christ has come to rescue those who will acknowledge their need. But it also means that Jesus does not judge in the way that the Pharisees do. By the way of the world. If He were to judge it would be with truth, and that would be bad news for the world. He has come to deliver the good news, the message that there is hope, there is a chance at forgiveness.
Forgiveness is available to those who will see the light for who He is. And, in the most surprising statement thus far, Jesus explains God’s plan:
“When you lift up the Son of Man, then you shall know that I am He, and I do nothing on my own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.”