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Taylor Halverson: Why did Jesus say he is the light of the world?

Editor's note: This has been previously published on the author's website.

John 8 opens with “early in the morning (Jesus) came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.”

Now imagine yourself as a Sunday School teacher. You’ve carefully considered the hearts and minds of each learner with questions like these: What are the needs of each learner? What can happen during this class that will fortify them for another week to faithfully invite the Spirit into their lives?

You’ve diligently prepared for the class, thinking about the learning experiences for the learners, the doctrines that the class will discuss, the stories that you will tell, the examples you will share. You’ve prepared your own heart and mind to be ready to teach with the Spirit. You have fortified yourself through prayer.

The class has commenced, you are proceeding with the lesson, you can see that the learners are engaged. The Spirit is there.

As you are about to conclude a personal story that illustrates one of the doctrines of the lessons, the doors of the classroom unexpectedly burst open. A boisterous crowd streams into the classroom, angry and accusing.

Jesus reaches out to help the woman taken in adultery in this scene from a Bible Video.
Jesus reaches out to help the woman taken in adultery in this scene from a Bible Video.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

They drag a woman to the front of the class and shockingly claim, “Teacher, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. What should be done with her?”

As a teacher, how would you recover from such an interruption? How would you bring your class back to the main topic? How would you invite the Spirit back into the room? How would you deal with the immediate situation?

What would you do?

What did Jesus do?

Jesus stooped down to write in the dirt. Then rising, he proclaimed, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” Then he returned to writing in the dirt (John 8:6-8).

I’ve wondered if Jesus, the Old Testament Jehovah who wrote the Law of Moses with his finger on tablets of stone, was now writing the new higher law with his finger in the dirt.

Jesus then turned the accused woman’s public shame into loving forgiveness, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:11).

Having dealt with such an incredible disturbance to his lesson plan and classroom, Jesus turned to his original audience and declared, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).

What time of day was it?

At this point, most of us have no idea what time of day it is in the story. We have been so disrupted, interrupted and distracted by the intruding crowd accusing the woman of adultery, that we likely have forgotten one of the most important details of the story back in verse 2.

“And early in the morning Jesus came again into the temple.”

Why does this detail matter?

Jesus declares that he is the light of the world in this scene from a Bible Video.
Jesus declares that he is the light of the world in this scene from a Bible Video.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Because Jesus is the Master Teacher. He designed learning experiences that made use of reinforcing context so that the principles and doctrines he taught were unmistakably apparent.

As Jesus declared “I am the light of the world,” early morning sunshine from the resurrecting sun would have bathed him in gleaming and glorious light as he stood in the sacred precincts of the temple. The backdrop and context for his statement would have been unforgettable!

Furthermore, other scriptural contextual clues suggest that the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was taking place at the temple. This holiday commemorated God delivering the Israelites from slave bondage. During this festival, four tall candelabra towers inside the temple were lit with flame, representing the enduring presence of God in covenant Israel’s life, providing ongoing light and guidance.

These burning towers of light may have also provided stunning visual and symbolic context to reinforce the truth in the ears of Jesus’ listeners, “I am the light of the world.”

Jesus is the Master Teacher

Jesus could have declared “I am the light of the world” at any point and at any location throughout his ministry. But as the Master Teacher, Jesus chose this specific place (the temple) and this time (early in the morning) to teach the eternal truth that he is the light of the world.