Chapter 15: “I Am the Light of the World”

The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, (1979), 106–10


Map Chp. 15

The Later Judean Ministry

Matthew

Mark

Luke

John

Galilee

Jesus Is Urged to Attend the Feast of Tabernacles

   

7:2–9

Jesus Journeys Toward Jerusalem

  

9:51–56

7:10

Jerusalem, Judea

Preaching During the Feast of Tabernacles

   

7:11–53

Woman Taken in Adultery

   

8:1–11

Jesus Testifies of Himself

   

8:12–30

Discourse to the Jews

   

8:31–59

A Man Born Blind Is Healed

   

9:1–41

Jesus Is the Good Shepherd

   

10:1–21

Interpretive Commentary

(15-1) John 7:2. What Was the Feast of Tabernacles?

“… the fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the Lord.” (Leviticus 23:34.) The Feast of Tabernacles was a time to rejoice and to express gratitude to the Lord for the rich harvest of the fertile lands of Palestine. Fields and vineyards were often some distance from Israelite villages, so families would build temporary living quarters for the harvest season and week-long celebration. These dwellings were decorated with fruits and garlands which represented the bountiful harvest received from the Lord. They also served to remind the occupants of the forty years their ancestors spent in the wilderness, encamped in makeshift tents of whatever materials that could be found. The Jews were never to forget that God redeemed their people from captivity and bondage.

The special animal sacrifices of rams, lambs, and bullocks were offered daily. The people also participated in a ceremony in which they waved branches of palm, myrtle, willow, and citron trees up and down toward the cardinal points of the compass, symbolizing the presence of God throughout the universe.

The eighth day, the Feast of Conclusion, was a time of solemn assembly—a day of prayer for rain, and a day commemorated in memory of the dead. (See Exodus 23:16, 17; Leviticus 23:39–43; Numbers 29:12–38; Deuteronomy 16:13–15; 31:10–13.)

(15-2) John 7:16, 17. What Test Did Jesus Prescribe to Know the Truthfulness of His Doctrine?

“In searching the record as it is given to us by men who associated daily with the Lord, we find that upon one occasion men who were listening to him cried out against him. They opposed his works, as men today oppose him. And one voice cried out and said in effect, ‘How do we know that what you tell us is true? How do we know that your profession of being the Son of God is true.’ And Jesus answered him in just a simple way (and note the test): ‘If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.’ (John 7:17. Italics added.)

“That test is most sound. It is most philosophical. It is the most simple test to give knowledge to an individual of which the human mind can conceive. Doing a thing, introducing it into your very being, will convince you whether it is good or whether it is bad. You may not be able to convince me of that which you know, but you know it because you have lived it. That is the test that the Savior gave to those men when they asked him how they should know whether the doctrine was of God or whether it was of man.” (David O. McKay in CR, Oct. 1966, p. 136.)

(15-3) John 8:1–11. The Woman Taken in Adultery

“Did the Lord forgive the woman? Could he forgive her? There seems to be no evidence of forgiveness. His command to her was, ‘Go, and sin no more.’ He was directing the sinful woman to go her way, abandon her evil life, commit no more sin, transform her life. He was saying, Go, woman, and start your repentance; and he was indicating to her the beginning step—to abandon her transgressions.” (Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 165.)

(15-4) John 8:31, 32. “The Truth Shall Make You Free”

Elder Bruce R. McConkie has interpreted the foregoing expression to mean that we shall be made “free from the damning power of false doctrine; free from the bondage of appetite and lust; free from the shackles of sin; from every evil and corrupt influence and from every restraining and curtailing power; free to go on to the unlimited freedom enjoyed in its fulness only by exalted beings.” (DNTC, 1:456–57.)

(15-5) John 8:56–59. What Did Jesus Mean, “Before Abraham Was, I Am”?

“This is as blunt and pointed an affirmation of divinity as any person has or could make. ‘Before Abraham was I Jehovah.’ That is, ‘I am God Almighty, the Great I AM. I am the self-existent, Eternal One. I am the God of your fathers. My name is: I AM THAT I AM.’

“To Moses the Lord Jehovah had appeared, identified himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and said: ‘I AM THAT I AM: … Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. … This is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.’ (Ex. 2:1–15.)

“Of a later manifestation, the King James Version has Deity say: ‘I am the Lord: And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them.’ (Ex. 6:2–3.) From latter-day revelation we know that one of our Lord’s great pronouncements to Abraham was: “I am the Lord thy God; … My name is Jehovah’ (Abra. 2:7–8), and accordingly we find the Inspired Version account reading: ‘I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob. I am the Lord God Almighty; the Lord JEHOVAH. And was not my name known unto them?’ (I.V. Ex. 6:3.)

“That the Jews understood Jesus’ plainly stated claim to Messiahship is evident from their belligerent attempt to stone him—death by stoning being the penalty for blasphemy, a crime of which our Lord would have been guilty had not his assertions as to divinity been true. But Jesus, evidently exercising divine powers, passed unknown out of their midst.” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:464.)

(15-6) John 10:1–15. The Symbolism of the “Good Shepherd”

“The shepherd in Palestine lived a lonely life and was noted for his faithfulness and protection to his sheep. At night the sheep would be brought into an enclosure called a sheep-fold which had high walls to keep anything or anyone from getting in. At the top of the walls were placed thorns which prevented wolves from leaping into the enclosure. Proper entrance was at the door only. (John 10:1.)

“Often several flocks were brought into one fold and one shepherd, called a porter, would stand guard at the door during the night while the others would go home to rest. When they would return in the morning, they would be recognized by the doorkeeper, allowed to enter, and each call his own flock and lead them forth to pasture. (John 10:2–3.) The shepherd provided the food for the sheep.

“The shepherd walked ahead of his sheep and led them. The sheep knew the shepherd and trusted in him and would not follow a stranger. (John 10:4–5.) He generally had a name for each sheep and each knew its own name and would come when called. If a stranger called, the sheep became nervous and startled and would not obey the voice of the stranger, for they knew their master’s voice. (John 10:3–4, 27.)

“The true shepherd, the owner of the sheep, was willing to give his life for the sheep if need be. Sometimes a leopard or panther, when driven by hunger, would leap over the walls of the fold and into the midst of the frightened sheep. Then was the time when the nerve and heart of the shepherd was tried. A hireling, one who did not own the sheep, might at such a crisis flee from the danger and shrink from the duties of the shepherd. (John 10:11–13.) Unwatched, the hireling might not put the welfare of the sheep foremost in his life. Hirelings had been known to sell sheep and then pocket the money and account for the loss by saying that wolves came and destroyed the sheep. When this is applied to the gospel, it is seen what a ‘hireling’ might do with the care of human souls. But the true shepherd’s chief concern was the welfare of the sheep. (John 21:15–17.)

“Even the shepherd’s clothing was designed to aid him in his care of the sheep. The shepherd’s coat generally had a large pocket inside, suitable for carrying a weak or wounded lamb to safety. Isaiah made reference to this pocket when he ascribed to Christ the role of shepherd. (Isaiah 40:10–11.)

“Jesus’ station as the Good Shepherd is complete in every detail. He is the door of the fold, by which we must enter. There is none other. (John 10:9.) He is not a hireling but is the true shepherd of human souls, and ‘we are not our own’ (1 Corinthians 6:19–20), but he has purchased us with his precious blood. (1 Corinthians 7:23; 1 Peter 1:18–19; 2 Peter 2:1; Acts 20:28.) The shepherd provided the pasture on which the sheep feed. Jesus has given us his word. We are warned against the doctrines of men. Only the ‘pasture’ that the Lord provides is proper food for his sheep, and no man can be saved in ignorance of his word or without his revelations. The true sheep know his voice. The true Shepherd knows and owns his sheep and he calls them. We thus take upon us the name of Christ, for he owns us; we are his sheep; and, if we have his name, we can enter ‘by the door.’” (Matthews, The Parables of Jesus, pp. 75–76.)

In the light of what you have just learned about the role of a “good shepherd,” what difference does it make to you to know that the Savior knows your name, that you are among those recognized as his sheep? On a separate sheet of paper answer this question: What does it mean for me when the Savior says, “My sheep know my voice”? For special insight see Mosiah 6:10–13.

(15-7) John 10:17, 18. [See also John 5:26, 27.] Why Is It That No Man Could Take Jesus’ Life from Him?

“Jesus had no father of the flesh, that is who was mortal and subject to death. Our Eternal Father to whom we pray is the Father of the body of Jesus Christ and from his Father he inherited life and death was always subject to him. He had the power to lay down his life, because he was the Son of Mary who was like us, mortal, and he had the power to take his life up again for that power was in him. In his teachings to the Jews and his disciples he frequently told them of this power and of his mission.” (Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 1:33.)

Points to Ponder

(15-8) I Am the Light of the World

The celebration known as the Feast of Tabernacles was marked by a brilliant display of light which emanated from great golden candlesticks set up within the temple complex. Jesus apparently took advantage of the situation to declare, “I am the light of the world.”

“His hearers well knew that their Messiah should stand as a light to all men; that is, they knew that he as the very source of light and truth, would stand forth as a light, an example, a dispenser of truth; they knew that his would be the mission to mark the course and light the way which all men should travel. (3 Ne. 15:9; 18:16, 24.) Messianic prophecies given to their fathers promised that he would be ‘a light to the Gentiles’ (Isa. 49:6), a light piercing the darkness of error and unbelief. (Isa. 60:1–3.) Jesus’ application of these prophecies to his own person was a clear proclamation of his own Messiahship and was so understood by his hearers.” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:452–53.)

The Woman Taken in Sin (John 8:3–12)

According to Mosaic Law, the physical penalty for adultery was death. What was (and is) the spiritual penalty? By what manner did the Savior save the life of the sinful woman? How did he become a light to her? to her accusers? How may he become a light to others who are guilty of sin?

The Healing of the Man Born Blind (John 9:1–41)

The real problem bothering the Pharisees was not whether it was proper for Jesus to heal on the Sabbath day. Nor did it concern them whether or not Jesus was truly the Messiah. The Pharisees felt that their very existence as interpreters of the Mosaic Law was threatened. They demanded that every Jew conform his life to a harsh set of ritual rules and laws, the breaking of which would make him unclean and, therefore, unacceptable to God.

In contrast, Jesus taught that God’s laws were based on love; that obedience brought freedom, happiness, and fulfillment. The essence of Christ’s teachings shed the light of truth upon those false and burdensome philosophies which kept men in the darkness of disbelief, ignorance, and sin. See John 9:39. Jesus clearly set forth the path by which men could achieve salvation and offered a choice: remain as you are, or transform your life and follow me. It was as though Jesus had said this:

“‘I am come into the world to sit in judgment upon all men, to divide them into two camps by their acceptance or rejection of my word. Those who are spiritually blind have their eyes opened through obedience to my gospel and shall see the things of the Spirit. Those who think they can see in the spiritual realm, but who do not accept me and my gospel shall remain in darkness and be made blind to the true spiritual realities.’” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:482.)

How is it that a man born blind came to see with an eternal clarity which eclipsed the sight of those who professed the fullest vision of the law? There are some powerful and profound insights in this story which can assist you in overcoming spiritual blindness. Look again at some key verses in John 9 which help explain how an individual can come to see the things of God. How many times did the man have to “bear testimony” of what happened? Note verses 11, 15, 17, and 25. Can you see, as he bears his testimony, the spiritual sight developing? Initially he only recounts what happened, but by the time he is through he is a committed disciple of Christ. Note verses 26 and 27. Now consider the power of his final testimony. Read verses 31–33.

What did discipleship cost the young man? Note verse 34. Was he willing to pay the price? Now consider the result. Study carefully verse 35. Who came looking for whom? Why? How would you feel if you knew the Savior was seeking you out; that he, because of your faith, even under trial, was feeling for you? He is, you know. Do you have eyes to see?

Christ Can Be a Light in Your Life

You have just read of two individuals whose lives were transformed by the light of Christ. The Savior can strengthen and enlighten your life as well. He has explained how that may be accomplished. In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord taught that we may enjoy his light if we are single-minded in desiring to serve him and keep his commandments. (See Matthew 6:22, 23.) Being single-minded means that the interests and pleasures of the world do not become as attractive and important as our desires to strengthen the Lord’s kingdom. It means that we must be willing to put our own interests aside, when necessary, to care for the needs of others. It means that we are not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ—that our very beings may radiate and reflect its message of truth, love, and peace. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the light of the world. …” (Matthew 5:16, Inspired Version.) “Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up—that which ye have seen me do.” (3 Nephi 18:24.) “Therefore, let your light so shine before this world, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:18, Inspired Version.)

(15-9) The Light of Truth Is the Light of Christ

The Prophet Joseph Smith received a profound revelation in which he was given some of the most powerful truths ever revealed concerning the nature and mission of Jesus Christ as the light of the world.

Read D&C 88:6–13.

One can scarcely begin to comprehend the depth and breadth of the majestic mission of our Lord and Savior to the earth and its inhabitants. But we can be certain of the following fact:

“Christ is the light to humanity. In that light man sees his way clearly. When it is rejected, the soul of man stumbles in darkness. No person, no group, no nation can achieve true success without following Him who said:

“‘I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.’ (John 8:12)” (David O. McKay in CR, Apr. 1940, p. 115.)