Phosphorus, The Christian Element
This passage, like those of the last several weeks make reference to events which happened at the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. In this feast, the people made temporary shelters to live in for a week called booths. The feast lasted a total of eight days. In it was remembered the wanderings of the wilderness. These events included the giving of the Law of God to Moses which fits in well with last week’s text on the woman caught in adultery. Other events included the manna, which God provided the children of Israel, which is alluded to in John 6. John 7 is a parallel to the water, which came out from the rock. And today’s passage remembers the pillar of fire, which guided the Israelites by night and the cloud by day.
Exposition of the Text
The text begins with Jesus again daring to interrupt the festivities of the torch lighting, which occurred on the last day. From the large candelabra in the Court of Women in the Temple, thousands of torches were lit for a spectacular torchlight procession through Jerusalem. This procession commemorated the pillar of fire which guided the
Israelites through the wilderness and also reminded them that the Lord Yahweh (Jehovah) was their one and only light. Each of the worshippers who lit the torch was also symbolically stating that it was their responsibility to carry the light of Yahweh into the world.
Jesus here makes the claim that He is the Light of the world. In this context, He can only be saying that He is Yahweh Himself. He is claiming to be God. This is further emphasized in the “I AM” statement. In Greek, the pronoun” I” is not necessary and is added to emphasize the I to the effect He is saying: “I, and no one else, am the Light of the world. This Greek construction of “I I AM” is used in Exodus 3:14 to translate the name of God “I AM that I AM.” It also appears frequently in the book of Isaiah, especially in the verse “I AM Yahweh.” The way John uses this statement in the gospel should leave no one in doubt that Jesus is God, that is, God the Son.
The statement also excludes all other “lights” at least as far as the realm of salvation is concerned. John 14:6 which states “I AM the way, the truth, and the life” as well as the other “I AM” statements support the claim that Jesus is the only way the Father has appointed that we should be saved. Mohammed cannot save. Neither can Confucius, nor even Moses. Good works won’t redeem you. Philosophy and worldly wisdom is nothing in the eyes of God.
The Pharisees counter Jesus’ claim by saying that His testimony about Himself is invalid because no one else can confirm it. This goes back to the last chapter when the Jewish leaders sneered at the Levites who failed to arrest him by saying: “Has a single one of the Jewish authorities believed on Him?” The fact that some of the crowd believed did not matter, as the leaders considered them to be unlearned rabble who were cursed. In a sense, they were challenging Jesus to produce even one witness to Him that the Jews themselves respected. It was as if they said: “You can’t find a single intelligent witness to back your claim, can you?”
Jesus does not bring up the witness of the Father to Jesus immediately. Instead, He lets them know that His testimony is valid on the basis of Who He is, even if everyone on Earth rejects Him. Even on Earth, a single witness can tell the truth. But Jesus’ claim to be God is higher than this. God cannot deny Himself, and cannot but tell the truth. God remains God, and His truth remains true regardless of what we think or believe.
In the second half of verse 14, Jesus attacks the Pharisees directly. It is the Pharisees who are invalid witnesses. They are blind to the evidence. It is as if a car crash happened in front of the school for the blind. There might have been 100 blind persons on the front lawn, but none could testify to what they saw. Therefore, the truth is not dependent on the number of witnesses but the qualifications of the witness(es). The Pharisees could not properly judge Jesus because they were blind to God the Father and to the things of heaven. But Jesus had been there. He knew, as he has always known, the things of God because He has always been in the presence of the Father and is God Himself.
One must be in possession of all the pertinent evidence before he/she can make a sound judgment. This is why all attorneys take an oath to put the truth even above their own interests or the client’s interest. The fact that all to many lawyers and judges make light of this does not change the truth that a legal system will quickly degenerate into evil and injustice if this commitment to the truth is abandoned. All pertinent evidence must be reviewed fairly by plaintiff, defendant, and judge, Evidence tending to the innocence of the defendant must not be suppressed by the prosecution. Evidence is not to be tampered with by anyone. The defense also must be truthful as well. The judge must be impartial and not allow sleazy maneuvers by either side. And in this case, the Pharisees could not render a valid judgment upon Jesus because they did not possess all of the evidence. They also twisted the evidence that was presented. This would soon degenerate into the paying of false witnesses at Jesus’ trial before Annas and Caiaphas. What sheer hypocrisy it is that the Sadducees and Pharisees would resort to such a tactic to condemn Jesus. They boasted in the Law of Moses yet blatantly broke the ninth commandment. And yet they dared to pass judgment upon the woman caught in adultery.
In verse 15, Jesus says that He meets all the requirements to be a fair judge, unlike them. He says by example that if he were to pass judgment, it would be fair because He is not passing judgment by Himself but has the Father also. The Father knows and sees everything. The Father searches the heart, so even the motives are brought to light. And the Father cannot lie or bring false witness because of Who He is. Elsewhere in this gospel, Jesus claims not to do what He does by Himself but simply does what the Father has commanded. Therefore to reject Jesus is to reject the Father also.
Jesus now brings out that there are two valid witnesses to Him, Himself and the Father. Could ever two more valid witnesses be found? He does not bring up the witness of John the Baptist; of the works He was doing, or the witness of Scripture as He did in chapter 5. But what good is this before those who reject both Him and the Father. Once God is pushed aside, what hope is there for justice? The courts of the world pay lip service at best to justice. One can only look at the trial of Jesus or in a negative way the trial of O.J. Simpson to see the perversion of justice is and always has been rampant. Every day the innocent are condemned and the guilty set free. In the best case, justice is perverted by ignorance of the facts. This descends rapidly into injustice by prejudice and finally to ”justice” procured by money and power. At this point, the Jewish authorities were ignorant of Jesus and the Father also, perhaps willingly. Soon it would result in a sham trial at night with paid perjurers railing against Jesus.
Application of the Text
We who believe in Jesus must make an absolute commitment that He is the Light of the world. All other truth is like the stars of heaven. The stars produce light of themselves, but when the sun rises, the stars disappear from sight. They are still there, but the light of the sun so outshines them that for all practical purposes they would just as well shine at all. And to those who are of a scientific bent and say our sun is fairly average and that there are brighter stars in the galaxy and that the sun only appears to shine brighter because it is closer to us I say that we must remember that God made these stars also and that He is Lord of the entire universe and not just earth. This would just be a means of trying to evade the True Light by the means of the sophistry of human wisdom.
I am amazed that we humans are so quick to try to find truth in these lesser lights rather than come to the True Light. This can be seen in the rush to see the Chronicles of Narnia treated as though it was the fifth gospel. There are all kind of Bible studies about finding “Christ” in Narnia. Worse yet is the Bible studies claiming to come to the truth of God by examining the Beverly Hillbillies or Mayberry. And I won’t even go further and talk about science, philosophy, and other religions. Could you find “truth” in these sources? I suppose you could, but you are more likely to dig up a ton of error for each ounce of truth.
For example, in the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Azlan the Lion is supposed to be a Jesus figure who dies for one of the four children who has sold himself to the white witch for a box of Turkish Delight. Azlan did not die for the other children. At first glance, it appears loving and Christian, and therefore true. But what does Scripture say? “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Jesus died for everyone. If one were to make a fair parallel to Jesus, Azlan would have had to have died for all four children. I get the impression from this story that the good are saved by their goodness and the wicked by grace. This is not the message of the Bible. And this is just one of the objections. Find Jesus in the Bible, and let the Chronicles of Narnia remain a children’s story. The Bible say we have not followed cunningly devised fables, but God’s truth. And when we use caterpillars, talking cucumbers, the Lord of the Rings, and the Chronicles of Narnia as a means of bringing people to the “truth” of Jesus, are we not using cunningly devised fables? Are we not at great risk of reducing the Bible to myth, and irrelevant myth at that, by using such methods? Is it a legitimate means of evangelism by saying that because people dismiss the truth of the Bible in today’s world that they can be led to the Light by means of myth? Is deceit and trickery the methods of God? Can a person be tricked or psychologized into the Kingdom of God? Are not deceit, lies, and trickery the works of Satan? Is he not the father of lies?
We are called to bear witness to Jesus, the light of the world. Just like in the torch lighting ceremony, the Jews lit their torch from the large candelabra which represented Jehovah as the Light of the world and then went out into the world, we too who know the true light of God must bear witness so this Light. Jesus calls us to so let our light shine before men. And let nothing obscure this light. Let us not mix God’s Truth with our “truths”. When we mix them our lantern does not shine from the transparent glass but instead as Luther says it shines like a lantern smeared with manure. So unless you want the dirt in you life be exposed, let the Light of God cleanse you in mind and body.
We can only bear valid testimony to the truth when we know it. It isn’t possible for us to know it by our means, it must be revealed to us from above. We cannot figure it out by our cleverness. We cannot even find it in the Bible without the aid of the Holy Spirit, or else the Pharisees and Scribes would surely have found it. It is impossible to come to the Light, the Light must come to us. And indeed this is just what has happened. The Word became flesh in Jesus of Nazareth. And Jesus would later in this chapter exclaim, ”You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” This Truth is not the “truth” of human beings; it is eternal and unchangeable.
As Jesus was the valid witness to the Father, we are called to be valid witnesses to Jesus who is “The Way, The Truth, and The Life.” This requires us to rise above human ignorance. “Christians” who are ignorant of what the Bible says and don’t have the witness of the Holy Spirit to properly interpret Holy Scripture need not apply. The call to the Christian is to seek the Light and Truth, and to tell others. We must use valid means also. We must not be like the Jesuits who subjugate the means for the end. It is not valid to say “All to the greater glory of God” as it does not matter how you win them. The truth is, we can only be witnesses of the Light. We cannot save anyone at all. That is God’s work. If it is then God’s work, then let God do it His way, and not ours.
God wants us to be Phosphorus. Phosphorus in the Greek means, “Light Bearer.” Let us bear The Light of God to the world. The element Phosphorus is used in fertilizer to develop strong root systems that allows the plant to grow healthy and to withstand the storm and drought so the plant can grow to the light. We too must be rooted and grounded in God’s word so we can stand and be healthy. Storms come, but remember the promise of God that to he that overcomes will receive the morning star (Phosphorus, in Greek).