Losing My Literalism: I Am The Light of the World

In John 8, Jesus offers the next of His “I Am” statements. I would be remiss if I never included in this series that God has a long history of revealing Himself in ways that we weren’t expecting. When God appeared to Moses in a burning bush and Moses asked His name, the response was “Yahweh” which is a verb that means “I Am.” The seven “I Am” statements in John point to Jesus as the completion of God with us.

When everything around you is dark, it is hard to move without tripping over this or that thing. Jesus is the light that reveals both the good and the bad in the world. He is the plumb line, the standard, by which everything can be compared. And everything else will be shown to be out of square. This is what I love about John as a writer. His works are very cut and dry. There is no grey area. You are light or you are darkness. There are no neutral people anywhere, for neutrality is a myth. There are those in the kingdom and those exposing themselves as agents of the devil.

If you followed my series up to now, you will remember that Nicodemus met with Jesus under the cover of night. That detail is not to be missed. Jesus is the light that exposes everything for what it truly is. He always has been. He always will be. There are some who will say that all Jews will be saved because of their genealogy, which I now take to be idolatry. Jesus, in this chapter, makes it clear in front of a Jewish audience that if they don’t have the son, they don’t have the father either. And this is not the only place where this is expressed. You just don’t hear this often because a certain understanding became popular in America that expresses that God has two brides, not one. Because literalism.

John 8:21-22
 So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.”  So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” 

Jesus was announcing to these religious leaders, for this takes place in the temple, that He would not be remaining with them indefinitely. But going away implies that He would be leaving on His own terms. So these hyper literal thinkers had no explanation for what was just said other than a plan of suicide. Where else might Jesus go that they could not follow on their own?

John 8:23-24 
He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.  I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

The extremely literal teachers of today believe that all Israel will be saved, and the only definition they will allow for Israel would be those claiming ancestry going back to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But the one whom the entire Old Testament pointed to says that these Jews would die in their sins if they do not believe in Him. Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever. These words are not only meant for the audience present in this account. This statement is universal. If you reject the Son, you have already rejected the Father. The love of God is not in you. To say otherwise is infinitely unloving, for it is loving souls all the way to Hell. If this is untrue, than Jesus failed to love His neighbor here and could no longer be the spotless lamb.

John 8:31-33
 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,  and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

Let’s go on an adventure back in time. Israel had been living as slaves in Egypt for over 400 years. They understood completely how to live as slaves. They were good at it! Moses was sent by God to free them and ten plagues came upon Egypt, showing that the gods of the land were powerless before the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The people left and came upon the Mountain of God, where God revealed the first things they needed to know as His people. Simply put, the Ten Commandments are an instruction manual on how to live as free men and women.

Of course, such a charge was not received well. Jesus told these Jews that they did have Abraham in their genealogy, but they were doing the work of their real father, the Devil. They responded that Abraham was their father and that they were not conceived in sin, which was likely a reference to Joseph and Mary not being wed when Mary was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Jesus replied that they are not of the Father, for if they were they would have followed the Son.

People then, and people now, place far too much emphasis on genealogy. This is largely because people tend toward a hyper literalism far more than they ought to. There is a very real sense where God is communicating to us in deeper ways than the Bible is putting at face value. If you look solely at face value, you risk a surface level understanding. You may preserve the talents you have been given, but there will be no return on investment. Instead, do the work of a disciple and dig into the word, in contexts both near and far.

John 8:58 
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 
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Published by CoffeeSwirls