Jesus was speaking on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. This passage does not tell us the timing but from the preceding passages it seems as if it is during the Feast of Tabernacles. There were two great ceremonies at this particular feast. The first one was the pouring out of the water on the Altar of Burnt Offering. At that time, just after the crowd had shouted to the priest to lift the chalice containing the water higher, before he poured it upon the altar, Jesus had shouted out for all to hear, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:37-38). The second ceremony was called the Illumination of the Temple. In the Court of the Women were four large candelabra’s or candlesticks. The Mishnah (Sukkah 5:2-3) tells us that each candlestick had four great golden bowls with a ladder at each, enabling the younger priests to climb up and fill the bowls with oil and set them alight when it got dark.
Because the Temple Mount was the highest point in the city, it is said that the blaze of the candlesticks lit up most of Jerusalem. During the Feast of Tabernacles they were commanded by God to celebrate for seven days (Numbers 29:12), so all night long there were dancing and rejoicing before the Lord. It could very well be that at twilight, as the young priests were lighting the lamps, Jesus said the words, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Notice that He didn’t say, I am a light or even one of the lights, but the statement is exclusive, “I am the Light of the world.” The Pharisee’s were listening in, which again says a lot about the character of Jesus—He didn’t say these things just to His disciples. He spoke to all people as to who He was, whether they were for Him or against Him. These things were not spoken in a corner, but Christ courageously spoke the truth and let the chips fall where they may. He was not fearful of speaking the truth in the slightest. The Pharisee’s immediately challenged Him because they understood that it was a claim to divinity. The Lord had spoken to them a number of times that He was their light, “The Lord is my light” (Psalm 27:1). “The Lord will be your everlasting light” (Isaiah 60:19). “By His light I walked through darkness” (Job 29:3).
When God dealt with the Egyptian nation because of their enslavement of the Israelites, He darkened all of Egypt, but where the Israelites lived, they had light (Exodus 10:21-23). After their deliverance from Egypt, when Pharaoh and his soldiers chased them to wipe out Israel at the Red Sea, God brought darkness to the Egyptians but to the Israelite side, there was light (Exodus 14:19-20). Christ Himself was the Angel of the Lord, a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ, who watched over Israel providing them bread from heaven, water from the Rock and light in the darkness while they crossed the Red Sea:
1For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3They all ate the same spiritual food 4and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ (1 Corinthians 10:1-4).
No matter what darkness you have to walk through, Christ will be your light. Hopefully you have come to a point in your life where you have asked the big questions of yourself, “Who am I? What am I here for? What reason do I have for living? Where am I going?” These kinds of questions can be depressing if you do not know the Light of the World, Jesus the Christ. When a person is in darkness, he cannot see the next step before him. One blunders around trying to find out where to go. In the same way, a person who comes to Christ begins to understand who he is, what he is living for and where he is going. Light is a picture of knowledge, whereas darkness speaks of ignorance and the things of this world. The more light or knowledge a person acquires, the less stumbling through life he experiences.
There are times in our lives, when we go through great difficulties, when everything seems dark. When we lose a loved one, it seems as if the darkness is crowding in. When we are sick, and want to just lie in bed, or even hope to die, it is often because we have no hope and no light—no reason to live. These are the times when God wants to reveal Himself to you in a special way, if you will seek Him and ask Him. He will not come where He is not invited. He has given each of us the will to choose to walk towards the light or to stay in darkness. Coming to Him and learning of Him will bring us much light to walk through difficult times—seek to know Him intimately. It is written of Jesus, “by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities (Isaiah 53:11).
Many people experience darkness in their lives by not following Christ. Jesus said, “whoever follows me will never walk in darkness” (verse 12). We must follow hard after Him, for His light is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105). Often times, we would like to see far down the road of life, but God has only promised light for the next step, not the next mile or the next year, just the next step. Why is that, you may ask? The reason is that He wants us to trust Him in the difficult times of darkness. Whatever darkness you may be in, it’s time to have the darkness of your life lit by the presence of the Lord within you. Call upon Him in the day of darkness and let Him shine on you.