GOSPEL READING: John 8:12-20
12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13 The Pharisees then said to him, “You are bearing witness to yourself; your testimony is not true.” 14 Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness to myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I have come and where I am going, but you do not know where I come or where I am going. 15 You judge according to the flesh, I judge no one. 16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone that judge, but I and he who sent me. 17 In your law it is written that the testimony of two men is true; 18 I bear witness to myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness to me.” 19 They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father; if you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 20 These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.
SCRIPTURE READING: Daniel 13:1-6,15-23,28,35,44-49,63
1 There was a man living in Babylon whose name was Joakim. 2 And he took a wife named Susanna, the daughter of Hilkiah, a very beautiful woman and one who feared the Lord. 3 Her parents were righteous, and had taught their daughter according to the law of Moses. 4 Joakim was very rich, and had a spacious garden adjoining his house; and the Jews used to come to him because he was the most honored of them all. 5 In that year two elders from the people were appointed as judges. Concerning them the Lord had said: “Iniquity came forth from Babylon, from elders who were judges, who were supposed to govern the people.” 6 These men were frequently at Joakim’s house, and all who had suits at law came to them.
15 Once, while they were watching for an opportune day, she went in as before with only two maids, and wished to bathe in the garden, for it was very hot. 16And no one was there except the two elders, who had hid themselves and were watching her… 19 When the maids had gone out, the two elders rose and ran to her, and said: 20 “Look, the garden doors are shut, no one sees us, and we are in love with you; so give your consent, and lie with us. 21 If you refuse, we will testify against you that a young man was with you, and this was why you sent your maids away.” 22 Susanna sighed deeply, and said, “I am hemmed in on every side. For if I do this thing, it is death for me; and if I do not, I shall not escape your hands. 23 I choose not to do it and to fall into your hands, rather than to sin in the sight of the Lord.” 24 Then Susanna cried out with a loud voice, and the two elders shouted against her…
28 The next day, when the people gathered at the house of her husband Joakim, the two elders came, full of their wicked plot to have Susanna put to death…35 And she, weeping, looked up toward heaven, for her heart trusted in the Lord… 44 The Lord heard her cry. 45 And as she was being led away to be put to death, God aroused the holy spirit of a young lad named Daniel; 46 and he cried with a loud voice, “I am innocent of the blood of this woman.” 47 All the people turned to him, and said, “What is this that you have said?” 48 Taking his stand in the midst of them, he said, “Are you such fools, you sons of Israel? Have you condemned a daughter of Israel without examination and without learning the facts? 49 Return to the place of judgment. For these men have borne false witness against her.” …63 And Hilkiah and his wife praised God for their daughter Susanna, and so did Joakim her husband and all her kindred, because nothing shameful was found in her.
Meditation: When accusations are brought against you, how do you respond and where do you turn for help? The Book of Daniel tells the story of Susanna, a godly woman who loved God and his word. She was unjustly accused of adultery by two elder judges who had tried to seduce her. Since adultery was a serious offense punishable by stoning to death, the law of Moses required at least two witnesses, rather than one, to convict a person. Susanna knew she had no hope of clearing her good reputation and escaping death apart from God’s merciful intervention. Daniel tells us that she looked up to heaven and cried out to the Lord for his help (Daniel 13:35). The two elders who wanted to sin with her had done just the opposite – they hid themselves from God’s sight and they kept their secret sin hidden from the people as well. They brought false charges against her in revenge for her refusal to sin with them. God in his mercy heard the plea of Susanna and he punished the two elders for giving false witness.
Unjust accusations against Jesus
The Gospel accounts describe how Jesus had to face unjust accusations made by the Pharisees, the ruling elders of Israel. They were upset with Jesus’ teaching and his healing on the Sabbath. They plotted what charges they might bring against him in order to arrest him and bring him to trial. They wanted to not only silence him, but put him to death for his claim to be the Messiah. They accused him of blasphemy because he claimed to have authority equal with God.
In chapter 8 of John’s Gospel, we hear the account where Jesus publicly proclaims in the Temple at Jerusalem that he is the “light of the world” (John 8:12). Jesus spoke these words around the time of the Feast of Tabernacles, also known as the Festival of Lights. This statement must have made a striking impression on the Jews who had gathered in Jerusalem for the occasion. For eight nights the great candelabras which stood in the Temple courtyard lit the Jerusalem skyline with a blaze of dazzling [extremely bright] light. Jesus’ statement very likely came at the end of the Festival when the great lights where extinguished. In so many words, Jesus says he is the one true light which no one can extinguish or diminish (see John 1:4-5).He is the true light not only for God’s chosen people Israel, but for all peoples and nations as well.
Many of the scribes and Pharisees reacted with shock and disbelief when they heard Jesus describe himself as light of the world and light of life (John 8:12). In the Gospel of John we hear seven “I am” statements from the lips of Jesus: “I am the Bread of Life” (John 6:35), “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), “I am the Gate” (John 10:9), “I am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11), “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25), “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6), and “I am the Vine” (John 15:5). Jesus also emphatically stated, “Truly I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). When Moses asked God to reveal his name. God responded by saying, “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:13-14). When the Pharisees heard Jesus says “I am the light”, they clearly understood that Jesus was making a claim which only God could make. The word light in Scripture was especially associated with God. The Lord is my light (Psalm 27:1). The Lord will be your everlasting light (Isaiah 60:19). When I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me (Micah 7:8).
The scribes and Pharisees demanded that Jesus produce signs and witnesses to prove his claim. But the testimony and signs which Jesus gave did not satisfy the religious rulers because they had already determined in their own minds that he needed to be eliminated since his teaching did not agree with their own view and interpretation of the law of Moses (John 5:39-46). Their judgment was based on wrong assumptions and an evil intention to put Jesus to death. Jesus stated that his authority was not based on human knowledge and perception but on the knowledge and revelation which came from God. Jesus’ rightfully claimed that his authority came from his heavenly Father (John 5:19,21,26-27,36; John 8:28). No one could do the mighty works which he did and speak with such authority unless it had been given to him by the Father.
The light Jesus came to give us
What did Jesus mean by the expression I am the light of the world and light of life (John 8:12)? The light Jesus came to give is the light of God’s revelation – his beauty, truth, wisdom, and power. God’s light exposes the darkness of sin which is often hidden and sometimes even unknown to us. His light brings healing, pardon, and restoration as well – freeing us from the burden of guilt and the scars of sin’s effect on us – physically, spiritually,intellectually,and emotionally. We need God’s penetrating light to shine into our innermost being so he can remove wrong patterns of thoughts, attitudes, and hurtful desires.
Sin and every form of wrong-doing cloud our vision of what is good and right and lead us down the wrong path away from God’s truth and righteousness (moral goodness). God’s light shows us the way that leads to peace, joy, happiness and fulfillment. The light which the Lord Jesus offers produces in us abundant life and great fruitfulness. Just as natural life depends on light for energy, warmth, and growth (without it nothing could live or grow), so the light of God’s kingdom power produce in us new life in the Holy Spirit and the abundant fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control (Galatians 5:22,23). The light which the Lord Jesus gives enables us to walk freely and confidently without stumbling in the darkness of sin, ignorance, and unbelief. His light warms our heart to the truth of God’s love and it opens our eyes to recognize the reality of God’s kingdom at work within us. Do you walk confidently in the light of God’s truth and love?
O gracious and Holy Father, give us wisdom to perceive you, diligence to seek you, patience to wait for you, eyes to behold you, a heart to meditate upon you, and a life to proclaim you; through the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Prayer of Saint Benedict of Nursia, 480-547 AD)
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want;
2 he makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters;
3 he restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.