The I AM Statements in John: The Light of the World

This “I AM” statement is one of three connected with a miracle in the fourth Gospel. The term used in John to label the miraculous events performed by the Lord is the word for “sign” (Greek semeion). Consequently, we focus less on the power evident in the feat and more on what the Lord Jesus is proving or highlighting by the miracle. The feeding of the 5000 indicated His personal history with the nation in the wilderness and His ability to meet the need of the world’s spiritual hunger as the Bread of Life. Raising Lazarus proved His power over death and authenticated His claim to be the Resurrection and the Life. Now, in the healing of this blind man, we get an illustration of how the Light of the World can illuminate the darkness of spiritual blindness.

Metaphorically, light speaks of life and righteousness as opposed to death and sin, and John especially uses this analogy quite often. From the incarnation of the Word to the evildoers who avoid the rebuke of righteousness (Joh 1:9; 3:19-21), he contrasts light and darkness to stress the spiritual and moral need of humanity and God’s ability to meet that need in Christ. Continuing with that theme, we come to chapter nine, where a man born blind meets the Light of the World.

The disciples think this man’s state is a result of personal sin, so the Lord clarifies that the situation was not his or his parents’ fault. It may seem strange to us, but some Jewish people did not think sinning before birth was impossible, with some even arguing that Esau’s fate was a result of sin in the womb! [1] Thankfully, we learn that the real reason for this man’s condition was so “that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (Joh 9:3).[2] We are reminded of Joseph’s words when his brothers’ evil intentions were reversed: “God meant it unto good” (Gen 50:20). God was glorified when, in their attempt to murder one person, He turned it into the salvation of many! Ultimately, we see the cross, where man intended to murder the Lord Jesus, but God used it “to save much people alive.” God can bring good out of the most adverse circumstances, and in our focus, we note that when a sinner receives light and is saved, God is glorified.

In some miracles, the Lord physically touched people. At other times He only spoke a word to unleash the power that brought healing. The lesson here is that one word from the Lord carries the same power and authority as His physical presence. For this man born blind, both contact and commandment are used to effect the recovery of his sight. While the use of spittle is not unique to this miracle (Mar 7:33; 8:23), we can say that the clay here reminds us of the Lord’s power in creation. Amazingly, we witness the One who formed man from the dust of the ground using that same dust in an act of authority over a cursed creation. Was He “creating” new eyes for this man? Probably not. But at the very least, when He anointed his eyes, He touched him. Then came the commanding word, “Go, wash!”

The change in this man is now the backdrop for our spiritual teaching. We remember that the Lord Jesus spoke of being born again and passing from death unto life, while Paul wrote of becoming a new creation in Christ (Joh 3:3-7; 5:24; 2Co 5:17). Such a marked difference in position insists that something occurred to cause this about-face. The natural question to ask anyone in these circumstances would be, “What happened?” This man’s parents were wise to say, “He shall speak for himself” (Joh 9:21). We learn the spiritual lessons as he answers the question, “How were thine eyes opened?” (v10), in his own words.

There is no such thing as a cookie-cutter conversion, and many have done damage by insisting that others have identical experiences to themselves. However, one thing will be found in every story of salvation – the Lord Jesus. We are careful not to impose any unscriptural requirements in our preaching, but we must be firm in saying that every scriptural conversion story includes “a man that is called Jesus” (v11).

The Illuminator had intervened, but despite the Lord’s work, there must now be a response to His word.  “I went and washed, and I received sight” (v11) is testimony to the fact that he had responded to the word of the Lord. Going and washing proved that he believed Him and was willing to be subject to His authority. Likewise, a person in darkness becomes a child of light through a response of faith or by believing in the Light (12:36).

He wouldn’t immediately become an ophthalmology expert. He didn’t know much about the One who healed him or of the purpose of God in it all, but he could simply say, “I was blind, now I see” (9:25). By the same token, expecting a new believer to know the deep things of God would be unfair. However, we rejoice that for every child of God, it can be said that their once spiritually darkened mind has been enlightened, and now they “see.”

Contextually, much could be said about the blindness of the nation and its leaders because of their rejection of the light they had received and the prophetic themes that are fulfilled in those who see but do not perceive (Isa 6:9). We could also discuss the allusion to Christians being the light of the world by studying the words “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (Joh 9:5). But in its most practical application, our study is summarized in the words of this dear and classic hymn by Philip P. Bliss:

The whole world was lost in the darkness of sin;
The light of the world is Jesus;
Like sunshine at noonday, His glory shone in;
The light of the world is Jesus.

Come to the light, ’tis shining for thee;
Sweetly the light has dawned upon me;
Once I was blind, but now I can see;
The light of the world is Jesus.

[1] Carson cites Genesis Rabbah 63:6 (a rabbinical commentary) on Genesis 25:22. D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, PNTC (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1991), 362.

[2] Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV.