John: The Light of the World
John: The Light of the World
Light and the corresponding themes of enabling sight and glory run like threads through John’s Gospel.
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100 Stand Alone Bible Studies

Bible Passages

John 1:5–10, 14b

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him…

We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from
the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:36–39 (my paraphrase)

Looking at Jesus treading the way, John said, “Perceive! – The Lamb of God!”
Overhearing that, the two disciples followed Jesus. Jesus turned, turned his
gaze upon them. He asked them, ”What are you looking for?” They said, “Rabbi (which means “Teacher”), where are you staying?” “Come,” he answered them, “and see for yourselves.”

John 8:12 (see also 3:19–21; 12:35)

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 9:4–5

“As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is
coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

John 20:3–10

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but
the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and
looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped round Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed… Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.


Light and the corresponding themes of enabling sight and glory run like threads through John’s Gospel. Jesus is characterized as the light of the world, unvanquished by opposing forces of darkness. John 1:5 encapsulates this concept wonderfully: “the darkness has not overcome it”. That word “overcome” could be rendered as “comprehended”, “grasped”, “swallowed”, “engulfed”. The Greek is literally “downgot”. In common parlance we say we have “got it down” when we have completely understood something; we also think of “bringing down” prey. John is saying the light both baffles and eludes the darkness, still shining clearly despite the brutalizing forces of blinding ignorance. The cross is described in terms of glory (see 17:1) – a
moment of blazing light.

I have paraphrased the section where Jesus first speaks, to bring out John’s
emphasis in the Greek on seeing with understanding – “perceiving”. The light of Jesus’ presence enables in-sight. We see this again in the resurrection story (20:3– 8), where three times John uses verbs for “to see” (I have emphasized the three words in the passage). In the Greek, the words have different meanings: glimpsed… examined… understood.

John is encouraging us to realize that the light we see in Jesus is a catching
force, and can become indwelling light in our souls as we gaze upon Christ and his story, and as his gaze falls upon us. Notice the attachment, in both the resurrection story at the end and the meeting Jesus story at the beginning, of the concept of dwelling – where one is staying. This Gospel is about indwelling light, being at home with light, light coming home.



God of light and glory, may the radiance of your Holy Spirit so fill our hearts and lives that all we say and do reflects the beauty of Jesus, the light of the world. For we ask it in his holy name; Amen.