“Who Is Jesus, Really? – The Light of the World”

At Gateway Church in Austin, we continued our series “Who Is Jesus, Really?.”

Jesus claimed to be able to guide us out of the darkness. What if those responsible for guiding us are corrupt, hypocritical, or self-centered? Jesus challenged the religious leaders and embraced those considered as “the sinners”. Discover how a relationship with God allows us to overcome the deception and walk in the way of wisdom.

Bonus Resources for “Who is Jesus, Really?”

Next Steps:

Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.

“Who is Jesus, Really? – The Bread of Life” Next Steps

Message Video:

Gateway in South Austin – Music and Message

Gateway Online Message:

Message Notes from John Burke:

That clip is from the movie called The Gospel of John, which is free on Youtube, just search Gospel of John and you’ll see.

  • We are encouraging you to watch it as we ask Who Was Jesus, Really—it’s word for word what’s written in the Book of John in the Bible. So you’re watching the Bible being read.
  • Now, you should know that Jesus did NOT have a British accent, and he wasn’t a white guy who played Desmond on the TV show Lost—if you were a Lost fan like me, you might recognize him.
  • Jesus was a dark-skinned, middle-eastern, Hebrew/Aramaic speaking Jew.
  • But apart from that—these are the words and deeds of Jesus from an Eyewitness, John—watch it or read it.
  • And that scene you just watched from John chapter 8 sets up what we’re talking about today. 

Jesus said: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12.

In this series “Who is Jesus” that we’re doing leading up to Easter, we are looking at some of the statements Jesus made about himself.

And I just have to say, I’m personally so excited about this series, for several reasons.

First, Jesus is the most unique person who’s ever walked the face of the planet.

  • He was a real, historical person (I’m interviewing a historian on Easter when we end this series, no historian doubts that)—in fact we have more ancient manuscripts Jewish, Roman, Greek, African referring to Jesus than any person of ancient history.
  • Even if you are here still exploring faith, not yet sure if you believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, I challenge you to find another person who has influenced more people for good or had a larger influence. 
  • And why?  He had no political power, no fortune, didn’t conquer people with military might—he taught us to love one another as He loved us, and He claimed to lay down his life in love for us. 
  • He also claimed to be God revealed to us in love so we would love and trust God.  No other founder of any world religion claimed such things.
  • So given Jesus uniqueness—there’s no one like him—why wouldn’t you at least take the time to read (or watch) what He wrote and said?
  • He’s the wisest, most loving teacher the world has ever seen—have you even taken the time to read His words?
  • If you’re skeptical, how can you even honestly assess Jesus’ claims if you haven’t read what he said and did?
  • And if you claim to follow Him, reading and following His words needs to be a daily practice.

But I hope for so much more than that for all of you. I hope you’ll fall in love with Jesus like I have, and learn to trust Jesus more and more—that’s why I’m here doing what I’m doing. 

I discovered personally, He’s not just an ancient historical figure, or a really good teacher (though he’s both), I’ve found He’s the Only One who really knows me, understands me, and loves me anyway—more than any human ever could.  He’s my Creator, and yours too.

You could never find a better best friend/counselor/guide/cheerleader for you than Jesus.

I hope as we study what He says about Himself, you’ll trust Him more and more because

I’ve found His promises are true—“I am the Light of the world” who leads us out of darkness and into the Light of Life.

Okay, but why do we need Light? We have the sun! When Jesus says “I am the Light of the World” what’s he talking about?  Is it metaphorical light, or what?  Well it is metaphorical, but I also think He’s claiming something even physical. 

Plato wrote about evil and said that it is not a “something” but the lack of something – it’s a privation.  Kind of like darkness – what is darkness?  It’s nothing. 

  • Darkness is the absence of light! 
  • Just as a lie is not a thing, but the absence of something–truth. 
  • Hate is not a thing, but the absence of love. 
  • Evil is not the opposite of God–not the equal and opposite opponent to God, but Evil is the absence of God. Evil is the effect of created beings (angels or humans) going against God and God’s ways.

So the things we hate about life are the consequences of God’s will and ways not being done.

But that begs the question: Who is God?

Because God’s true identity and wisdom are essential if in fact the problems we have in this world are all evidence of missing God. 

So when Jesus says “I am the Light of the World” Light Means Truth about God. 

Light Means Truth about God

Jesus is referring back to 1000s of years of history of what is known about the Creator God when He claims “I am the Light of the World.”

If you were with us last Easter when we did our “What’s After Life?” series, you heard how all across the globe, people who clinically died yet are resuscitated, come back to talk about a God of Light and Love they encountered, brighter than the sun, yet easy to look at.

This God of Light satisfies their deepest cravings to be known, seen, and loved—in God’s presence they were home, where they belong.

The same God of Light and Love revealed himself over 4000 years ago (for all of written human history) through the Jewish Prophets—before any of the world’s religions were formed. 

In fact, He tells Abraham in 2000 B.C., he would use Abraham and Sarah to create a new nation, the Jewish People, for a purpose—to bless all the nations by coming to earth in the form of the Messiah, who would die to pay for the sins of all people.

None of the World’s religions speak of a God who cares for all the nations, yet this God of Light and Love does.

In 1500 BC. God appears to Moses as a brilliant light in a bush that did not burn up.  The Jewish Prophet Isaiah in 680 BC writes:
“There will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles…will be filled with glory. The people who walk in darkness will see a great light… For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9:1-6 (680 BC). 

Isaiah says the people of Galilee (where Jesus would do most of his ministry) would see a Great Light. 

Who is this Great Light for those walking in darkness?
A child that would be born, a son, who would be called Mighty God?

In Judaism God told them “There is only One God—not many—worship God only.” Yet here Isaiah writes 700 years before Jesus, the One true God will reveal himself as a man, to live among us as our wonderful Counselor, everlasting Parent, Source of lasting Peace.

All this was foretold. As I’ve shown you many times, we found a complete book of Isaiah pre-dating Jesus foretelling His coming–Jesus lived and taught in Galilee and claimed “I am the Light” Isaiah foretold.

The Jewish prophet Ezekiel in 600 BC saw a vision of Heaven:
High above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him…This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. – Ezekiel 1:26-27 (~600 BC) 

The Jewish prophets saw this Man of Brilliant Light who is the Yahweh, the Lord (this is the second person of the Triune God—in the Old Testament).

Daniel in Babylon, modern Iraq, sees this same God. Remember, only One God in Judaism, yet Daniel gets a vision:
“In my vision I saw one who looked like a son of man [“son of man” was Jesus favorite name for himself]. He was coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Eternal God. He was led right up to him. 14 And he was given authority, glory and a kingdom. People of all nations, no matter what language they spoke, worshiped him…. – Daniel 7:13-14 (~450 BC).

Daniel sees this same Son of God in Brilliant Light:
On April 23, as I was standing on the bank of the great Tigris River,  I looked up and saw a man dressed in linen clothing, with a belt of pure gold around his waist. His body looked like a precious gem. His face flashed like lightning…. Daniel 10:4-6 (~450 BC)

This is Jesus, the God of Light, 2nd person of the Trinity, showing up in the Old Testament. 

John understood this, because Jesus took Peter, James, and John up to a high mountain near the end of his ministry, and Jesus was transfigured so they could see His glory:
There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. – Matthew 17:2.

Then after his resurrection, when John saw the risen Jesus:
He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest…his eyes were like flames of fire.  His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves…And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance. Revelation 1:13-16

This is the same God of Light people encounter today around the globe:

Simran in India died in a bus crash, revived, and explained:

“Then a bright light appeared which had a soft male voice. It said “You will leave everything behind. Your loved ones, the hard-earned awards, money, even your clothes. You will come to me empty handed. The light also gave me an important message and [told me] to remember it…. The accident rendered me disabled to this day. When people see me smiling, they wonder why I have a glow on my face. It is the glow of God. I feel very homesick…  I have to live this life and obey the message until He calls me back. He only had love for me. It is very hard, but I am trying my best to spread the LOVE and PEACE God has for all of us.” 

This is incredibly strong evidence to me. Indians don’t experience the Vedas’ descriptions of God, they experience this God of Light Jesus revealed. People around the world experience this same God.

Rene hydroplaned on the streets of Sydney, Australia, hitting an industrial power pole. Pronounced dead, and on the way to the morgue, she revived to share her experience.

“I arrived in an explosion of glorious light into a room with insubstantial walls, standing before a man about in his 30s about 6 foot tall, reddish brown shoulder length hair and an incredibly neat, short beard & moustache. He wore a simple white robe, light seemed to emanate from Him and I felt He had great age and wisdom. He welcomed me with great Love, Tranquility, Peace (indescribable), no words. I felt “I can sit at your feet forever and be content.”

Khalida, a woman from Bethlehem, described being with this God of Light she knew was Jesus:

“I was so consumed by His presence that I dropped to my knees and looked up at Him. He is so glorious, so beautiful. All light inside of Light.

People around the world experience this same God. Scripture says:
For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” – Romans 10:12-13.

Even atheists John Burke interviewed, who denied God, in their dying moments cried out to be saved—and they met Jesus. 

Just like Saul, who became Paul–he was a Jesus hater, killing Christians, when on the Damascus road:

a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” – Acts 9:3-6

Notice, this God of Light, Jesus, does not tell Paul the Gospel, or what to believe. Jesus sends Ananias to the city to explain to Paul why Jesus had paid for his sins, to forgive him, and set him right with God as a gift. Paul still had a choice—Relationship with God is free—it’s a gift, Heaven is a gift. Paul went on to write much of the New Testament.

When Jesus said “I am the Light of the World” – He is equating himself with the One True God, the Creator, who since the beginning of recorded human history, revealed himself as this God of Light and Love who would come to save the whole world from the darkness of evil and sin—for all who turn to the Light.

So the Light is literal in that our sun is temporary light for a temporary existence. It’s a symbol of the True Light of Eternal Life.

But Light is also metaphorical, in that Light Means Good vs Evil

Light Means Good vs. Evil

In that movie clip from the Gospel of John, Jesus said “I am the Light of the World” and the Pharisees said “Your testimony about yourself is invalid.”

Jesus replied:
“I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.” Then they asked him, “Where is your father?” “You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” John 8:18-19.

Jesus is equating himself with the one true God, and He was referring to all God had foretold about the Messiah through their own prophets, but they were blind—they couldn’t see—because they were in spiritual darkness.

No one whose truly observed the world would conclude that nothing’s wrong, that we don’t need a solution to the evils of this world.

  • Some think right politics can save us.
  • Some think education can save us.
  • Some think getting rid of God and religion can save us.

But few people would say “there’s no evil we need saving from.” Right?

  • Evil is something we know intuitively when we see it in others.
  • A young woman is beaten, a child is raped, an old man is mugged, a terrorist flies a plane into the twin towers; Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Columbine teenagers.
  • Evil exists! But what will save us from it? What’s the solution?
  • Wouldn’t it be great to just do away with all Evil?
  • What if we could just take all Evil, pile it up in a dumpster and ship it off somewhere? 
  • The only problem is that Evil seems to attach itself to people:  to the Hitlers, the Jeffrey Dahmers, Timothy McVeighs of the world. 
  • What if we could just take all those people – all the evil people, and just ship them all off to someplace that the rest of us would never want to go – like Sahara Desert, or Lubbock or Odessa, Texas?
  • We could just remove those “Evil People” from civilized society. 

I’ve mentally tried to do this, but it gets more challenging than you’d think. Where’s the line? It’s not that easy to draw the line between the good people and evil people. It’s really clear in some cases – the Hitlers, Stalins and the Rapists, but when we become the judges, the lines get fuzzier and fuzzier the closer the finger points toward lines we’ve crossed, like murder’s evil but what if you despise someone, that’s not good is it? Deceiving and fraud to steal from the Elderly, evil right—but what about lying? Is that okay—only on our taxes, right? Really?

Jeffrey Burton Russell, University of California Santa Barbara is the leading authority on the history of Evil says:

“As none of us has a life in which no evil befalls him, none of us has a life in which he does no evil. At least part of the answer to the question of evil lies within me. And yet I almost always perceive that evil is coming from outside. Seldom does anyone admit that he is evil; seldom does he even admit that he does evil.” 

Jeffrey Burton Russell 

What this Historian sees as the troubling problem of Evil—the line between good and evil runs right through every human heart, yet we don’t see it—we’re mostly blind to it.

Jesus said:
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” – Matthew 15:19

If God destroyed all evil – every little root and seed that popped it’s head up in the heart, he’d have to destroy me. We’d all end up in Lubbock.

Evil is metaphorically equated to darkness—it’s the absence of God’s Light, God’s Goodness, the light of God’s ways that lead us toward true life.

  • Because of this, Evil has nothing good to offer at all.
  • Evil can only take something good God created and offer it in a twisted way or a way God didn’t intend.
  • It’s a deceptive lie that we often fall for because it offers instant gratification for our lower instincts.
  • But ultimately, it’s less pleasurable, and terribly destructive.
  • We are prone to evil’s lies when God is not the center motivating factor of our lives – if we’re trying to prove our worth, or get our deepest needs met by what people say rather than what God says.
  • Evil preys on our fears, our insecurities, our need to belong, to be valued, it preys on our instincts—for food or sex or drink or a excitement. 
  • And we can all get swept along in its current. 
  • It’s incredibly deceptive, that’s its power.
  • And when you’re deceived, you don’t know it. 

It’s worth praying about—”Lord, is there anywhere I’m being deceived—show me.” That’s my most frequent prayer, because I can be blind.

And Jesus’ promise is this:
Then Jesus cried out, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life…When a person believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me.  When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me.  I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. John 8:12; 12:44-46   

Light is a Guide

Jesus came as the Light of the World to guide us through it. Though all of us can be deceived, and we do evil’s bidding without realizing it, Jesus is so kind, merciful, and loving—He promises to forgive and guide all who are willing.  We don’t have to stay in darkness, if we simply follow His Guiding Light.

So many of us here in Austin lost power during the storm a few weeks ago.  [Lights off] This time we did it on purpose. We turned off the lights.

If you lost power at night, you realized how dark things can get right? 

I know some nights I get up and try to stumble my way through the darkness, and inevitably you stump your toe or crash into something. In fact, just a few weeks ago, when I was out of town, my wife Deborah got up to help our dog. She got disoriented in the dark, tripped and fell landing on the nightstand breaking one of her ribs!

When you’re in the dark—there’s nothing you can do—it renders you helpless and ineffective at much.

But light One Light [Turn on one spotlight] – no matter how dark the room – and it’s amazing how that little light displaces all darkness around it. 

And you can follow the light though the darkness—it guides your path and shows you what’s truly there. [Lights back on]

Some of you are living in darkness right now, but you don’t have to. It’s a choice. 

  • Maybe you’ve slipped back into an addiction during Covid—and at first, it promised relief, a little happiness, a burst of excitement, but now you’re seeing the truth that it’s leading into a dark hole.  It’s sapping your joy, it’s enslaving you again, it’s demanding you make it god—the center of all your thoughts, efforts, loves—it’s an evil god that wants to destroy your life and all those you love.
  • Or maybe dark thoughts are harassing you: discouragement, dismay, isolation, or out of control fear—dark thoughts plaguing you.
  • Maybe it’s an obsession with your cell phone or social media or TV—it’s making you angrier and more fearful.

Whatever darkness we find ourselves in—listen to Jesus’ promise:
I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

You don’t have to stay there. Do you believe in Jesus? If you want Jesus to be the God of your life—just tell him. That’s all He requires

The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it…He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. – John 1:4-12.

Trust in Him, Accept Him as God of your life, and you are His child forever. And then follow Him out of the darkness.  You don’t have to figure out how to make the darkness stop, or how to chase out darkness, you just have to let the Light in and follow the Light.

Maybe you’ve gotten out of the healthy rhythm of daily time with God in prayer and the Scriptures?

Or maybe you have gotten out of the healthy rhythm of making time for worship with us each week? When we had to cancel services, I watched online, and I have to admit, it was easy to get distracted. Then to come back in person to worship in the room with others, I found myself choked up with emotion–and to interact, see friends, and encourage each other in person. It is so good.

We’re still following safety protocols, and we’ve been live since September and we have had no instances of Covid spread at church.  

If you are still in quarantine and watching online, we respect that, but make it a priority and remove the distractions.

If your family is no longer in quarantine during the week, don’t suddenly quarantine on Sundays. Join us live in person at one of our Austin campuses.

Why? Here’s why…

When Jesus said “I Am the Light of the World” His Light Comes through You.

Jesus Light Comes Through You

Jesus is not physically in the World like He was 2000 years ago, but His promise is to live in and through all who let him.  He shines His Light in the World through us, his church, and many lights together burn brighter. That’s His plan—to change the world through us together. 

Jesus said to his followers:
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  – Matthew 5:14-16

God’s Light goes person to person, as we love everyone Life by Life, to each other as His church. 

And as we follow Jesus’ Light, He will guide you to be a Light to BLESS all those you live and work around—that’s his plan. And you guys are being lights all over Austin. 

“Let your light shine, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven.” 

You’re doing good deeds through our Central Texas Relief efforts—I want to encourage all Christ Followers to join in being a light. Go to Gatewaychurch.com/relief

Let’s end today worshipping God for his nature—He’s the God of Light who deserves our hearts today…let’s sing.

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