John 8:12 – Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. John 9:5 – As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. Acts 5:30 – The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Acts 10:39 – And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree… Gal. 3:13 – Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree… 1 Peter 2:24 – Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree…
In John 8-9, the Lord Jesus Christ is engaged in his work as the minister of the circumcision. In accordance with the promises made unto the fathers of Israel, He is there to heal them of their wounds brought about by their covenantal unfaithfulness and their spiritual blindness to their national need for the light of the LORD. Accordingly, the context in which the Lord declares Himself to be the light of the world is positioned in terms of His encounters with two individuals who are representative of the state of the nation at that time.
It is very common in the gospels to find that the miracles recorded are not only literal events that happened at a point in time, but also that the Spirit of God has specifically selected those certain events to manifest a truth in light of Israel's spiritual condition in relation to their need of Him as Jehovah the Savior. After all, John himself declared that there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. The gospels, therefore, are not random selections from the life of the Lord put together in whimsical fashion, but rather a strategic selection of events that are meant to be instructive for the nation. The events recorded set before Israel their Messiah, and do so in a fashion in which the nation might Behold Him in the way their prophets had declared. But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
The significance of the statement of the Lord must be considered in light of the kingdom program in which He was ministering, and the special role of the nation Israel in God's prophetic dealings with man. This is so because the issue of the light of the world was not something that was supposed to be new or strange to Israel, for it was this nation that was taken out of the darkness of the Gentiles and separated unto the LORD for the purpose of manifesting His light to the nations. Fundamentally, this is what the kingdom is all about as they are to function in sanctification and honour as that kingdom of priests and holy nation Jehovah had called them to be.
Isa. 60:1-3 - Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
Exo. 19:5-6 - Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.
1Pet. 2:9 - But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
All of this should have been familiar terminology to Israel. As the lone nation unto whom the oracles of God were committed, they were to be a light to them that sit in darkness and a bastion of truth for Jehovah's name among those nations that dwelt in vanity, alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them. The light of the law that was in the midst of the nation was to be sight to the blind and the goodness of the LORD to Israel the saltiness that would draw all men unto themselves that they might know the LORD, the fountain of living waters.
Deut. 4:5-6 - Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.
Isa. 2:2-3 - And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
Mt. 5:14 - Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
As the history records, however, under the old covenant of carnal performances, Israel failed to be the light of the world and she was supposed to be. Having broken the covenant and played the harlot with her idols, the nation had been caught in the very act and deserved the death the law demanded.
Jer. 2:20 - For of old time I have broken thy yoke, and burst thy bands; and thou saidst, I will not transgress; when upon every high hill and under every green tree thou wanderest, playing the harlot.
Jer. 3:6 - The LORD said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot.
Likewise, Israel found herself in a spiritually blinded state. From the time of their birth as a nation when they had come out of great travail in Egypt and passed through the watery womb of the Red Sea, Israel had been without sight concerning the spiritual need that they had for Jehovah. Though the LORD had born them on eagles wings and brought them unto Himself, they spurned His grace and truth, and exchanged the light of the LORD for the performance system of the law contract. Their spiritual ineptitude was put on display as the born blind nation elected a course that set their adoption calling by the wayside and left them to beg bread from the hands of a dark world that was passing them by.
Deut. 29:2-4 - And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, Ye have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land; The great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and those great miracles: Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.
Isa. 42:19 - Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, as my messenger that I sent? who is blind as he that is perfect, and blind as the LORD'S servant?
Isa. 44:18 - They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.
Eze. 12:2 - Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not: for they are a rebellious house.
Mt. 13:14-15 - And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
Mt. 15:14 - Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
2Cor. 3:14 - But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ.
Furthermore, we see that with Israel's failure to be the light of the world according to their kingdom calling only highlighted once more their utter need for Jehovah to take up their cause and be for them what they could not be for themselves. How they needed Him to lighten their darkness and heal their backslidings with the light of His countenance! For them to become the Priest of the LORD and the Ministers of our God as the citizens of that shining kingdom atop Mt. Zion, it would have to be the LORD that functioned as the light that they themselves had not known nor kept. Only the Sun of righteousness could arise and shed light upon them, and only as the Holy One dwells in their midst of as the King of kings and Lord of lords will that nation be the light of the world in Him.
Christ, then, is the light of the world, and true it is that they that follow him shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life. But take, for a moment, time to consider that this True Light was slain and hanged on a tree. This was done by those wicked hands that had been reproved by His light, and forthwith had devised their evil plan to serve the power of darkness and their father, the devil. Though it was through ignorance they did it, having been again confronted with their rejection of Him by the ministry of the Holy Ghost in Acts 1-7, the builders reaffirmed their sin and rejected the Stone, setting themselves in the position as His sworn foes.
While Israel's rejection of the light was not a surprise to prophecy, in the secret auspices of the Father, He had ordained that their rejection of Him would meet with a mystery response to make known His grace among the Gentiles. Therein God reveals that through Israel's (temporary) fall, the light of the glorious gospel of Christ and the message of grace would now go to the heathen. That cross, whereupon the light of the world was slain by darkness and hung to die, was revealed to be the keystone that locked into place all the provisions for the mystery of the Father whereby His Son would be eternally crowned as the preeminent Lord of heaven and earth! By the church, which is his body, the manifold wisdom of God is made known, and in Christ Jesus we who were sometimes darkness are now light in the Lord.
This is our current state, beloved, because the Light was hanged on the tree! We have been redeemed from the curse of the law because our Savior was made a curse for us! As He died for His nation, bearing their iniquities and the chastisement of their peace according to prophecy, He likewise was giving Himself a ransom for us in a mystery. Under the eternal efficacy of what was provided for by his blood on that day, we now are recipients of the gift of eternal life and all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ!
Indeed, this is ‘The Light on the Tree’ 'that the world needs in this "Christmas Season." While it is true that much of the cultural and religious traditions surrounding this time of year are not truly Christian, and the majority of the trappings surrounding it are irrelevant to biblical Christianity, it does nevertheless provide an opportunity to remember and give thanks for the gift of God's Son. Against such there is no law, and we joy and rejoice that the Son of the Highest came into the world through the Spirit’s overshadowing of the virgin’s womb, and this He did that He might save sinners.
Let us rejoice, but in our rejoicing let us remember this: Jesus Christ is the light of the world! While the condition of mankind is one of darkness and death, it is Christ alone who offers the light of life, and in Him is the healing remedy for all of sin’s maladies. While society runs on, occupied with the current season of the annual American way of life concerning Christmas, the shallow impressions and dim hints of Christ compete with the commercialization of the industrious. In the meantime, men are left empty of both light and life to continue their trek toward the eternal destruction that awaits them.
For many, this season, like so many before it, will consist of hustle and bustle in the pursuit of worldly merchandise that will perish with the using, and the gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ will be passed by for another day. Through ignorance, the light of the glorious gospel of Christ will remain hidden to them, and the spiritual efficacy of Christ’s cross-work will remain untouched in the storehouses of His grace. Many will sit by a lit tree, decorated with the ornaments of human vanity, not knowing that the True Light was hanged on a tree and made sin for them that they might be made the righteous of God in Him.
What the world needs, therefore, in this so-called “Christmas Season” is the same thing it needs in every other season—the word of reconciliation. Man's greatest need is not another narration of Christ's birth, colored with the cultural traditions surrounding this time of year, but instead a clear proclamation of the gospel that concerns how that He died for our sins according the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures. While we give thanks for His birth, it is not the story of the babe lying in a manager that houses the power of God unto salvation, but the gospel wherein we find the shedding of His precious blood as the propitiating sacrifice for our redemption. Let us glory in the cross, give thanks to our Savior and be ambassadors of the True Light and His glorious gospel!