“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)
“When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am…” (John 8:28)
For three days this week we have readings from John 8. These speeches of Jesus are triggered by the second of the seven “I Am” statements in this gospel: “I am the light of the world.” Tomorrow we will contemplate how God’s love plays out in the ordinary affairs of our lives; and on Thursday we will engage with one of those tough passages in John’s gospel that talks about “The Jews.” Today we hear one of those classic predictions of what we are about to remember and celebrate during Holy Week.
Unique to John’s gospel is talking about the crucifixion as “lifting up.” In this gospel the cross itself contains the resurrection, the victory, the vindication of who Jesus is. That is why this passage is paired with that weird story from the Wilderness Wanderings in Numbers 21. As an antidote to an infestation of poisonous snakes, God has Moses make a bronze version of the snake and “lift it up” on a pole for bitten victims to look at. Those who do are inoculated against the poison and survive being bitten. The bronze serpent functions as a sort of vaccination that can heal the threatened community. This is one of John’s images for the crucified Jesus: He is “lifted up,” like that bronze snake—taking the poison to himself in order to protect the human family.
Light of the World, indeed!
Appointed readings for today: Numbers 21:4-9, Psalm 102:15-22, John 8:21-30