Then spake Jesus again unto them - Allowing the story about the woman taken in adultery to be authentic, and to stand here in its proper place, we may consider that our Lord, having begun to teach the people in the temple, was interrupted by the introduction of this woman by the scribes and Pharisees; and now, having dismissed them and the woman also, he resumes his discourse.
I am the light of the world - The fountain whence an intellectual light and spiritual understanding proceed: without me all is darkness, misery, and death. The Divine Being was, by the rabbins denominated, The light of the world. So in Bamidbar Rabba: "The Israelites said to God, O Lord of the universe, thou commandest us to light lamps to thee, yet thou art The Light of The World: and with thee the light dwelleth." Our Lord, therefore, assumes here a well known character of the Supreme Being; and with this we find the Jews were greatly offended.
Shall not walk in darkness - He shall be saved from ignorance, infidelity, and sin. If he follow me, become my disciple, and believe on my name, he shall have my Spirit to bear witness with his, that he is a child of God. He shall have the light of life - such a light as brings and supports life. The sun, the fountain of light, is also the fountain of life: by his vivifying influences, all things live - neither animal nor vegetative life could exist, were it not for his influence. Jesus, the Sun of righteousness, Malachi 4:2, is the fountain of all spiritual and eternal Life. His light brings life with it, and they who walk in his light live in his life. This sentiment is beautifully expressed and illustrated in the following inimitable verse (all monosyllables except one word) of that second Spenser, Phineas Fletcher. Speaking of the conversion of a soul to God, he says: -
"New Light new Love, new Love new Life hath bred;
A Life that lives by Love, and loves by Light:
A Love to him, to whom all Loves are wed;
A Light, to whom the sun is darkest night:
Eye's Light, heart's Love, soul's only Life he is:
Life, soul, love, heart, Light, eye, and all are his:
He eye, Light, heart, Love, soul; He all my joy and bliss."
Purple Island, Can. I. v. 7.
Some suppose our Lord alludes to the custom of lighting lamps or torches, on the first day of the feast of tabernacles. But as these words seem to have been spoken the day after that last and great day of the feast, mentioned John 7:37, they may rather be considered as referring to the following custom: It has already been observed, that the Jews added a ninth day to this feast, which day they termed, The feast of joy for the law; and on that day they were accustomed to take all the sacred books out of the chest where they had been deposited, and put a lighted candle in their place, in allusion to Proverbs 6:23; : For the commandment is a Lamp (or Candle) and the law is life: or to Psalms 119:105; : Thy word is a Lamp unto my feet, and a Light unto my path. If this custom existed in the time of our Lord, it is most likely that it is to it he here alludes; as it must have happened about the same time in which these words were spoken. See Buxtorf. Synagog. Jud. c. xxi.
As the Messiah was frequently spoken of by the prophets under the emblem of light, see Isaiah 60:1; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 9:2, the Pharisees must at once perceive that he intended to recommend himself to the people as the Messiah, when he said, I am the light of the world.
The rabbins think that the Messiah is intended in Genesis 1:8, And God said, Let there be light, and there was light. "From this we may learn that the holy and blessed God saw the light of the Messiah and his works before the world was created; and reserved it for the Messiah, and his generation, under the throne of his glory. Satan said to the holy and blessed God, For whom dost thou reserve that light which is under the throne of thy glory? God answered: For him who shall subdue thee, and overwhelm thee with confusion. Satan rejoined, Lord of the universe, show that person to me! God said, Come and see him. When he saw him, he was greatly agitated, and fell upon his face, saying, Truly this is the Messiah, who shall cast me and idolaters into hell." Yalcut Rubeni, fol. 6. This is a very remarkable saying; and, as it might have existed in the time of our Lord, to it he might have alluded in the verse before us. The thing itself is true: the Messiah is the light of the world, and by him Satan's empire of idolatry is destroyed in the world, and the kingdom of light and life established. See several similar testimonies in Schoettgen.