The context in which Jesus speaks these words “I am the light of the world” is the Feast of Tabernacles, also called the festival of tents during which the people of Israel were to live in tents or booths for seven days to remember when they lived in tents and the Lord provided for them (Leviticus 23:42).
During this festival four large lamp stands shone forth in the Court of Women. They produced a vast amount of light. And then this light drenched scene was further enhanced by the individual torches held aloft by the celebrants.
So much light was designed to call to mind the pillar of fire which led the people out of Egypt and made God’s presence known to the people of God through the years in the desert. This festival reminded the people to look ahead to the time when God would dwell with them again. The original scene saw light pour out of the temple and over Jerusalem to remind the people that God had promised to bring light to their context, to release from bondage, and to restore joy.
And it is into this context, this light drenched scene, that Jesus announces that he is the light.
A light that shines not just in the temple or into Jerusalem, but the light of the cosmos, the whole creation. We celebrate in Jesus that "The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us” (John 1:14). In this text Jesus picks up old rites and transforms them, pointing to his incarnate presence. God with us!
This text ends with a reminder of what it is like to follow Jesus. A reminder that we walk with God incarnate who has come to offer orientation to a disorientated creation. We, as his followers this Lent, are called to live in both sharing and shedding orientating light.