So he was speaking about the coming night - "when no one can work." Jesus is speaking of a time when preaching will become difficult in this region. The begins after Jesus' crucifixion, as Jesus' followers were hunted and persecuted. This period continues through the Jewish-Roman Wars, which last for about 70 years.
What is Jesus talking about?This statement by Jesus, though very practical, is often misinterpreted. The context of Jesus' statement was that he was speaking to his close disciples. This statement was said just after Jesus said:
"As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work." (John 9:4)
During this time, the Romans were slaughtering Jews, burning down villages, and wiping out villages.
This reference to 'night' is counterbalanced with the reference to light. In darkness, one must have light in order to see. This is Jesus' analogy with respect to his preaching knowledge to those around him.
Why is Jesus the 'light of the world'?Again, Jesus is referring to the fact that he is teaching others about the Supreme Being. This brings 'light' because is opens our hearts and minds to the knowledge of love for God - which each of us needs.
This metaphor was also used in discussing John the Baptist's teachings:
John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light. (John 5:31)This metaphor was also used by Jesus elsewhere:
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he 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)Many have used this statement to put forth that Jesus is the Supreme Being. However, this thesis contradicts so many other statements and actions of Jesus.
For example, who was Jesus speaking about when he said this:
"My teaching is not my own. It comes from Him who sent me." (John 7:16)And who was Jesus praying to during this occasion:
Going a little farther, he [Jesus] fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will." (Matthew 26:39)Jesus is asking that he do God's will rather than his own will. Does this not indicate two personalities, each with their own will?
What does 'light' mean?In John 9:5, the word "light" is being translated from the Greek word φῶς (phōs), which means the light of a lamp. The light of a lamp during Jesus' time was critical to see where one was going at night. They didn't have streetlights and cars with headlights. If they wanted to travel at night, they needed to carry a lamp.
So Jesus is comparing himself to the light of a lamp because Jesus is illuminating the darkness of the physical world with Truth for those who hear him and follow him. This light is allowing us to see. He was teaching them about the Supreme Being and how one can re-establish their relationship with God. This interpretation is confirmed by a similar statement of Jesus, made earlier:
"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)So the type of "light of the world" Jesus is referring to in this verse and in John 9:5 is the knowledge he is giving to those who follow him. "Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness" clearly indicates that he is offering his guidance as a teacher, because to "follow" in this context means to follow instructions.
Jesus' instructions to his students related to where to focus our lives. Specifically, not focusing on the things of this fleeting physical world and this temporary physical body. These are full of the darkness of ignorance.
And Jesus' primary instruction was related to where we should place our heart and where we should place our focus in life:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38)