Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” So the Pharisees said to Him, “You are testifying about yourself; your testimony is not true,” John 8:12 – 13.
The Pharisees and other elements of society understood what Jesus was saying, and they understood the crux of the matter; they didn’t “see” what Jesus was saying but they did understand what He was saying. In John 10:31-33 we read:
The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.”
The Pharisees and others understood that Jesus was claiming to be God and they understood that the crux of the matter was the validity of Jesus’ testimony. They did not “see” what Jesus was saying, for then they would have seen that He was telling the truth, that He was God.
While followers of Jesus are called to testify about Jesus, and while a significant and wonderful element of that testimony is their relationship with Jesus (their new life in Him), the centrality of the witness is to be the testimony that Jesus gave about Himself – that He is God. He is the Bread of Life; the Light of the World; the Resurrection and the Life; the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The conflict swirling around Jesus in the Gospels centers around His claim to be God – and of the four Gospels, John’s especially presents this front and center on page after page.
Many professing Christians do not “see” what Jesus was saying about Himself. Many do not understand what Jesus was saying, many do not understand the crux of the issue. In this sense the Pharisees and others knew more than many contemporary Christians; they may not have “seen” that Jesus was God but they certainly understood what Jesus was claiming and they understood that the veracity of Jesus’ testimony was the issue.
Now of course Jesus was man also and in this we have the mystery of the Incarnation – the Word was made flesh and lived among us and we beheld His glory. But as a practical matter there are Christians who view Jesus more as a man who became God than as God who became man. The Scriptures, however, teach us that the God of Sinai is the God in the Temple in Jerusalem in John Chapter 8, and that just as God proclaimed Himself on Sinai (Exodus 34:5-7) so in the Temple God proclaims Himself as the Light of the World. In fact, throughout the Gospel of John God incarnate is proclaiming Himself – and few accept His testimony.
When Dorothy L. Sayers began writing plays based on Biblical Christian doctrine she was taken aback at the criticism she received from professing Christians; she was criticized for introducing a new teaching into the church. What was this new teaching? That Jesus is God. People who had been reciting the historic Creeds all their lives didn’t understand the words they were speaking – and when Sayers made it clear in her writing that Jesus is God they took that for a new teaching and attacked her for it.
The Pharisees and their contemporaries understood the issue.