Jesus' Parables for Disciples
William Holman Hunt, 'Light of the World' (1851), Manchester Art Gallery
We're still considering metaphors of Jesus. Among the most popular metaphors in the New Testament are Jesus the Light and Jesus the Life and Life-Giver -- the Bread of Life, the Vine. Plus, there are a few metaphors and titles that don't seem to find a place elsewhere, that we'll consider at the end of this lesson.
John's Gospel begins with a great poem of creation that associates Light and Life.
"1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it." (John 1:1-5)
With these verses, John introduces the theme of a war between spiritual light and darkness that runs through his Gospel. Here, Christ's light represents and brings life. Light is brimming with inextinguishable Life. The Light actively attacks the darkness (John 1:5a). As in Genesis 1:3, light is created by God's Word:
"And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light." (Genesis 1:3)
Indeed, light characterizes God's glory, which we'll examine in Lesson 10. Jesus, the Co-Creator is the Bringer of Light to all humankind.
"Darkness" in John 1:5 seems almost to be darkness personified in both the prince of darkness, Satan, as well as all those who live in spiritual darkness. Light is shining but they haven't "understood it" (NIV), "overcome it" (NRSV, ESV), "comprehended it" (KJV). The Greek word katalambanō, which has the basic meaning of "to seize, lay hold of," and could refer to gaining a mental or spiritual grasp ("understood" or "comprehend") or it could mean, "seize with hostile intent, overtake, come upon" ("overcome").
Jesus is not only the Bringer of Light. He is Light itself.
"The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world." (John 1:9)
"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)
"This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil." (John 3:19)
"While I am in the world, I am the light of the world." (John 9:5)
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus' disciples are "the light of the world" (Matthew 5:14), called "the people of the light" (Luke 16:8). That light is lit by Jesus.
In Isaiah we see several prophecies of the Light. First, a passage that places Messiah's primary ministry in Galilee, quoted in Matthew 4:16.
"Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for
those who were in distress.
In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles,
by the way of the sea, along the Jordan --
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." (Isaiah 9:1-2)
Jesus is the Great Light. The Servant (probably here the Messiah, not Israel) is also to be a light.
"I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles." (Isaiah 42:6; cf. 49:6)
Finally, a prophecy looking forward to the Days of the Messiah.
"Arise, shine, for
your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the LORD rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn." (Isaiah 60:1-3)
In the Old Testament, Yahweh is referred to as "a sun and shield" (Psalm 84:11) and "everlasting light" (Isaiah 60:19-20). In Malachi's prophecy of the last day, this title transfers over to the Messiah.
"But for you who revere my name,
the Sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.
And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall." (Malachi 4:2)
"Healing in his/its wings" (NIV, NRSV, ESV, KJV) should probably be translated, "healing in his rays" (New Jerusalem Bible), since kānāp, "wing, winged, border, corner, shirt," is a word that seems to refer to something stretched out, and "rays" fits the imagery of the sun better than "wings." Those upon whom Jesus' light rises will find the healing of truth and his presence.
In a similar way, the image of the rising sun refers to the Messiah in the prophecy of Zechariah the priest, John the Baptist's father.
"... Because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven...." (Luke 1:78, NIV)
"Dayspring" (KJV), "rising sun" (NIV), "sunrise" (ESV, NASB), "the dawn" (NRSV) is anatolē, "upward movement of celestial bodies, rising" here, "a change from darkness to light in the early morning, the dawn," figurative of the coming of the Messiah..
But Jesus is not only prefigured by the sun, but by the stars as well. As I write this, just before dawn I have seen three "stars" -- planets actually -- Jupiter, Mars, and Venus, shining brightly in the early morning sky. It made me think of this passage.
"I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star." (Revelation 22:16)
"And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star (phōsphoros) rises in your hearts." (2 Peter 1:19)
KJV translates the word, ""day star." In one of Isaiah's prophecies, the title "Day Star, son of Dawn" is claimed by the king of Babylon, whom many see as an antitype of Satan (Isaiah 14:2). But it shouldn't surprise us that kings and fallen angels should claim titles for themselves that are blasphemous and over reaching.
These references probably trace back to Balaam's prophecy of the king that would rise up from Israel to free her from her enemies. In the short term it spoke of David, but ultimately it points to David's successor, Christ the king.
"I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near.
A star will come out of Jacob;
a scepter will rise out of Israel." (Numbers 24:17)
Q1. (John 1:9; 8:12)
In what sense is Jesus the True Light? In what sense is he the Light of the
World? In what sense are you the light of the world (Matthew 5:14)? Why do you
think people resist Jesus' light, his truth, his view of the Father, our world,
and eternal life? How does the world's so-called "light" differ from Jesus'
light? What can obstruct Jesus' light in this world? What can obstruct our
Jesus not only brings light, he brings life. The Old Testament, of course, refers life-giving to Yahweh.
"For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light." (Psalm 36:9)
Especially in John's writings, Jesus is portrayed as the Life-Giver. As we've seen, this theme is at the very beginning of John's Gospel.
"In him was life, and the life was the light of men." (John 1:4)
Jesus declares that he is the Life. John's Gospel overflows with this theme. Jesus brings eternal life. In fact, he is the very source of life -- both physical life as Co-Creator, but eternal life as well. In a number of places in John's Gospel, Jesus asserts his authority to give life.
"For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it." (John 5:21)
John's First Epistle declares unequivocally that this eternal life is exclusively in Jesus and in no other.
"And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life." (1 John 5:11-12)
We see the same unequivocal declaration on Jesus' lips in John's Gospel:
"I am the way and the truth and the life." (John 14:6)
In Revelation he is revealed as "the Living One" (Revelation 1:17b).
As the Gospel unfolds, we see Jesus referred to by several titles related to giving life. Following the Feeding of the 5,000, Jesus talks to his disciples about the life-giving qualities of the true Bread, the true Manna.
"I am the bread of life." (John 6:48)
"I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst." (John 6:35)
Of course, the phrase "bread of life" means "bread which brings life."
"I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh." (John 6:51)
"Living bread that came down from heaven" is a comparison with the manna in the Wilderness. Though the title doesn't appear in the Bible, Jesus could be thought of as the Living Manna.
"For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." (John 6:33)
Jesus' parable of the Vine and the Branches in John 15:1-17 is also a parable of the life-giving nature of the vine.
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener." (John 15:1)
"I am the vine; you are the branches." (John 15:5)
Life flows through the vine to the branches and from them to the fruit.
Q2. (John 6:51; 15:1-5) What do Jesus' teachings on the
Living Bread and the True Vine teach us about drawing from his life? What
happens to our vital Life when we rely on ourselves, and stop relying on him?
Why is it so hard for us humans to learn the lesson of dependence and trust?
When Jesus hears that Lazarus had died, he comes to Bethany and finds one of Lazarus's grieving sisters. When he assures Martha that her brother will rise again, she points to the final resurrection that was the belief of Pharisees. Jesus doesn't deny this resurrection on the Last Day, but in this case he personalizes it.
"I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies...." (John 11:25)
Jesus is the key to Lazarus's resurrection; resurrection from the dead starts and completes in Jesus. Jesus himself is the "firstborn from the dead" (Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5, which we'll consider in Lesson 10). Yes, others were raised by Jesus and the apostles, but they eventually died. However, when Jesus raises you ultimately, you will never die again. Jesus is the ultimate Life-Giver.
John's First Epistle continues the theme.
"The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us." (1 John 1:2)
"We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true -- even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life." (1 John 5:20)
What a statement! John states that Jesus is the True God and Eternal Life!
This life-giving theme is also picked up by both Peter and Paul. In the preaching of the Gospel in Jerusalem shortly after Jesus' resurrection, Peter declares boldly.
"You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this." (Acts 3:15)
"Author" (NIV, ESV), "prince" (KJV) is archēgos, especially here, "one who begins or originates," hence the recipient of special esteem in the Greco-Roman world, "originator, founder." As we'll see in Lesson 10, there is a similar use of this word in Hebrews, where Jesus is called "the author and perfecter of our faith...." (Hebrews 12:2a, NIV, NASB), and as the ""Author of salvation (NIV, NASB, Hebrews 2:10). Jesus is the originator of our salvation.
We conclude this study of Life-Giving titles with one from Paul. Looking forward to Christ's coming, Paul says:
"Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." (Colossians 3:2-4)
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)
Too often, nominal Christians try to live their own life, with them in charge. But that is not the life Jesus was talking about. His life is all consuming. It is in, under, around, and through. He is our Life!
Dear friend, how about you. Is Christ the center, the focus of your life, or have you placed him on the periphery? Now is the time to repent and change that! Let him fill you afresh -- or for the first time -- with his bubbling, everlasting, joy-filled life.
Q3. (Colossians 3:2-4) To what degree is Christ the
center, the focus of your life? If you had to prove to another person that
Christ is the center of your life, what evidence would you muster? What evidence
would contradict this? What kind of repentance is necessary to reprioritize your
Now we'll turn to another sphere of metaphors and titles. Perhaps some of the best known of these to Christians are Husband and Bridegroom.
In the Old Testament, Yahweh is spoken of as the husband, while Israel is his bride.
"For your Maker is your husband,
the LORD of hosts is his name;
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
the God of the whole earth he is called." (Isaiah 54:5)
This theme is carried into the New Testament, with Jesus as the Husband and the Church as the Bride of Christ.
"I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him." (2 Corinthians 11:2)
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." (Ephesians 5:25)
"Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready." (Revelation 19:7)
"I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband." (Revelation 21:2)
"One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, 'Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.'" (Revelation 21:9)
"The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!'" (Revelation 22:17a)
Twice in the Gospels we see parables in which the person corresponding to Jesus is the Bridegroom, so I suppose Bridegroom is a legitimate title of Jesus.
John the Baptist: "The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less." (John 3:29-30)
Jesus: "How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast." (Matthew 9:15; Mark 2:19-20; Luke 5:34-35)
According to this analogy, we the Church are presently "betrothed" to him, thus officially (according to Jewish law) he is our Husband. We are to be presented to Christ at his coming as a "pure virgin" (2 Corinthians 11:2) when the "marriage supper of the Lamb takes place (Revelation 19:7). My pastor, Greg Krieger, says that marriage is God's favorite metaphor, one that portrays the wonderful ways we are loved, pursued, protected, and cherished by the One who seeks us to be His own.
Q4. (2 Corinthians 11:2) What does it take for us to be
presented to Christ as a pure virgin bride? How faithful are we to Christ? To
what degree do we partake with the adulterous and sinful generation that Jesus
decried? What does the marriage relationship say about love, communication, and
intimacy with Christ?
Now we look at titles from a completely different set of analogies, those that live in the world of covenants, contracts, and treaties.
As we've discussed in Lesson 6, Isaiah alternates between the Servant being Israel and her Messiah. In a passage that seems to point to the Messiah Servant, Isaiah prophesies:
"I will give you as
a covenant for the
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness." (Isaiah 42:6-7, ESV)
"Covenant" is berît. Between nations a berît is a treaty, an alliance of friendship. Between individuals, a berît is a pledge or agreement, an obligation between a monarch and subjects. Between God and man, a berît is a relationship with promises for fulfillment. In his person, Jesus is the covenant between Yahweh and his people!
Jesus is also God's guarantee that this covenant will be fulfilled.
"Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant." (Hebrews 7:22)
"Guarantee" (NIV, NRSV), "guarantor" (ESV), "surety" (KJV) is engyos, used as an adjective, "pertaining to assurance for the fulfillment of something, under good security," as a noun, "guarantee." Since ancient times people have put forward valuable items, even hostages, to guarantee a treaty, agreement, or payment of an obligation. God put forward his most valuable possession, his own Son, to guarantee that he will keep his word to us. Jesus is the guarantor of a "better covenant" than even Israel experienced.
We have been offered the "new covenant" promised in Jeremiah 31:31-34 (quoted in Hebrews 8:6-13). For Jesus as Mediator of a New Covenant (Hebrews 11:24) see Lesson 3. Jesus' own blood becomes the blood that is shed to seal the new covenant of the Spirit, of forgiveness, and of the knowledge of God. We remember this historical fact by partaking regularly of the Cup of the Lord's Supper, which is, Jesus told his disciples, "the new covenant in my blood" (1 Corinthians 11:25; cf. Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20).
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We are so blessed! Jesus is our Light. He is our Life. He is our Bread. He is the Vine from which we draw life itself. He is our Resurrection, he is the original champion of the second chance. He is our Husband, our Bridegroom, our Surety and Guarantor of our relationship with God. And we are thankful!
Father, thank you for sending Jesus to us. Thank you for your patience with us, for your offer of Life, even when we don't appreciate it or think we need it. Be the center of our lives. Let us serve well as your Bride. There are not words enough to thank you for your patience and mercy towards us, yet we say thanks. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
Names and Titles of Jesus
- Light of Men (John 1:4)
- Light (John 1:5; 3:19; Isaiah 9:2)
- True Light (John 1:9)
- Light of the World (John 8:12; 9:5)
- Great Light (Isaiah 9:2)
- Light for the Gentiles (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6)
- Light for Revelation to the Gentiles (NIV, NRSV, ESV, Luke 2:32)
- Light to Lighten the Gentiles (KJV, Luke 2:32)
- Your Light (Isaiah 60:1-3)
- Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2)
- Rising Sun (NIV, Luke 1:78)
- Dayspring (KJV, Luke 1:78)
- Sunrise (ESV, NASB, Luke 1:78)
- Dawn (NRSV, Luke 1:78)
- Morning Star (2 Peter 1:19)
- Bright Morning Star (Revelation 22:16)
- Day Star (2 Peter 1:19)
- Star (Numbers 24:17)
- Life (John 14:6; 1 John 1:2; Colossians 3:4)
- The Living One (Revelation 1:17b)
- Bread (John 6:50)
- Bread of Life (John 6:35, 48)
- Living Bread (John 6:51)
- Bread of God (John 6:33)
- The Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25)
- True Vine (John 15:1)
- Vine (John 15:5)
- Eternal Life (1 John 1:2; 5:20)
- The True God and Eternal Life (1 John 5:20)
- Author of Life (NIV, ESV, Acts 3:15)
- Prince of Life (KJV, Acts 3:15)
- Christ Who Is Your Life (Colossians 3:4)
- Husband (2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 21:2)
- Bridegroom (John 3:29; Matthew 9:15; Mark 2:19-20; Luke 5:34-35)
- Covenant for/of/to the People (Isaiah 42:6-7)
- Guarantee of a Better Covenant (NIV, NRSV, Hebrews 7:22)
- Guarantor of a Better Covenant (ESV, Hebrews 7:22)
- Surety of a Better Covenant (KJV, Hebrews 7:22)
Songs and Hymns
The metaphors in this lesson center on the titles of Light of the World, Sun of Righteousness, Dayspring, Morning Star, the Living One, Bread of Life, Resurrection and Life, Vine, Author of Life, Life, Husband, Bridegroom, and Covenant.
- "All Hail King Jesus" ("Bright Morning Star") by Dave Moody (1981 Dayspring Music, LLC)
- "Because He Lives," by Gloria and William J. Gaither (© 1971 William J. Gaither, Inc.)
- "Behold the Lamb" ("So we share in this Bread of Life"), by Keith Getty, Krystyn Getty, Stuart Townend (© 2007 Thankyou Music)
- "Break Thou the Bread of Life," words: Mary A. Lathbury (1877), Alexander Groves (1913); music: William F. Sherwin (1877)
- "Breathe" ("You are my daily bread"), by Marie Barnett (© 1995, Mercy/Vineyard Publishing)
- "Come, O Come, Emmanuel" ("O come, thou Day-spring, come and cheer"), words: 12th century; music: 15th century
- "Days of Elijah" ("Behold He comes riding on the clouds, shining like the sun at the trumpet's call"), by Robin Mark (© 1996 Song Solutions Daybreak)
"Fill My Cup, Lord" ("Bread of Heaven, feed me till I want no more"), by Roy Blanchard (© 1959 Richard Blanchard. Assigned 1964 Word Music, LLC)
- "Forever Reign" ("Light of the world forever reign ... You are Light, You are Light ... You are Hope, You are Hope ... You are Peace, You are Peace"), by Scott Ingram, Reuben Morgan (© 2009 Hillsong Music Publishing)
- "Great Are You, Lord" ("You bring light in the darkness"), David Leonard, Jason Ingram, Leslie Jordan (© 2012 Integrity's Alleluia! Music)
- "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" ("Hail the Sun of Righteousness ... risen with healing in his wings"), words: Charles Wesley (1739), music: Felix Mendelssohn (1840)
- "He Is Faithful" ("He is freedom, He is healing right now, He is hope and joy, love and peace and life. I have seen a light like the break of dawn"), by Bryan Torwalt, Katie Torwalt (© 2011 Capitol CMG Genesis, Jesus Culture Music)
- "Here I Am to Worship" ("Light of the World, you stepped down into darkness"), by Tim Hughes (© 2001, Thankyou Music)
- "Here Is Love" ("the Prince of Life our Ransom"), by Matt Redman, Robert Lowry, William Rees (© 2004 Thankyou Music)
- "I Am the Light of the World," words and music by Jim Strathdee (© 1969 Desert Flower Music; in Chalice Hymnal, 1995, #469)
- "In Christ Alone" ("He is my light, my strength, my song") by Keith Getty, Stuart Townend (© 2001 Thankyou Music)
- "Jesus Messiah" ("the Light of the world") by Chris Tomlin, Daniel Carson, Ed Cash, Jesse Reeves (2008 sixsteps Music)
- "Jesus, What a Wonder You Are" ("You shine like the morning star"), by Dave Bolton (© 1975, Thankyou Music)
- "Light of the World," by Matt Redman (© 1999, Thankyou Music)
- "Mighty to Save," ("Shine your light ... we're singing for the glory of the risen King Jesus ... Author of salvation"), by Ben Fielding and Reuben Morgan (© 2006 Hillsong Publishing)
- "My Lighthouse," by Rend Collective (© 2013 Thankyou Music)
- "Open the Eyes of My Heart" ("To see you high and lifted up, shining in the light of your glory"), by Paul Baloche (© 1997, Integrity's Hosanna! Music)
- "Shine, Jesus, Shine" ("Jesus, Light of the world, shine upon us"), by Graham Kendrick (© 1987, Make Way Music)
- "Thine Is the Glory" ("Risen conquering Son ... Glorious Prince of life"), words: Edmond L. Budry (1884), translated by Richard B. Hoyle (1923), music: Judas Maccabeaus, George F. Handel (1747)
- "This I Believe" ("The Creed": "I believe in the resurrection, that we will rise again ... Our Judge and our Defender"), by Ben Fielding, Matt Crocker (© 2014 Hillsong Music Publishing)
- "We All Bow Down" ("He is the love of God ... He's the light of the world and Lord of the cross"), by Lenny LeBlanc (© 2002 Integrity's Hosanna! Music)
- "We Will Dance" ("For the Bridegroom will come, the glorious One ... the Risen King, our Groom"), by David Ruis (© 1993 Mercy / Vineyard Publishing)
- "You Are the Vine," by Danny Daniels, Randy Rigby (© 1985 Mercy / Vineyard Publishing)
From Appendix 6. Exercises to Help You Internalize the Names of Jesus, select some activities that will help you internalize the truths of this lesson's names, titles, descriptors, and metaphors. This week, how can you creatively pray, meditate, write, worship, consider, draw or paint, compose, picture, and live out these truths in your community?
Actively participating in these ways will help you grow to be like Christ.
 John 1:4-5, 7-9; 3:19-21; 8:12; 9:5; 11:9-10; 12:35-36, 46.
 Katalambanō, BDAG 520, meanings 1, 2, and 3.
 Anatolē, BDAG 74, 3.
 "The bright morning star" is two words, each with a definite article: lampros, "pertaining to radiating light, bright" (BDAG 585, 1) and prōinos, "the one belonging to the morning" (BDAG 892).
 Also John 5:26; 6:33, 57, 68; 10:28a.
 "Author" (NIV, ESV), "prince" (KJV) is archēgos, especially here, "one who begins or originates," hence the recipient of special esteem in the Greco-Roman world, "originator, founder" (BDAG 138, 3).
 Archēgos, BDAG 138, 3.
 Nymphios, "bridegroom" (BDAG 68).
 Elmer B. Smick, berît, TWOT #282a.
 Engyos, BDAG 271.
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