Jesus the Light of the World

Jesus is the Light of the World.  This is a phrase we hear often in describing who Jesus was or who he continues to be today.  We are going to dive into a couple different scriptures today as we look at this, but I want to start off with one of my favorite passages in all of the Bible.  This passage, along with the one before it, was the subject of my very first sermon.  It has been a passage that has helped to shape and direct me in my Christian walk throughout most of my Christian life.  We are turning today to Matthew 5:14-16 to talk a little bit more about Light.

Matthew 5:14-16 – 14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Today I want to talk about Jesus being the Light of the World and how he actually is not.  Now, before you all run me out of here for downplaying Jesus or preaching anything that isn’t the Truth of God, please allow me a few moments to explain.  To truly get what I’m talking about today, I want to talk just a little bit about the Trinity of Christian Doctrine.  That is the cue for a big exasperated sigh from the congregation.  I’m going to go out on a limb here today and say that the Trinity is the single most difficult piece of church doctrine that has ever been put out to the people in history.  To me, the answer that the church provided, in an attempt to explain the nature of God to the people, was more confusing than the question.  How can God be God, but also Jesus, but Jesus prayed to God, then came the Holy Spirit, which is also God, but not Jesus, but Jesus is God so maybe Jesus?

This is how I look at it and how I have grown to justify it in my faith.  How the three choose to interact with the world distinguishes which portion of the trinity they are.  For example, in creation, that was God.  Coming to earth and dying for us was the act of the living and breathing human, incarnate by God, but still human, Jesus.  Today, the spiritual force that acts and moves in our lives and in our hearts is the Holy Spirit.  We say that Jesus comes into our hearts, but Jesus was a person that died.  In truth, the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts. 

This is all semantics, of course.  All three are the God that we worship and the God that died for us on earth and the God that created all things.  The God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Moses, of Jesus. 

So why does this matter and what does it have to do with the scriptural passage today?  We have talked about Jesus being the perfect example of a servant in his life on earth and we have talked about how his death redeemed all of us from our sin.  However, today, Jesus is not the Light of the World.  Jesus tells us in John 9:5, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  This is the verse that people quote the second half of, but ignore the first part of the verse entirely.  Jesus is no longer in the world.  The Holy Spirit is in the world, but we are not talking about the Holy Spirit today or in any of the previous weeks.  We are talking about Jesus and the example he set for us. 

That’s why we have the passage we do today from Matthew.  Direct from the voice of Jesus, he tells the people that, “You (his followers) are the Light of the World.”  This passage is a part of the beatitudes, arguably Jesus’ most famous sermon; The Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus wants everyone to know that You, not him, are the Light that this world needs.  The followers of Christ, have the power to light up the darkness of the world in a way that Jesus, being only one person, could not.  Jesus knew the end of the story.  He knew he was headed towards death and that his message would spread only after he was gone.  The crowd gathered and the disciples he had with him were merely a drop in the bucket, compared to what his followers would do with his message once he was gone.

In Ephesians 5:8-the first part of 14, Paul writes, “8 For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— 9 for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. 10 Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; 13 but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for everything that becomes visible is light.”

Paul tells us in this passage that, because of our faith in Christ, and the redemption that he provided to us, we as his followers are now Light.  Paul goes on to encourage us and instruct us on how to live a life as children of Light.  We need to try to be pleasing to God and act as he has instructed us to act.  This passage in Ephesians, as well as the passage in Matthew, both tell us that we cannot be hidden or shamed by being Children of Light.  Matthew goes as far as to tell us that with that light, we cannot be hidden from the world. 

Has anyone ever gone on a cave tour, or even better, spelunking?  I went in high school with our wrestling team to Mammoth Cave and we got to go on a spelunking tour.  We crawled through streams and squeezed into passages that the general public doesn’t usually get into.  At one point, one of the people in the group that wasn’t a part of our team, was struggling to get through a particularly tight passage.  The tour halted for a while as the tour guides struggled to figure out a solution to the problem.  During that time, those of us that were still back behind the person, went off and turned off all of our helmet lights to see total darkness.  People, if you’ve never done this before, you have no idea what darkness is.  It’s not just a darkness that makes it so you cannot see, it is an oppressive darkness that has a feeling and a texture to it.  It’s hard to explain if you’ve not experienced it, but its just different than any other dark time you have ever been in. 

When Jesus and Paul speak about darkness in the world, that is the type of darkness that the enemy has put into our lives.  Life without Christ is a type of darkness that will oppress and weigh on you.  Not only can you not see any sort of light, you cannot escape the darkness in any way but through Christ.  But if you know and have Christ in your life, then you are a Light in the Darkness.  You can provide the light that others cannot find on their own.  Once one person turned their helmet light back on in that cave, we could all see just fine.  It didn’t take a huge group of us to light the room and drive the darkness away.  It only took one person. 

The Light that we have received from God, from the Holy Spirit, is a Light that we are directed in Matthew, to show to the entire world so that it may give Glory to God.  So for today, know that you are the Light of this World.  Jesus cannot be that Light today, except through you.  You have the power to shine that Light into a dark and depressing world and in that, give glory to God.  So have you been being a light?  Have you let your light shine on a lampstand for others to see?  Are you a city on a hill that cannot be hidden?  Or have you taken you light and hidden it under a basket?  Only you can answer that for yourselves.  I know that it can be scary and difficult to expose your faith to the world.  You could get ridiculed or have to sacrifice something worldly.  However, know that no matter how hard you think it will be to become a city on a hill, Jesus believed in you.  Jesus is the one that declared you to be the Light and he is counting on all of God’s people to spread the light to the edges and corners of the world that still live in darkness.  Jesus believed in you.  Be the Light that this World needs.