2020 has been a turbulent year. Many have been hurt; many are suffering. How can we pass on God’s good news of hope?
Today we come to Jesus’ words, “You are the light of the world…”
His words are blunt, for in speaking of his people as ‘the light of the world’ the implication is
that there is a darkness about our human existence. Indeed, because we live in an age of relativism and tolerance, we don’t easily understand the moral darkness of life around us, let alone in our own lives. Part of the problem is that our culture says there are no absolutes.
Up until the 1970s morality in the West was grounded in the Judaeo-Christian ethic. But now all has changed. Few leaders in government or society would challenge the prevailing assumption that there is no morally binding objective authority or truth above the individual. Words such as true and false, right and wrong, have lost their objective meaning. Everything is relative. We live in a world without compass bearings.
Let’s think about this. In John 8:12 we read Jesus’s words: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Jesus was in the Jerusalem temple when he said this. It was the time of the Feast of Tabernacles when four huge oil-filled, elevated bowls were lit. Their spectacular light symbolized the coming of God’s Messiah.
Some 700 years before Jesus was born, Isaiah wrote of the birth of God’s King. In chapter 9 he speaks of the people walking in darkness and seeing a great light: On those living in a land where the shadow of death falls, a light has dawned. A child will be born. He will be called “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”
And in chapter 60 we read his wonderful words to God’s people in exile: Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
Isaiah is saying that the darkness God’s people were experiencing in the 6th century BC, would give way to light and hope. Bleakness would give way to glory. Isaiah envisioned God himself rising over Jerusalem, filling the whole of the city with the light of his presence.
Given Isaiah’s words, Jesus’ words in John 8 are electrifying. God, the source of all true light has come into our world in person. Jesus, the light who reveals God, calls us out from the darkness of our own ego into the light. “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life,” he says.
Indeed, in fulfilment of Isaiah’s promise, thousands were drawn to Jesus during his life. And since his death and resurrection, billions have been coming to him, worshipping him as the Lord and Savior of the world.
But how will our world today come to know him? “You are the light of the world,” Jesus says. “A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 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…” (Matthew 5:14-15).
‘Everything you are, everything you do,’ Jesus says, ‘must reflect all I have taught you.’ He expects us to reflect the light of God in our lives to the world. Yet do we? Do we endeavor to live out what he teaches in his Sermon on the Mount? Do we hide the light of our faith?
We often forget that God used his people to change the Roman world by the fourth century. This didn’t happen at the point of a sword, but through the works and words of his people. They didn’t hide the light of the gospel.
“Let your light shine before others,” Jesus says, “so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven…”
‘Live your life as I command,’ he says, ‘and others will be drawn to my light and love. It’s an awesome thought. And we’re all involved. When we are tempted to despair at the moral decline around us, we need to ask ourselves, ‘How do people see us? Just like everyone else, or as people who know the joy of God’s gospel?’
Jesus calls us to two tasks – to be salt and light. As salt we are to play our part in slowing down society’s decay. As light we are to bring people to God’s truth, with its hope and joy. Beware therefore of sin or compromise that reduces your Godly influence as salt. Beware of hiding the light of your faith through laziness or fear.
How are we to do this in a world that thinks it has all the answers? Ask questions. Ask if there is any real and long-lasting hope in life. Pray for an opportune time to ask a friend what they know of Jesus and if they would be interested in exploring John’s Gospel.
Pray for God’s grace that the light in your life will shine for everyone to see – in your kindness and care for others; in the way you cope with the challenges of life.
God’s desire is to bring many to the light of the Lord Jesus Christ. He plans to use our good works and our words to draw people to his light so that on the last day they too will glorify God. “You are the salt of the earth,… You are the light of the world.”