Part 2 – You are light
We not only have the light. We are the light.
‘For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth).’ (Ephesians 5:8-9, niv)
You are light in the Lord.
This is how the story goes …
When Moses gave the people of Israel the ten commandments way back before Jesus after God had rescued them from slavery in Egypt, this is what he said:
Look, I now teach you these decrees and regulations just as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may obey them in the land you are about to enter and occupy. Obey them completely, and you will display your wisdom and intelligence among the surrounding nations. When they hear all these decrees, they will exclaim, ‘How wise and prudent are the people of this great nation!’ For what great nation has a god as near to them as the Lord our God is near to us whenever we call on him? And what great nation has decrees and regulations as righteous and fair as this body of instructions that I am giving you today? (Deuteronomy 4:5-8)
Jesus said: ‘The [Rule] of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!’ (Mark 1:15) But the ‘rule of God’ does not sound like good news to people. We assume someone ruling over us is a bad thing. And with good reason because most human authority is more or less corrupt. But Moses says that Israel is to life under the rule of God through obedience to his word. In this way the nations will see that God’s rule actually brings life and freedom and joy. They will see what it is like to know God – to have him ‘near’ to you.
Israel would be a light to the nations. They would show the nations the way. This was God’s missionary strategy. He would have a people in the world who would live under his reign. And the news of this wonderful people with their wonderful God would spread throughout the world. Everyone would want to discover more. Everyone would come to learn more about this amazing God.
And once or twice in Israel’s history it was like that. During the reign of Solomon, for example, we’re told, ‘kings from every nation sent their ambassadors to listen to the wisdom of Solomon.’ (1 Kings 4:34). The Queen of Sheba travels from the ends of the known world to meet Solomon and marvel at his kingdom.
But the sad truth is that most of the time, instead of attracting the nations to God, Israel was attracted to the nations and their gods.
So the prophets promised someone who would come and who would be a light to the nations as Israel should have been. This is what God says to this promised Servant:
I, the Lord, have called you to demonstrate my righteousness.
I will take you by the hand and guard you,
and I will give you to my people, Israel,
as a symbol of my covenant with them.
And you will be a light to guide the nations.
You will open the eyes of the blind.
You will free the captives from prison,
releasing those who sit in dark dungeons. (Isaiah 42:6-7)
You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me.
I will make you a light to the [nations],
and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth. (Isaiah 49:6)
A light to the nations. That was the promise: someone who would be a light to the nations as Israel should have been. With all that story in the background, Jesus stands up in Jerusalem and declares: ‘I am the light of the world.’ (John 8:12; 9:5)
‘I am the light. I am all that Israel was supposed to be and more. I am the one who makes God known. I am the truth, I am the revelation, I am the image of God. I am the one who reveals God’s goodness to people, who draws the nations to God, who enlightens the world.’
Jesus is the prophet of God, declaring his promises.
Jesus is the image of God, the exact representation of his being.
Jesus is the word of God, making God known.
To know Jesus is to know God (John 14).
But then listen. Jesus says to his new, rag-bag community of followers:
You are the light of the world – like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. (Matthew 5:14-16)
‘You are the light of the world.’ It is the same idea all over again. All that Israel was supposed to be – a light to the nation, drawing people to God, making God’s goodness known in the world – all of that is now true of you and me. You are the light of the world. I am the light of the world.
The story moves on to another chapter. Jesus is the light of the world. But now he tells us that we are the light of the world.
‘Let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.’ (Matthew 5:16)
‘Shine!’ That’s what Jesus tell us to do. Shine. Our actions, our words, our lives are to shine out in a dark world.
I often think of our neighbourhood on a dark, cold night as a kind of symbol of the darkness in which people live their lives. But around our neighbourhood, across our city, are little bursts of light shining in the darkness. You! Me! Our homes. Our families. Our church communities. You have been placed in your street and your workplace and your family to be God’s light in the darkness. Imagine your street on a dark night, but from your house light is streaming forth. That’s what’s happening at a spiritual level, in the heavenly realms. Imagine your workplace at night with the lights off, but from your desk or workstation light is streaming forth.
You are the light of the world.
Let your good deeds shine out for all to see.