“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16
In the first of these two passages, Jesus is the Great Revealer. In a marvelous figure, He gave us some some more deep insights into His character. John returns to that revelation in I John 1:5 and reminds his readers, “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” God is light, Jesus is the Light of the World, and we are the light of the world as we reflect Him who is the Light we all need.
Imagine what this meant to the early Christians of the first century. Imagine their lot. Many of them slaves and poor. Their homes imperfectly weatherproof. They had no books, no music, no fire, no light except a rushlight giving an unsteady glimmer while they partook of their food, waiting for the dawn of a new day. The spiritual darkness of others was more gloomy still. Circumstances forced early Christians to celebrate the birthday of Jesus, not at the time of year when He was actually born but when the Romans were having a pagan holiday. His actual birth was probably in April when the earth swung back again back to the light of spring.
What does the figure of Light mean and affirm for us? Almost every part of our enjoyment depends on the illumination of the sun or artificial light. Without the light and heat rays, darkness and death would reign. This was a bold assertion. Jesus was saying that He was as important to the moral and spiritual life of man as the sun to their physical life. Here Jesus reveals Himself to be the promised Sun of Righteous in Malachi’s prophecy: “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.” (Malchi 4:2)
We shall be led by the light just as Israel was led by the pillar of fire by night. Jesus promises that “he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness.” We hate things in our own lives about which the pagans had no conscience at all. Because Jesus has turned on such a light that dirty immoralities and dusty deeds seem wrong and are wrong. Let Jesus stand beside you, in imagination, as you do this contemplated thing, or take this risky adventure, or cover up your conscience with excuses and lies. In the light of His presence you will see what is wrong and realize it ought not to be there.
When we are brought into the light we “shall not walk in darkness” when we follow Him. To follow Him is the true deliverance from the midnight of the soul, the darkness of ignorance, the darkness of impurity, and the darkness of sorrow. To follow does not necessarily mean that we have reached our goal, but that our faces have turned to it and our heart’s desire is to attain it.
When we follow Him we become light to the world. We reflect Christ. We take the principles of the Christian religion into our everyday life, in society, in business, and in politics. Christ is either a stumbling stone or a sure foundation. Trusted, loved, and followed, He is light for our path. When He is neglected and turned from we stumble in the dark. Only the one who follows Him is given the light that he might not walk in darkness.