When I was in the naval reserve, I was on the emergency response team. We were trained to respond to any emergency that might happen while at sea: a breach in our hull, medical emergencies, and fire fighting. I remember the first time I went into the training center and we were suited up in our fire fighting gear, given the equipment we would need, and then sent into a burning building that simulated a ship’s engine room. It was so dark we couldn’t see our hands in front of our masks. The first few moments were spent fighting the panic that arose because of the pitch blackness, then as we opened the hatch, the flames provided us with some light and there was actually relief at having the light from the flames, even though fire is a serious issue on a ship. Our training officer talked us through this afterwards, and mentioned how the very fire we have to fight also gives hope that we could fight it because it gave light when all the power was shut off to that area. Whenever I read about light in the Bible, I remember that experience because the darkness was so overwhelming.
This is a short parable, it’s more of an image or picture instead. It’s also tied to the parable of the farmer sowing seed, sowing the word of God, that we looked at last week. Jesus ties them together by repeating the importance of hearing and listening. Jesus ends the parable before by saying, “The seed on the good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” In this parable or picture, Jesus ends it by warning us, “Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken away.” That feels so unfair! Now Jesus calls himself the light of the world in John 8, John the Baptist who prepared the people for the coming of Jesus said about Jesus, “the true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” Now since Jesus is the light of the world and giving his light to us and we’re concealing it, why would he keep giving it to us?
Light is a powerful image in the Bible. When Jesus calls himself the light of the world and says that his followers will never walk in darkness but have the light of life, he’s talking about heart and life stuff. We talk about the darkness in our souls and hearts when things are really hard and hope feels far away. We talk about darkness when we hear about evil going on in the world. Then there are those times when we want to strike out with everything we have because of hurt or anger and we recognize that there is even the possibility of evil inside our own souls. This is why it’s important to allow Jesus to have your heart and life to chase that darkness out of you. The darkness retreats when you allow Jesus’ words, his teaching, his life, his call to love even your enemies to shape your response to the world, to shape who you are. Our world has a hard time with evil, not wanting to seem judgmental or racist or whatever, but Jesus offers a different approach, focusing first on our own hearts and then working to shape the places he places us so they’re places of fairness, righteousness, justice, grace, encouragement, love and health.
Darkness hates light because light exposes evil and darkness for what it is and drives it back. The darkness tried to snuff out the light of the world by nailing Jesus to the cross, branding him a traitor and blasphemer. But the darkness didn’t realize that on the cross the light of the world shone even brighter, taking our sin in himself so that we are washed clean, bathed in light and made right with our father in heaven again, forgiven and free from the darkness sin creates in us. When the darkness claimed victory over the light, the light shone even more radiantly into every corner of the universe, defeating and driving the darkness back.
When Jesus says, “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead they put it on a stand so that those who come in can see the light.” You can almost see Jesus do a forehead slap kind of thing. This is a ‘Duh!’ kind of statement, like why even bother wasting the fuel and risking burning down everything you own, risking harm to your family and loved ones if you’re not going to use the lamp for what it’s meant for. So, what’s this lamp light that Jesus is referring to here?
Light is Jesus and the hope he offers because he chases the dark away. A tiny light can be seen from a long way away. In the dark our eyes search for light. On cloudy nights when the stars and moon are hidden behind thick clouds and you’re far away from the city lights, you can feel the darkness settle over you and your eyes instinctively search for light. This is why light houses were so important because in storms, when darkness was deep and heavy over the water, the beam of light from the light houses could cut through the darkness and warn and guide the ships into safety. It’s the same in our hearts and lives, even when everything seems dark and hopeless, we can’t seem to help but to keep searching for hope, for light to shine into our troubles and chase them away, our hearts keep searching for Jesus even when we don’t realize it at first.
People will look for that light from governments, justice systems, and other people, but the better light, the light that can shine into every corner of our hearts and lives and chase the darkness completely away is Jesus. When you accept Jesus as your Lord and Saviour and offer your life over to him, his light floods into your life. Your circumstances may not change, but the darkness that creates fear and feelings of helplessness begins to be driven back by the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ because you don’t walk alone because Jesus is always with you and changes you and your heart as you embrace him closer and closer. He calls you to hear the word of God and put it into practice. These are those whom Jesus calls his mother, brothers and sisters, his family, as he tells us a few verses later.
The light of Jesus is welcoming. Jesus talks in this short parable about people coming in, experiencing hospitality and acceptance and a place to rest with others. This is about relationships, we’re created to be in community and Satan tries to isolate us, make us feel as if we are alone. Jesus spent a lot of time around dinner tables, a natural place of hospitality with those who were considered outsiders and sinners bringing hope and light into their lives. The light of Jesus brings clarity into our lives, guiding us, showing us ways forward that bless us and others.
In Matthew 5, Jesus calls us the light of the world. We have the gospel message that God never gives up on us, desires a relationship with us, and goes to the cross to let us know that. Jesus calls you to let your light shine before people, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Our good deeds show Jesus’ love in our world, helping us build relationships so that we can share the light of the world, Jesus, with them, inviting them to accept Jesus and to let his light shine in their lives as he does in ours.