In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matthew 5.14). Is everyone the light of the world? Are only a few the light of the world? But didn’t Jesus say, “I am the light of the world”? (John 8.12a). If Jesus is the light of the world, how can others be the same? Our thoughts will focus on these questions?
First, it is obvious that the light that is being spoken of is not physical light, but spiritual in nature. When Jesus said that He was the light of the world, He followed it by saying, “He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8.12b). The light that is under consideration has to do with one’s enlightenment in the things of the spirit of man and the relationship that he is capable of sustaining with his Creator.
Having said this, it also becomes obvious (or at least it should) that not every one is light! Quoting Jesus we have, “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3.19). And again, “A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going.” (John 12.35).
Inasmuch as not everyone is light, how large or small is the number of people who can or could be classified as light? Historically, this number has always been relatively small. But as for the time in which Jesus lived, He said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7.13-14). Light isn’t determined by the majority! This is a lesson for all time. Light is determined by the Creator of Light!
Jesus did, in fact, claim to be the light of the world, and that claim is not in conflict with what He told His disciples during the mountainside lecture. They could be light, or they could choose not to be light. They could let their light shine, or they could choose to cover it with a basket. He was speaking to them from the standpoint of their conditional potential. If they followed Him, they would be the light of the world. If they followed Him, they would be a city set on a hill. Take away the conditional element and the force of the Sermon is lost. His call was for followers and not independent free-thinkers who worked out their own system of righteousness. That system had been tired and failed miserably. Jesus came to introduce men to the light so they could exit the darkness that engulfed them. This was in keeping with the Old Testament prophecies that went before concerning Him. “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.” (Matthew 4.16).
But if Jesus is THE [exclusive] light of the world, how can others also be light? This is a valid question, but it is also one which is easily answered. Jesus is THE exclusive light of the world; others become light as they reflect Him! We have NO light in and of ourselves. Only when we recognize this truth can we prepare ourselves to reflect the light of Jesus Christ. This is all part of denying self and following Him. The Beatitudes were spoken to men who were morally and spiritually bankrupt and who recognized their wretched condition. In so doing they became salt and light!
The question that each must ask is this: Am I willing to put away my own feeble lamp in order to reflect THE light of the world? It truly is the difference between daylight and dark!
1. Why do you think Jesus chose light as the metaphor to illustrate His point?
2. If men do not have the ability to choose light over darkness, why admonish them to let their lights shine? Or, chastise them when they embrace darkness rather than light?
3. What are some practical ways in which believers can allow Christ to be reflected in our lives? On the flip side, how do we frequently fail to reflect Christ in our actions?
4. When could it truthfully be said that the majority decided what was right and wrong?