One of the most surprising things about what Jesus says is who he’s saying it to—a group of fishermen and tradesmen, former tax collectors and zealots; people that the religious leaders looked down on as insignificant. But Jesus says that His disciples, and only His disciples, are the light of the world.
The world needs us, but they don’t know it
The world is always claiming to be enlightened, or filled with light. But “the enlightenment” was also the time when the attack on the church began in earnest. In seeking to elevate science, human philosophy, knowledge and reason, they looked to them for their authority, instead of the Word of God.
Trying to remove ignorance is a worthy cause, as far as it goes, but ignorance is not the primary enemy to be dealt with: sin is the primary malady of humanity.
I am the light of the world
As beautiful and wondrous as nature is, it falls short, because we’re only seeing a fallen world. A world in darkness. And the further away people get from God, the darker it gets. Jesus said in John 8:12 “I am the Light of the world; the one who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” The Beatitudes were all about our lives as Citizens of Heaven and how blessed we are in light of the salvation that we have received, then we “are the light of the world” because we continue Jesus’ ministry. And why must we be first salt, then light? Salt is being different than the world around us through-and-through, and preserving and purifying the world around us. We must proclaim the light with our mouths, but first we have to make sure that our lives speak as much as our lips.
The light of wisdom
It is because we are different that we begin to have a new understanding of the world in Jesus. We learn a new Way of life. And of course, this makes no sense to the world. But notice that it’s this difference that allows us to be the light of the world. 1st Corinthians 1:18-21 describes how God has chosen the way of salvation through believing in Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection is considered foolishness by the world, but to those who are being saved, it is the most profound wisdom of God saying 18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the understanding of those who have understanding, I will confound.” 20 Where is the wise person? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has God not made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. God has chosen this Way of salvation that completely confuses worldly wisdom. It demands a reasonable faith, but faith all the same. Hebrews 11:3 says 3 By faith we understand that the world has been created by the word of God so that what is seen has not been made out of things that are visible. We literally must believe in something we cannot see. And the willful ignorance, the predisposition toward unbelief is what we, those who Jesus designated as the light of the world are to overcome.
Be the light
Like John the Baptist, we are to witness and testify about the light. As it says in the gospel of John chapter 1 vs. 6-8 6 A man came, one sent from God, and his name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. We must emulate our savior Jesus, and establish our lives according to the pattern that He has set. In 1 John 1 5-7 we find that the primary requirement for being the light Jesus has called us to be is to walk in the light ourselves: 5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. You can’t give away what you don’t already have. You can’t show people the light of Christ unless you have it yourselves, and are walking in the light. Sin in our own lives is the primary hindrance to our ability to effectively spread the message of Jesus as the light of the world. If we do not walk in the message that we’re trying to share, people will not receive it. And the extent to which we will be able to be the light of the world is completely dependent on our relationship with Jesus.
Light exposes the darkness
One of the effects of light is that it exposes and drives away darkness. The light reveals the truth, and so those who practice evil want to hide in the shadows. We want our deeds to be revealed in the light of God’s truth. Like David in Psalm 139:23-24, we will cry out 23 Search me, God, and know my heart; Put me to the test and know my anxious thoughts; 24 And see if there is any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way. how do we let God do this? Well, we pray, like David that God will show us, through His Holy Spirit within us which ways do not please Him. We also must seek the light by reading His word. Psalm 119:105 says Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path.
Remember that we are His priests. Malachi 3:3 tells us that 3He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness. Only the exact amount of fiery trial that is needed is applied at the right time to remove the dross, and not hurt the silver, and make our lives reflect the character of Jesus. Romans 8:29 9 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters; And we have to stay in the light—if we do not follow Jesus closely, then no matter how much polishing on the mirror has been done, no matter how much dross has been removed, then we will not reflect the light of Jesus as He wants us to. Walk in the light.
Light of the world
It’s not enough that we bear the light of Christ ourselves. As His disciples, we have been given a mission to proclaim Him. Mathew ends his gospel with the Great Commission from Jesus not to just keep the light within ourselves, but to proclaim it saying in Mathew 28:19 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” We are to make disciples. That is the heart of verse 19. Not converts, but disciples who are able to share the truth of God’s light with others. And the work that you, You church, have to do as the only light of the world is the most important work on earth to do, period. You are significant, because you bear the image of God as a human, and because only you can reflect the light of Jesus to a dark world. Be the light of the world, let the light that you have in Jesus shine out from you for the world to see.