Jesus made this point to His disciples during the Sermon on the Mount. He said, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a [bushel]. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your father in heaven”—Matthew 5:14-16, NIV. Light is important to all of us. Darkness brings fear, gloom, and sadness. In the wintertime I sometimes have to get up early and drive in the dark to get to my appointment on time. It is sometimes a challenge to drive in darkness, but when daylight breaks, I feel happy, energetic, and can drive faster because I can see my way better. Light brings joy, happiness, and hope to me.
The Bible says that God created light first when He formed this world. He said, “Let there be light, and there was light”—Genesis 1:3. Our life and existence depends on light. Without light, plants, animals, and humans cannot live long.
When Jesus was on this earth, people knew more about darkness than we do today. In those days there were no street lights or lamp posts. At night people avoided traveling because harm could come to them. We complain if there is no sun for few days or when a storm cuts all electrical power. We are fortunate that we have more light now because of advancements in technology.
When Jesus was telling them that they should be a light of the world, He was probably also pointing to the hills and mountains, telling His disciples to be like the villages that had oil lamps or candles on the side of the hill to guide the travelers.
In Jesus’ time, people placed the lamps on stands to give light to the whole area. When they left home at night, they would place the lamp in an earthen vessel for safety reasons. As soon as they returned home, they would place the lamp back on the stand.
Psalms 27:1 says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” In other words, the Bible is saying that Jesus is the light of all mankind. He is the light of the whole world. John the Baptist declared that he himself was not the light; he was only a witness to the light.
Jesus, the true light, was in this world. He was among them, walking with them, teaching them, and preaching to them, but they did not know it. He came to His own and His own did not recognize Him or receive Him. Jesus said “I am the light of the world, He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life”—John 8:12, NJKV.
Just as the sun provides physical light to the world, Jesus, the Son of God, is the spiritual light of the world. The church exists to glorify the Son of God, the light that has come into the world to overcome the darkness of sin and death. It is only as the light of Christ shines into our lives that our lives will have meaning and purpose.
Jesus said that we are the light of the world. What an amazing compliment and what an awesome responsibility. We, as His followers, ought to bring this light to the world in the community in which we reside. Jesus’ life was not focused on His needs, but the needs of others around Him and around the world. We need to share the light that He has given us with others and be true disciples.
We shine God’s light on people’s lives by the good we do, the godly example we set, and the positive difference we make. What a privilege and an awesome responsibility. Are we doing our part being the light to our community?
Leon Thomassian is the Atlantic Union Conference treasurer and trust services director.