When we think of light, we right away think of the sun. We’ve been taught that the sun is the center of the solar system and thus it is the light of the world. Some figures reveal the sun’s greatness.
But the sun, in spite of its greatness, is not the “Light of the World.” The “Light of the World” is the Son of God. Jesus declared himself to be such. He is the one who made the sun, for he existed with the Father in creation. He is also the one who with one bold stroke declared, “I am the light of the world.”
Though it is beyond our grasp, let us reach out by faith and try to understand some of our Lord’s meaning in this self-addressed metaphor of the Master. And let us ask ourselves, “Has the Son, Jesus Christ, had a great impact or influence on my life like that of the sun that shines on the earth?
Let’s, first of all, get a picture of Jesus as “The Light.” It is certainly not a claim that suggests that he walked around like a glowing light bulb, like some god all aglow. While on earth he had the natural appearance of a man. However, heavenly beings are described to us as displaying light – like the angel that came to Joseph and to Mary.
God himself is described as light, like in Ps. 104:2, “He wraps himself in light as with a garment.” With Moses, God shows him his glory but hides him in a rock so that he is only allowed to see God’s back (Ex. 33). In the book of Revelation, Jesus, the Son of Man, is described in this way, “His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance” (Rev. 1:16).
In addition, Jesus’ coming to earth was certainly accompanied by light. Concerning the angel that came to the shepherds announcing Jesus’ birth, Luke says, “and the glory of the Lord shone around them”(Lk. 2:9). A star shone over Bethlehem where Jesus was born. During Jesus’ life, his glory was revealed in the transfiguration experience when he became dazzling white. (Mk. 9).
So when Jesus said, “I am the Light of the World,” it was a statement about his glory, but it was also more than that. It was about what he came to do. Jesus says of himself in Luke 4, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And this is what characterized Jesus’ life on earth. Essentially his life was about bringing life to people. John 1:4 describes Jesus this way, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” He brought life. This means he brought hope and restoration to a world of hopelessness and brokenness. He freed some from the prison of sickness, others from the loneliness of being an outcast or low class, and a few from the grips of death itself.
By his teachings Jesus also freed people from ignorance concerning God, his kingdom, the meaning of obedience and the way of salvation. He also freed some from their sins by granting forgiveness. Most importantly, this life Jesus brings is rooted in his sacrificial act of offering himself on the cross to take away the guilt of sin. John declared, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). And Jesus says of himself, “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45).
Jesus came to display all the goodness of God through his caring acts toward people. He came teaching truth. And he came to bear the punishment for our sin. In all these ways, Jesus is the light of the world.
So, secondly, we want to see what effect the light has on us. One effect is that the light can be repulsive. Before Jesus proclaimed that he was “The Light of the World,” the scribes and Pharisees brought to him a woman caught in the act of adultery and demanded of him an opinion of her punishment in the light of Moses’ law.
Jesus stooped and wrote on the ground. Then he said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (Jn. 8:7). Then he wrote again, and when he looked up the accusers had fled one by one until only the condemned woman was left. The truth was that the Scribes and Pharisees did not like the light.
If you turn over a log in the woods, bugs will scurry everywhere, not because they fear you, but because light is repulsive to them. In the same way, the light of truth can be repulsive.
Two chapters earlier, Jesus had preached the crowd away. This is a foreign and unwelcome truth for our day. We want crowd-getters. We want members. We want to pack them in. But Jesus frequently thinned them out. It was this very quality of light that our Lord so vividly described in John 3:19-20, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”
Because of this repulsive effect, some reject Jesus. John 10:11 says, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” Can you easily think of a dying person refusing a doctor? Can you readily imagine a starving person rejecting bread? Yet, the Light was and is rejected by many.
People reject Jesus because they have a dark, sinful heart. Those who live in darkness do not want their evil deeds to be exposed. They don’t want to hear about trusting someone else besides themselves.
How about you? Does the call of Jesus and the truth of his Word repulse you in any way? Are you ever part of the crowd that gets thinned out. Is there some evil, some sin in your life you don’t want to admit? Jesus will not let you off the hook. He is the Light.
Light affects us in still a second manner. Light reveals truth. It reveals truth about ourselves. We never see ourselves truly until we see ourselves in the context of Christ. Sometimes it is hard to admit some of our imperfections, but when we compare ourselves to Christ and his Word we are confronted with our true selves. We are sinners in need of a Savior. It takes a good deal of humility to receive the light.
The light reveals truth about Christ himself. The Pharisees, as we read in John 8, had a problem with Jesus’ claim about himself. They wanted to argue by way of a legal standpoint. They wanted to discuss, not believe. They wanted a legal battle, not a saving moment. But Jesus confidently stated the truth about himself. John realized the truth, so he said, “Look, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” After the resurrection, the two who walked the road to Emmaus finally recognized Jesus in the light of his own revelation.
The light also reveals the truth concerning the way of salvation. John 8:12 says, “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” This means life in all its fullness. It means eternal life! It comes not by accepting a set of standards to follow, nor by our promise to be good. Eternal life is not inherited by birth, but by receiving Jesus. You trust in what he has done on the cross for you.
You trust that he has now left his Holy Spirit to guide and empower you for service. John 1:12 says, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” We can look to Jesus as someone who came to this earth to do great things and provide some humanitarian relief, but that won’t save us. We must open up our hearts and receive him. Many of you have. Give thanks for your Savior! Believe that he can change the heart of the most hardened sinner. If you have not received him, then may the light dawn on you today.
The light affects us in a third way. The light causes growth. As we take in the truth and the presence of Jesus, we grow and mature just as plants need sunlight to grow. The presence of Jesus in us changes us and purifies us. We blossom with godly character. We become rooted in the truth to withstand the storms and every wind of doctrine. And inside we are filled with joy, and thankfulness, and peace.
Growth comes by being guided by the light of Jesus in us. Jesus, who is also the Word, “is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105). There is a simple story of a man who drove his team and wagon swiftly and safely on a road through a dark forest. Afterward he was asked how he knew where all the trees were along the road so that he could miss them as he drove the narrow road. He replied that he did not know where they were. He added, “I looked up at the opening between the tree tops and knew that if I followed the light above I could be safe.” And that is how we find our way on our spiritual journey, we look to Jesus. When Jesus enters our hearts, it is no longer I who guides my life, but Jesus leads me. Today Jesus is our light like the pillar of fire and cloud that led the Israelites through the wilderness.
The fourth way the light affects us is that it gives reassurance. Like the light of the sun which warms us creating a place of peace, Jesus, the Light, brings us to a place of peace. We gain peace because the burden of sin is lifted and the path through life and to our eternal home is clear and sure and all mapped out for us. We are secure and that gives a warm feeling inside. It is like the comfort of seeing the light in the window of one’s own house after being gone.
Once we believe and understand Jesus as “The Light of the World” and are becoming truly human as God created us, then, finally, the light in us calls forth a certain response from us. We follow. We have the light and that light cannot be hidden.
Amazingly, Jesus shines through us to the world.
Like Moses, whose face glowed after being in the presence of God, we shine because we have the presence of Jesus. We may not feel very bright at times, but that is our weakness and not the Jesus within us. We dim, and squelch, and hide the light in us.
Without Christ in us, the greatest possible impact that we can have is like that of a large ship’s impact on the ocean. It leaves a wake, which may be impressive for the moment, but which is soon gone without a trace.
Jesus not only says, “I am the Light of the world,” but to the Christian he says, “You are the light of the world… let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven”(Mt. 5:14-15). It is only as we strengthen our relationship with Christ that we are lights to the world. And we must always remember that it is the light of Jesus that shines in us, not some self-created light.
So we live like Jesus, we fight the battles with darkness. We bring truth to the blind and ignorant. We bring hope to those burdened by sin. We bring acceptance to the forgotten and unloved. To those confused about life, we bring God’s word. To the sad, we bring joy. To the impatient, we bring a reason to be calm. Can your life be described in this way? This is the way the light can and should affect us.
The light also connects us to other individuals who believe;we become part of the church. We don’t stand alone to face the world. When we stand together as Christians and as a church, which is what Jesus wants, we shine even brighter and stronger.
I fear that people in the church today see the church as a “Stop-n-Go” or a “Food-n-Fuel.” We come to get refueled. We take and then we head back into the rat race of our lives. We don’t think about what we can give in terms of time, talents, or treasures, and we don’t think much about the people here in the church who are our brothers and sisters.
Is this the way it is for you? Never forsake the church. Help her be all that God intends for her to be, and if there is ever time where her light goes dim, be the bright burning candle to show the way again. The church, like the people of Israel, is to be a light to the nations. Live like a believer! Tell the good news! Light your torch from the eternal burning flame of Jesus and carry the light to the world, to family, and to friends.
Jesus said, “I am the Light of the World.” This is your Savior who died for you. He transforms us; he leads us. He is Light for everyone. Do you have him in your life? Receive Jesus as your light. Continue to look to him as your light. And then let him shine for you and through you. AMEN!
Minister Paul E. Jones, also known as “GraceWatcher,” is licensed and ordained by United Christian Fellowship of Danville, Virginia. Paul sings and ministers at the Metropolitan Community Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, and has written more than 30 books on spiritual and biblical topics.