Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” – John 6:12
Jesus told his followers that they were to be the light of the world, not hid under a basket. They were to be a shining light so that the world might notice and glorify God who is in heaven. But we often find it difficult to be light.
Twilight is more our style. When was it more difficult to be light than on the darkest of all days? The day was at Calvary where Christ was crucified. Golgotha was a place of martyrdom and torment. It was the site of Christs crucifixion. The place of the skull, where Jesus was nailed to a cross?
A consideration of the crucifixion suggests total darkness; indeed, from the sixth to the ninth hour “darkness was over all the land” (Matt. 27:45). But note that even at this most desolate place, in that darkest hour, streams of light were evident.
First, through Simon, who happened to be passing through Jerusalem just when Jesus was being led under guard to Golgotha. Jesus, weakened by the beating He had received, stumbled under the weight of the cross which the Roman soldiers then compelled Simon to carry. What a fate, to carry the cross upon which God was to redeem humanity!
I wonder if Simon stayed to watch the subsequent gory spectacle, or did he run off to the safety and tranquility of home as soon as his burden was lifted? We dont know. The story doesn’t say.
We know only that as surely as Jesus bore our burden “in His body on the Tree,” Simon bore the tree. For that slight lessening of Our Lord’s suffering, Simon has earned the gratitude of Christians down the centuries.
I am sure that if I had been in Jerusalem, I would have betrayed Jesus from cowardice, as Peter did. I might even have been among the mob shouting, “Crucify Him, crucify Him.” But I know that I would have felt admiration, perhaps even a twinge of envy, had I seen Simon, merely a bystander made to carry Jesus’ cross. He was probably an African Jew, and as sometimes identified as struggling by carrying Jesus’ cross.
There was also light in the darkness when a Roman soldier, hearing Jesus cry from the cross “I thirst” (John 19:28), took a sponge and moistened it and touched it to Jesus’ lips.
Above a simple altar in Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying in Calcutta is engraved the words “I thirst.” A direct line can be traced from that Roman soldier who moistened Our Lord’s lips upon the cross, to the work of Mother Teresa, and countless other Missionaries of Charity.
Missionaries of Charity or “MC” as they are designated bring compassion in the middle of suffering. Though Mother Teresa always insisted that what she did was done not for some principle but for a person, the suffering Christ.
There were other pinpoints of light around the cross; Mary is mentioned, standing by the foot of the cross, with other women who had been following the Master. Of course they could not do anything; how could they? But sometimes all that any of us bring to a scene of suffering is our presence. We know that their presence mattered to Jesus because from the cross He spoke to them, showing His concern not for Himself but for theirs.
There is one more light in the darkness of Golgotha, the one hanging in similar agony right alongside. We read that two men were crucified with Jesus, and one of them said: “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Jesus’ reply was immediate: “Today you shall be with me in paradise.” These words must have given hope to that dying man, as they give hope to believers now and forever.
This is the light that we look toward and follow. We who believe that Christ is the light also believe that the light is meant for all people. We are not people of the darkness. We are full of meaning and light. There is no darkness in us as we are full of the love that Christ gives to us freely.
Christ did not say I am the light to you “except for.” We are welcomed and blessed by the light that is in our lives. Let it shine as witness to a world that is in need.
Ordained in August 2006, Rev. Suzie Chamness served as Senior Pastor of Spirit of Life MCC of New Port Richey, Fla., beginning in 2009, having served as volunteer clergy for the congregational care ministry at King of Peace MCC and as chaplain at Bon Secours Maria Manor senior care facility, both in St. Petersburg, Fla. In June 2006 she earned a masters of divinity degree from the Florida Center for Theological Studies in Miami, followed by a doctorate in ministry from Andersonville Theological Seminary.