Sermon: Light of the World
Scripture: Matthew 5:14-16
In this week’s lessons we learn that as Jesus is the light of the world, so he calls us to be lights as well.
Theme: A Darkened World
When the Lord Jesus Christ described the proper function of his disciples in this world in the Sermon on the Mount, he made use of two sublime illustrations. The first was salt, as he said, “Ye are the salt of the earth.” We looked at that illustration last week. The second illustration was light, to which we come now. Jesus said, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16).
We need to look at these words carefully, for they are profound. And they teach the most important lessons about the nature of Christ and this world, the imperatives and strengths of the Christian life, and the obligation of a believer to remain in close fellowship with his Lord.
The first clear implication of Christ’s words is that the world is in darkness where spiritual things are concerned. The tragedy of the situation is that men actually prefer the darkness to God’s light. Several years ago, an old lady in the bush country of southern Rhodesia in Africa said to a missionary to that country, “You missionaries have brought us the light, but we don’t seem to want it. You have brought us the light, but we still walk in darkness.” She was speaking only of the life she knew in Africa, but her words aptly describe the reaction of all men to the light of Christ and to the Christian gospel. Jesus was the light of the world when he was in the world. Today Christians are the light of the world. But the tragedy of the world without Christ is that men actually prefer the darkness. That is, they prefer their own imperfect and sinful way of doing things to the perfect and holy standards of Jesus Christ.
It is a part of the problem, of course, that most men will not admit this. Not long ago Time magazine made some accurate remarks about the presence of sin and evil in America and the reaction of Americans to it. They would have been even more accurate if those remarks had been extended to the world in general. The magazine wrote, “It is the particular heresy of Americans that they see themselves as potential saints more than as real-life sinners.” It then added in reference to the young radicals of our society:
Today’s young radicals, in particular, are almost painfully sensitive to these and other wrongs of their society, and denounce them violently. But at the same time they are typically American in that they fail to place evil in its historic and human perspective. To them, evil is not an irreducible component of man, an inescapable fact of life, but something committed by the older generation, attributable to a particular class or the ‘Establishment,’ and eradicable through love and revolution.1
Unfortunately, evil is an irreducible component of man, and it is no less real simply because most men are unwilling to acknowledge it.
1Time, December 5, 1969, p. 27.
What does Jesus’ statement reveal about the world?
Why do people not want to admit they live in darkness, even when there is clear evidence for it?
Reflection: What does it mean to live as a city that is set upon a hill?