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: Christ the Light
Now it was the particular achievement of Jesus Christ that he exposed the nature of the darkness in a way that had never been done previously. And of course, men hated him for it. One commentator has written:
The light which reveals the world does not make the darkness (it was there all along), but it makes the darkness felt. If the sun is hidden, all is shadow, though we call that shadow only which is contrasted with the sunlight; for the contrast seems to intensify that which is however left just what it was before. And this is what Christ has done by his coming. He stands before the world in perfect purity, and we feel as men could not feel before he came, the imperfection, the impurity of the world. The line of separation is drawn forever, and the conscience of men acknowledges that it is rightly drawn. Whether we know it or not, the light which streams from Christ is ever opening the way to a clearer distinction between good and evil. His coming is a judgment. The light and the darkness are not blended in him, as they are in us, so that opinion can be doubtful.1
Actually, the coming of Jesus into the world exposed the world’s darkness, even where men thought they had most light.
Let me illustrate this truth. When I was very young, I spent a number of summers at a Christian camp in Canada. Each summer my friends and I took several camping trips. The trips were fun, as I remember, but the sleeping accommodations were not. The ground was hard. Often it was damp. Generally there were rocks underneath the bedding. And I remember lying awake sometimes for most of the night talking or clowning around with the other campers. During a particularly long night we would play with our flashlights. We would shine them in one another’s eyes, and the game was to see which was the brightest. Generally, the one with the brightest reflector or the largest number of batteries won. Now obviously, the game could only be played in the dark. Eventually the sun came up, and after that the differences between the flashlights faded into insignificance by comparison.
That is what happened when the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world. And that is what men and women still experience today when they come face to face with him. As long as we live in the darkness and are never exposed to God’s light, you and I are able to compare the relative merits of human goodness and be totally oblivious to how much in darkness we are. We are able to see the difference between a three-battery character, a two-battery character, and one that has almost gone out. And we rate men accordingly. But thankfully, all of these distinctions fade away in the presence of the white light of the righteousness of Jesus Christ. For his coming and his presence reveal the depth of our darkness, the darkness of your character and mine.
What is your reaction to that? It can be one of two things. You can hate Christ for it, as many people have done. You can attempt to get rid of his presence in your life. When Jesus lived on earth those who felt that way in his time crucified him. Or you can do what he wants you to do. You can say, “Lord, I see now that my own works are far from perfect. If they seem bright to me, it is only because I am measuring them by my own low standard. I realize that they will never take me to heaven. I ask you to give me that goodness that I do not have, as you have promised to do, and remove my sin forever. For I believe in you and your work of redemption.”
If you say that, Jesus will do it. He is as good as his word. This is the reason he came. The Bible says, “For he, [God] hath made him [Jesus Christ], who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
1Brooke Foss Westcott, The Revelation of the Father (London and Cambridge: Macmillan and Co., 1884), 52.
How does Jesus’ coming into the world expose the world’s darkness?
What are the two responses that people show toward the coming of Christ? How do they demonstrate each response?
Application: Since you have become a Christian, what evidence do you have that the light of Christ has illumined the darkness that covered you before your conversion? What elements of the darkness no longer exist, and what elements may still be present that need to be dispelled?
Key Point: As long as we live in the darkness and are never exposed to God’s light, you and I are able to compare the relative merits of human goodness and be totally oblivious to how much in darkness we are.
For Further Study: Download for free and listen to James Boice’s message from John 1, “Light of the World.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)