MATTHEW 5:14a(part two)-b
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 5:14a (part two) “Ye are the light of the world.”
This title, one of the most amazing things ever said about Christians, should always jerk our heads upward, and cause our hearts to soar. Before Jesus, this title had been reserved for Israel’s most learned and eminent Rabbis. People reverently spoke of brilliant Rabbis as the lights of the world. Jesus bestowed this hallowed title on ordinary people, common folk, believers committed to the Beatitude-life.
This may be the highest compliment Jesus gave His people, for in the title He in essence commands us to be what He is. He said, “I am the light of the world” (JN 8:12). By conveying the same metaphor on us, Christ made a statement about our unity with Him, of our being indwelt by Him. “Ye are the light of the world” says we enjoy such intimate fellowship with Jesus that He emanates from within us.
We believers do not produce our own light. God “hath shined in our hearts” (2 C 4:6). Only from within believers does Jesus’ light radiate. In nature, people can see God, but solely as a “Supreme Being.” Believers are the only channel through which Christ’s light shines to the lost.
What a wonderful thing it is to be a Christian. As “the light of the world,” believers are more important than angels or kings and law-makers. The latter are all important, and we honor them as Scripture commands, but they are not the lights of the world. “They do but sweep its house and arrange its furniture; but ours is the light without which men cannot truly live” (Spurgeon).
Light is the prerequisite condition for wise, positive living. Before proceeding at creation, God first said, “Let there be light” (GN 1:3). Without light all else would have gone awry. Plants would not have thrived, seeds would not have germinated, animals would have pined away. What was true in the physical creation is also true in the spiritual realm. Without God’s light as revealed in Christ through believers, all else goes haywire, order disintegrates, discord and confusion reign.
Without Jesus the masses are in a state of darkness, ignorance, and sin. As light, we are to make clear for them truths which are essential to enjoying life and which will otherwise be unseen. Due to the light given us by Jesus, only saints can explain salvation, plus clarify and resolve life’s ultimate situations and perplexities.
Do not be selfish. Show people how to enjoy life. Every believer is appointed a lighthouse to others, helping the lost at sea find a harbor. In someone’s night, be a beacon, lead wanderers to a place of rest. Be a cheering lamp, a guiding star.
May we be true lights, a revelation of how life ought to be lived, showing how wonderful life can be, regardless of the circumstances. Manifest the possibilities, what can happen if people seek to live life according to God’s dictates.
This can be a thankless task. Light is painful to eyes which have been long in the dark. Light can shock. It reveals everything, including deformities. The very purpose of light is to make visible, to manifest things as they really are, and sinful people in general do not want their imperfections exposed for what they really are.
“The world,” human society, loves to organize itself without reference to God. People create institutions, intentionally leaving God out, thereby blocking out the light Jesus sheds worldwide. If this pre-planned, resulting darkness is to be penetrated, individual light-bearers have to infiltrate inside the walls constructed by the lost. When unbelievers build intervening barriers to block out Jesus, believers have to find ways to get around these obstacles in order to enlighten blinded minds. People can close their eyes to light, and their hearts to truth, but may the blame always be on them. Let us make sure we did all we could to shine our light on them.
Matt. 5:14b “A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.”
Built of white limestone and set on hills, city walls and buildings were highly visible from afar in every direction. These towns were crowns of their districts, landmarks of a region. They arrested attention, and could not avoid being seen.
Jesus’ point in using this metaphor is obvious. The life He plants within us is meant to be conspicuous. Christ saves us to display us. The Christian life will manifest itself. It cannot be hid. This is part of the very nature of being born again.
Never think we have been called to a life of safety in secrecy. Our reputations have become, as it were, public property. We must be content to be seen, for our conduct will be watched, scrutinized. The eyes of the world are on us. Some will admire, commend, and seek to imitate us; others will envy, hate, and seek to berate us. From the world we will receive respect and reproach, but regardless of the response, we of necessity must occupy a conspicuous position and be seen.
It is no coincidence Jesus spoke of our being persecuted before He spoke of our being salt and light. A fear of persecution will make us want to stay in the salt-shaker, to be invisible, but this is not an option. Our mandate is clear, everyone in our social orb must know we are a Christian. Otherwise, we are failures indeed. “There is nothing in God’s universe that is so utterly useless as a merely formal Christian” (Lloyd-Jones). Ever be asking, what am I doing out there for Jesus’ sake? Just as salt which loses its savor becomes useless, even so light which ceases to be light has no value. “Its essential quality is its only quality, and once it loses that, it becomes entirely useless” (Lloyd-Jones).
One benefit of persecution is that it puts us in the eye and midst of a lost and dying world. It puts us right in the middle of the sphere where we need to have influence, where we can be salt and light. It allows us to be in the public arena where we can show a level of courage which captures the world’s attention. Only as we “play the man” before them do we have any chance of earning their respect. Cowardice and retreating gain us nothing but worse scorn and derision. People laugh at cowards, but have to take notice of courage. Paul had laid waste the homes of Jerusalem Christians. He was a wild man out of control, but haunted by the faces of men and women he had dragged off to jail, yet who remained resolute despite threat and sword. The resolute courage of Stephen surely added the final touch to a heart ready to explode and ready to be changed on the Damascus Road.
Harold Walker tells of Lord Shaftesbury–young, rich, nobility, brilliant, headed for a surely successful career in politics, but the call of the Lord Jesus came upon him to help the poverty stricken in the slums of London. He fought a terrible struggle within himself. Would he choose the popularity of politics or the unpopularity of helping the down and out? His inner agony climaxed one long night in which he uprooted his own desires one by one. Finally, in the early morning hours, he surrendered, saying, “Here am I, Lord, send me” to fight the battles of the poor. He became the friend of the dregs of society, and flung his life against the evil of child labor. For his efforts he was persecuted mercilessly by people in power. Many hated him and called him radical, but he nobly took their abuse. Their scorn and persecution threw him into the public eye, and London was forced to watch his life. When Shaftesbury died, all England turned out to honor him. The procession which followed him to his grave carried banners, reading, “I was a stranger and ye took me in.” “I was in prison and ye visited me.” “I was hungry and ye gave me meat.” Was everyone thrilled with all he had done? No. Did everyone agree with him on everything? No. Nevertheless, they all had to admit salt and light had been among them. Our resolve, when displayed in the midst of the world, forces the lost to think, to ponder, to consider what our Christ could maybe do for them. Let us resolutely be what we were created to be, a city set on a hill which cannot be hid.