Monday, May 22, 2017

"Light of the World"

When I think back to my childhood, I remember many times when my mother turned on the light. There were times when I was afraid of the dark, and she turned on the light to make the darkness flee. Then she got a broom and chased all the monsters out of my closet so that I’d feel safe. The light that she brought meant security. Then on birthdays, when Mom lit candles on cakes, the light that she brought meant celebration. Often after bedtime, I’d be huddling under my blankets with my own little flashlight, reading a book when I was supposed to be sleeping. When she’d come into the room and switch on the ceiling light, it would reveal not just what I’d been up to, but also that I’d been trying to hide it. In this case, the light that she turned on meant the discovery of sin, and subsequent judgment. In these three cases, Mom was the bringer of light. In today’s scripture, Jesus reveals Himself not just as the bringer of light, but as The Light of the World.

In John 8:12, Jesus was in the Temple. “Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, ‘I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.’”[i] What does He mean by this? The Temple itself was called The Light of the World, in part because of a huge candelabra that stood as its central lamp.[ii] Constructed with seven branches emerging from a trunk at the middle, the lamps at the ends of the branches made the metal bush to burn like the image of God that spoke to Moses in the wilderness. When Jesus said, “I am the light of the world,” He was saying, “I am the burning bush. I am the voice that spoke to Moses, and I am the light that still shines.”

The seven branches of the candlestick represent the seven spirits of God (Revelation 4:5), and the seven festivals in the Jewish Calendar. The Messiah is said to be the fulfillment of the feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Pentecost, Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles. John 7:2 says this took place during the Feast of Tabernacles, which is represented by the central lamp in the candlestick—higher than the others. Many Bible scholars believe Jesus was born at the Feast of Tabernacles, rather than on Christmas, a holiday of later invention. In some respects, this would mean that Jesus was looking at the lamp and saying, “Look—my birthday candles!”[iii]

Jesus came to shine light on people’s darkness. He is the candle and the lamp stand all rolled into one! John 1:4-5 says, “The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” Like my mom bringing light, Jesus’ light casts out spiritual darkness. Sometimes that light means security and peace. Other times, it means celebration, and still other times, it illuminates sin in our lives, highlighting our need to repent. The difference is that while my mom turned on the light, Jesus said that He is the light.

So, how can we understand Jesus as the Light of the World? Imagine the sun burning in the sky, with the sun’s rays shining down on the earth. There’s no difference between the sun itself and the sun’s rays—they’re made up of the same stuff. The sun is the source of the light, and the rays are the light. This is the same as God the Father, who is the Source, shining the Christ light down upon us. There’s no difference in essence between the Father and Christ, but Jesus is that beam of God, shone down upon the earth. If the Father is like the sun in the sky, and Jesus is the light, then the Holy Spirit would be like the act of seeing. Seeing happens when that light interacts with the human eye. In the same way, the Holy Spirit acts when the light of Christ is received in our souls. The Holy Spirit makes God a verb, causing us to respond to the action of God.

This is why Jesus said, “Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is unhealthy, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is (Matthew 6:22-23)!” This “eye” is symbolic of the soul. When your soul is healthy, the whole body is filled with the Light of the World. But when your soul is unhealthy, your whole body is filled with darkness. Some people think they have light—like me using my own little flashlight to read. But using that pen light was actually still relative darkness—just a dim glow that was actually an act of rebellion against bedtime. When we think we have light but are still in rebellion, our souls are in darkness indeed. Instead of darkness, Jesus wants us to open our souls that we might have the light of life. Jesus doesn’t judge—but sheds light on our lives to let our own deeds show themselves for what they are. Then, He calls us to choose the light over our own relative darkness.

After we choose that light, God wants us to pass it on. In Luke 11:33, Jesus said, “No one lights a lamp and then hides it or puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house.” Parents pass it on to children, who pass it on to the next generation. Believers share it with people in darkness, who come to the light and turn on the light for others. I pray that you, too, will become a bringer of the Light of the World.

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