Scripture: Matthew 5: 14-16

Title: Light


  • Introduction
  • Goodness
  • Security
  • Hope
  • Community
  • Visible
  • Conclusion


This morning we are talking about light

In Matthew 5 Jesus said to his disciples…

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good deeds and give glory to your Father in heaven.”


May the Spirit of Jesus illuminate our hearts with God’s word


What is light?

  • And what does it mean for Jesus to say, ‘You are the light of the world’?



If you Google a definition for light you will probably get a scientific answer

  • Something like, ‘Light is a kind of energy’
  • On one level this is true – light is a kind of energy
  • In fact, these days it is considered a very environmentally friendly energy
  • Unlike other forms of energy (like coal or gas or oil), solar energy is carbon zero and therefore not harmful to the planet
  • Light is a good kind of energy


The people of Jesus’ day didn’t have a scientific mind-set like we do but they would still have associated light with goodness (as opposed to evil) and so there is a connection here between the ancient world and the modern world

  • When Jesus says to his followers, ‘You are the light of the world’
  • We can take it to mean, ‘You are the goodness of the world’, in the sense that you are life-giving to the world
  • You are the good energy, the positive energy, the clean energy in this world


In verse 16 Jesus goes on to say, “…let your light shine before others so that they may see your good deeds and give glory to your Father in heaven.”


To my mind our good deeds are not the light

  • The light shines on the good deeds
  • Our good deeds are a product of the light
  • Just as sunlight (or photosynthesis) gives plants the good energy they need to grow and bear fruit
  • So too the light of God’s goodness causes good deeds to spring up everywhere


Letting your light shine doesn’t mean showing off your good deeds

  • When people put on an act or make a show of doing good works to make themselves look good – that’s not light, that’s darkness
  • But when God’s goodness shines out of us then people will see our actions in that light and praise God


You see, we don’t produce the light ourselves

  • God produces the light and we are His light bearers
  • In one of his letters to the Corinthians the apostle Paul writes…


For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. [1]


In other words, Jesus is the light showing us what God is like

  • To know Jesus is to know God and to know God is to know you are loved
  • God produces the light and we are His light bearers


So, we the followers of Christ are the bearers of light (or good energy) in this world

  • How exactly does this good energy manifest itself?
  • Well, one thing light does is to provide security




These days many people have security lights outside their homes

  • So when it is dark and someone walks up to their house a sensor is triggered and the security light goes on
  • This helps the home owner to feel safer, more secure


Although, Jesus’ original audience of 2000 years ago didn’t have security lights like we might, light was still a source of security to them

  • Where there is light evil cannot hide
  • Where there is light things can be seen as they are and fear cannot play on the imagination


And so, ‘You are the light of the world’, can mean ‘You are the security of the world.’

  • In others words, the followers of Jesus are like a warning light
  • When there is movement and change in the world we shed light on that change
  • Not all change is bad of course, some change is good
  • The point is, being the light of the world means we (the church) have a role when it comes to interpreting the events in our world
  • We have something to say about whether the change is friend or foe
  • Whether it should be welcomed or warned against


What we note here is that the security light is truth or wisdom

  • God’s government is different to the governments of this world
  • Most governments try to make their country secure by military might
  • The security Jesus offers is not found in armies or missiles
  • The security Jesus gives is found in the light of truth & wisdom



Another function of light is to guide people

  • Traffic lights serve as a kind of guide when you drive your car
  • They tell you when to stop, when to slow down and when to go
  • They enable us to make safe passage – saving us from accidents


In the ancient world they didn’t have traffic lights, but they did use the light of the stars to guide them in their travels, whether on land or sea


The prophet Isaiah says of the servant of the Lord…

  • “I will make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth” [2]


‘You are the light of the world’ therefore means Jesus’ followers are the hope of the world – because we possess the knowledge of salvation


In the 1950’s a scientist by the name of Curt Richter took some rats and put them into a high-sided bucket of water that they couldn’t escape from and timed how long it took for the rats to drown.

  • It wasn’t long – an average of 15 minutes for the rats to give up, stop swimming, and sink.
  • He then repeated the experiment with a new group of rats and a new twist
  • In the second instance, he “rescued” the rats just after they had given up swimming, again, at around the 15 minute mark.
  • He let them dry off, he fed them some food, allowed them to recuperate
  • And then he threw them back into the bucket of water.
  • The amazing result was that these rats were then able to swim for up to 60 hours before giving up.
  • That’s a big difference – 15 minutes compared to 60 hours.


Curt Richter attributed the rat’s new found stamina and survival skills to “hope”

  • The experience of being saved gave the rats energy to hang on longer
  • Because they had been saved once they expected to be saved again


Now this little illustration could be misunderstood

  • We are not rats and God is not a scientist doing experiments on us
  • We are human beings and God is a loving Father to us
  • The point is, the experience of salvation gives us human beings hope
  • It gives us the energy not to give up but to carry on


The thing I find most interesting about Curt Richter’s experiment is that the rats were saved at the point of giving up

  • It was when hope had died that they were pulled out of the bucket
  • The experience of being saved after they had given up had the effect of resurrecting hope
  • And resurrected hope is far stronger than ordinary hope


Have you ever noticed how God’s timing is very last minute, perhaps even after we think it’s too late

  • You remember how Jesus waited four days before raising his friend Lazarus from the dead
  • He could have prevented Lazarus from dying in the first place – but he didn’t – Jesus waited until people had given up hope
  • Why – perhaps he wanted to resurrect their hope at the same time as raising Lazarus. Resurrected hope is far stronger than ordinary hope


What was it Jesus said?

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
  • Or as Eugene Peterson puts it…
  • You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and His rule.


In John 8, verse 12, Jesus says of Himself…

  • “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”


The light of life is hope

  • To walk in darkness is to have no hope


The followers of Jesus are the hope of the world, at least in the sense that we possess the light of the knowledge of salvation

  • Once we have experienced God’s salvation – once we have lost hope and had God resurrect it again – we become a beacon of hope to others, the light of life guiding people to God


If you follow Jesus then you are the light of the world

  • You are the good energy of the world
  • You are the security of the world – a security based on wisdom & truth
  • You are also the hope of the world – the light of life
  • More than all this though, you (plural) are the presence of Christ in the world



Earlier in the service we sang a classic church anthem…

  • “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine”
  • There is much about this song which is good and true
  • But it can also mislead us into thinking that we shine our light in isolation, as individuals


Straight after saying, ‘You are the light of the world’, Jesus follows with two images of light bearing: a city on a hill and a lamp in a house

  • The image of a city gives the impression of a community of lights shining in the darkness
  • While the image of a lamp in a house gives the impression of a family sharing light together


Yes, the light of Christ does need to shine in our heart personally

  • But Jesus does not intend for us to shine our light by ourselves, in isolation from other Christians
  • As followers of Jesus we are not a solitary candle in the wind
  • We are the light of the world together


So we don’t just let ‘my little light shine’ – we let our light shine as a community of faith

  • We model goodness, security and hope in our relationships with each other
  • We love one another – for by this will all men know you are Christ’s disciples



Jesus uses the images of a city of lights on a hill and a lamp in a house, to encourage us to let our light shine – not to hide it

  • After all, the purpose of light is to be seen – to stand out in the darkness


Most evangelical preachers will say at this point that, ‘as Christians we are to be in the world but not of it’

  • We are not to assimilate ourselves to the values of this world
  • Our values and therefore our behaviour should be distinctive
  • But nor are we to isolate ourselves from the world either
  • We should mix with people while staying true to who we are


While all of that’s true I think Jesus had more in mind than simply our function as light bearers to the world

  • By telling us to, ‘let our light shine’, I think Jesus wanted to give us a defence against shame


Last Wednesday Robyn went to the College with pretty much every other teacher in Tawa to participate in a restorative practice training day

  • During one of the workshops she attended, Mark Corrigan spoke about brain development and shame


Mark said that shame thrives on three things:

  • Secrecy, silence and stigma
  • The way to kill shame is to break the silence
  • When you reveal your secret with someone and they show you empathy, then shame loses its power – empathy kills shame


While Mark Corrigan didn’t relate this to the gospel – I saw a connection with the message I was preparing for this Sunday

  • Just before Jesus tells his disciples that they are the ‘salt of the earth’ and the ‘light of the world’, he says…


“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”


Jesus seems to be saying here, ‘Look, people are going to try to shame you because of me. Don’t give in to that shame by hiding away’

  • Shame thrives on secrecy, silence and stigma
  • Shame can’t stand the light
  • So let your light shine
  • Don’t keep your relationship with Jesus a secret


Do you remember that story in the gospels of the woman who had a problem with bleeding for 12 years [3]

  • She was so ashamed she crept up behind Jesus and touched the hem of his cloak quietly, secretly, in the hope of being healed
  • And she was healed of her bleeding in that instant – but not of her feelings of shame


Do you remember what Jesus did next?

  • He invited her to let her light shine
  • Jesus stopped and said, ‘Who touched me? I felt power go out from me.’
  • At first the woman was silent but Jesus was patient and waited
  • Eventually she came forward & confessed to having touched Jesus’ cloak
  • And Jesus said, ‘Your faith has healed you. Go in peace.’


Jesus didn’t do that to embarrass her

  • Jesus gave her the opportunity to rid herself of the feeling of shame by breaking the silence and letting the light of her faith shine
  • And when she did speak up Jesus demonstrated empathy and honoured her publicly by commending her for her faith
  • Empathy kills shame



If you follow Jesus then you are the light of the world

  • You are the good energy, the security and the hope of the world
  • You are not the light on your own but through the power of God and in community with other believers – like a city of lights on a hill
  • Although some in this world will misunderstand our light and try to make us feel ashamed of it, we must let our light shine, without shame


Let us pray…



[1] 2 Corinthians 4:6-7

[2] Isaiah 49:6 (see also Isaiah 42:6-7)

[3] Luke 8:40-48