A middle-aged businessman rang me in the early hours of the morning with a strange request. Would I name some new development after him, if he sent me a cheque bearing half the proceeds of the sale of his large home? I knew immediately, this was not the issue. The issue was probably his marriage had dissolved, his family had broken apart, he was obliged to give his wife half the value of the matrimonial home, and that he was depressed, tired of life, and after some more drinks would kill himself, content his name would be remembered.
I questioned him along these lines and he remarked about how perceptive I was. He did not know how frequently I have had such discussions in the early hours. I asked him if he was considering suicide to ease the pain. He replied quoting from what he had learned at school or university:
"Long I have been half in love with easeful Death...
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!"
It was midnight in his soul. A battle between darkness and light was being waged. In counselling, he accepted another option that emphasised life and hope. Wesley Mission did not receive the cheque. Today he is getting on with the business of living. I may never hear from him, or maybe, as happened a few weeks ago, I will get into a cab and the driver will say "Gordon Moyes. My lucky day. You saved my life one night fifteen years ago, and today whenever I have a depressed passenger I tell them what you told me: "There is hope! There is light in your darkness!" Do you know people like that?
The battle between light and dark is as old as creation. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 3 And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness." (Gen 1:1-3) Light was created by God who challenged the darkness which engulfed the existing chaos and obstructed any ordered progress.
Light enabled the great creative and growth processes. God was the source of both light and growth. In the Bible, light represents what is compatible with God, and darkness is symbolic of the evil forces opposed to God. John's vision of the end of the world has Babylon, the symbol of godlessness, consigned to darkness (Rev. 18:23), while God's people are bathed in the light of His glory.
In the New Jerusalem, "The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light.. and there will be no night there." (Rev 21:23-25) God was always associated with light: "The LORD is my light and my salvation-- whom shall I fear?" (Ps 27:1). Jesus said: "Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." (John 3:19-21). John summed up the coming of Christ: "This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all." (1 Jn 1:5).
God is the "Father of lights" (Jam 1:17), who dwells "in unapproachable light" (1 Tim 6:16). Christ, the Son of God, is light. Jesus taught moral excellence is the product of the light He possessed. Do you know the followers of Christ are lights because of their moral character, which reveals hidden defects in the lives of those around? (Matt 5:14-16)."You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
The people of light are opposed to people of darkness, "giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light". (Col 1:12). God's people have been "called out of darkness into his wonderful light." (1 Pet 2:9). The Christian life is an enlightened life, with knowledge of Christ and His salvation.
But nothing surpasses the claim Jesus made in Jerusalem before those who hated him: (Jn 8:12) "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will Have the light of life." Do you think that people who are living in dark depression could be comforted by this thought of Jesus emlightening their way? Jesus was at the Feast of the Tabernacles which was a national holiday for seven days. People lived outdoors in booths made of palms to remind them of their nation's origins in wilderness when the light of a pillar of fire guided them. Pottery lamps with a pinched spout and flax wicks (Isa 42:3) burned olive oil or fish oil. Outdoors the torch was used (Jn 18:3).
Do you know the shape of a Menorah, the golden seven branched lampstand placed in the tabernacle? (Exo 25:31-40) The seven-branched candlestick or menorah is the symbol of the nation Israel. In 1970 Israeli archaeologist Nahman Avigad excavated the remains of houses destroyed by fire dating in the Revolt of 66-70AD. (Biblical Archaeological Review, Ed H Shanks Dec '83) In "The Burnt House" which carried the name "Belonging To Bar Kathros" the High Priest twentyfive years after the death of Jesus, a menorah, was incised into the wall. This was when the Menorah was still used in the Temple and is the earliest depiction of the Menorah in Israel's history.
In the Tabernacle and in Solomon's Temple there were ten lampstands to give light at night. But King Herod used the latest technology when he built his Temple. It was dominated by one large seven-branched Menorah and four high lampstands. The Menorah was taken by the Roman General Titus to Rome with the spoils of war. When the triumphal Arch of Titus was built in 70 AD in the Roman Forum showing the procession of victory, there was carved into the relief a depiction of Jewish slaves carrying the huge Menorah. This can be seen in the Roman Forum today. The Menorah stood in the Temple of Peace for four centuries until 456AD when the Vandals under Genseric sacked Rome. He took it to his headquarters in Carthage, North Africa, where it was lost to history. (Blaiklock)
At dusk priests climbed ladders up the Menorah and the four huge candelabra, the size of tele-graph poles and lit the floating wicks. It was said "All of Jerusalem reflected the light." Would not that light have comforted people lost in darkness?
Jesus is depicted often in John as the light of the world. (Jn 1:4-5,7-9;3:19;8:12;9:5;11:9-10;12:35-36,46) This was a claim to be God's Messiah and Son. John tells us Jesus delivered his final speech standing precisely by the lampstands. He offered Himself to enlighten our way. "Follow me and you will find your way out of the darkness of your directionless existence. I am the light of the world. Just as the pillar of fire guided your forefathers to the promised land, I can guide you to life." Do you see that direct confrontation between Jesus and the leading Jews now was inevitable? They felt they just had to stop His growing popularity. So they launched a public assault on him. Jesus gives as good as he gets in this exchange of verbal fireworks. He calls them liars, would-be murderers, and children of the devil.
Can you see how this embarrasses the liberal theologians of the Jesus Quest? They prefer a quiet Jesus, a sage, a wandering cynic, or an exorcist. Their views are inadequate! Jesus so enraged His opponents they picked up stones to pelt him. Jesus was a controversialist. There is an escalation of violence that would end with His crucifixion. Why did Jesus claim to be the light of the world? What does it mean that Jesus can enlighten out way?
1. JESUS IS THE SOURCE OF LIFE.
Jesus claimed to be the source of life: "the light of life." All food is produced by light. All oxygen is produced by light from growing plants and plankton. Jesus claims we depend upon Him for food and air. Paul stated that "in Him we live, and move and have our being." (Acts 17:28). Can you see Jesus is the sole source of our spiritual life? "I am the way, the truth, and the Life; no-one comes to the Father but by Me." (Jn 14:6)
2. JESUS IS THE SOURCE OF GROWTH.
This earth is rich in all forms of growth on land, sea and in the air. Is not light the source of all growth? Plant life, animal life, sea life, bird life, human life, all life grows because of the benefits of light. Jesus is the source of growing life to the spiritual seeker. Light is the fundamental constant of nature. Can you see Jesus, the same yesterday, today and forever, as the fundamental constant source of all spiritual growth?
3. JESUS IS THE SOURCE OF ILLUMINATION.
Light illumines everything and in so doing guides, reveals and dispels. So Jesus illumines our lives. He guides, reveals and dispels. So we sing: "Lead kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom, lead Thou me on." Professor Carl Jung said "The sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being." Without light, the world would merely exist. Those in spiritual darkness merely exist. They do not have life. Can you see Jesus as the source of our light in the darkness of mere being? Can you see Him as the source of illumination?
4. JESUS IS THE SOURCE OF ENERGY.
Again, doesn't all energy come from light? Some is stored as fossil fuel: energy in coal, petroleum, oil, natural gas, uranium. Energy is found directly in light: solar energy and the energy of light travelling in a system of particles and curves - constant energy! Light waves invisible to the eyes is energy available if we will receive it. Can you see Jesus as the Light of the world, energy for those who need power to cope? Paul wrote: "I can do everything through him who gives me strength ...energises me!" (Phil 4:13). I know hundreds of people coping with trauma, who say, "It is my faith in Jesus that enables me!"
5. JESUS IS THE SOURCE OF SIGHT.
Doesn't light enable our eyes to function? Jesus fulfils the reason for our creation. He gives insight to our real nature as God's children not just God's creatures. Every animal is a creature, but Jesus helps us realise our destiny not as a creature but as a child of God. Jesus gives sight to the spiritually blind. "This one thing I know, once I was blind but now I can see!" Can you see Jesus as the origin of inner sight? Light can be reflected, so His life can be seen in you. Light can be absorbed, so His life can dwell in you. Light can be refracted, so His life shines through you in full radiance!
Years ago I buried Mrs Blanche Markey. Her husband, Tom Markey was blind and totally dependent upon her. He took his blindness badly. His wife wore herself out looking after Him. On her death he was devastated. Everything was black. He groped in the darkness. I visited him regularly and Tom came to faith in Christ. Now everything looked different! He had a new vision of himself, his wife and their future together in eternity. He sang long forgotten hymns. Ten months later he died. Before his death he asked me to bury him, to tell the people his life had been changed by Jesus and ask them to sing this hymn: "Once I was blind, but now I can see,,BR>
The Light of the world is Jesus."
Jesus is the light of the world. Can you see He is our source of LIFE, GROWTH, ILLUMINATION, ENERGY, and SIGHT? Children may fear the dark but nothing is worse than an adult who fears the light. Accept Christ as the Light of life and say "Once I was blind, but now I can see"! Your commitment to Jesus can make the difference. As my taxi driver found: "There is hope! There is light in your darkness!"
REFERENCES USED IN THIS SERMON:
DICTIONARY OF BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY E M Blaiklock Zondervan 1983
NEW INTERNATIONAL COMMENTARY:JOHN L.Morris Eerdmans 1971
THE FIVE GOSPELS R W Funk, R W Hoover Macmillan 1993
THE TRUTH ABOUT JESUS P Barnett Aquilla 1994
JESUS UNDER FIRE M J Wilkins Zondervan 1995
JESUS:THE EVIDENCE I Wilson Weidenfeld 1996
DISCOVERIES FROM THE TIME OF JESUS A Millard Lion 1990
JESUS WITHIN JUDAISM J H Charlesworth SPCK 1988
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