This statement is made by the Lord Jesus Christ in the context of His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 – 7). The Sermon on the Mount is a powerful statement on the essence of Christian character and expression.
What does a Christian look like?
How do Christians express themselves in various situations?
The Sermon on the Mount begins with the beatitudes (5:2-12), which is a description of Christian foundational attitudes and thought processes that undergird a Christians actions and behaviour. These attitudes reveal the heart and therefore the motivations from which a Christian person acts .
Here are the heart attitudes that govern Christian thinking : a Christian knows their own poverty before God (v.3) . A true Christian mourns because of the sin that is in the world (v.4). A Christian is a strong person, and yet meek in their spirit (v.5). A Christian hungers and thirsts for righteousness (v.6). A Christian is merciful (v.7). A Christian is pure in heart (v.8) and Christians are not troublemakers but peacemakers (v.9).
All this gives rise to how Christians act. Jesus gives us many examples here, from how we think about the law of God (5:17-20) to how we deal with anger (5:21-26) and sexual purity (5:27-30) and marital fidelity (5:31-32), retaliation (5:38-42), dealing with our enemies (5:43-48), and in terms of how we give (6:1-4) and pray (6:5-15) etc.
But before Jesus tells us how Christian thinking translates into acting, He makes a statement concerning Christian influence. Christ has indeed created Christians with a strong purpose, and that is to influence their world. In order to illustrate this influence He makes use of two metaphors : Salt and Light! We have already dealt with the first metaphor, “you are the salt of the earth” in a previous sermon. We will now deal with the next metaphor :
YOU ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD
 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a 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 works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
"You are the light of the world …“.
You cannot read that statement without immediately remembering what Jesus says about Himself in John 8:12: "I am the light of the world." All this shows us how closely Christians and Christ are related to one another. The very name “Christian" speaks of the fact that Christians identify with the Lord Jesus Christ!
Having said that, we must immediately assert that there is a difference between His light and our light. We do not have light in ourselves. Our light is derived from Him. The apostle Paul says to the Corinthians: “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.” (2 Cor. 4:6). Christian people become reflectors of His light. I will say more about this in a moment.
|Lighthouse in Swakopmund - Namibia|
FOUR IMPLICATIONS: “You are the light of the world"
1. The world is without light, and needs Christians to be light in its darkness. This is analogous to what we observed in v. 13. The world is without salt, needing Christian influence to keep it from decaying as a result of the ever present corrupting effects of sin. In the same way, Jesus says that this world needs Christian light, because it is in darkness. How shall we describe this darkness? It is comparable to being in a dark room. If somebody lives in a dark room they cannot see themselves as they truly are. An illustration will help us to understand this. If there were no sun, we would not know of the existence of our moon or the planets in our solar system. We only know that the moon and the planets are there, because the sun causes them to be reflected in the sky, but the moon and the planets do not have light in themselves like the sun. In the same way, the light of Christ that shines through His Word, and when received, reflects in the lives of believers, so that others may see and believe that there is a God in heaven.
But it is unfortunately not as simple as that. Although the light of God shines in the darkness, the light is not understood by the darkness. Mankind having the benefit of the Son of God come to earth so many years ago, and having left us His Word and His Holy Spirit remains in spiritual darkness (Eph. 2:1). “...men love darkness instead of light because their deeds are evil” (Jn. 3:19).
Clearly man needs more than light. The world has received the revelation of God’s light, but the world remains asleep in the light. The world is like a blind man living in the light, but he cannot see the light because he is blind.
What must happen for a blind man to see?
A miracle! His eyes must be supernaturally opened. In His goodness God has provided someone to open the eyes of the blind. He is Jesus the Saviour, the Light of the world, who by the Holy Spirit miraculously opens the eyes of the spiritually blind. Those whose eyes are graciously opened to Jesus, the light of the world, the prophecy of Isaiah 9:1, 2 is fulfilled in Christ (Matt. 4:16): "the people living in the darkness have seen a great light."
Now, if Christ is the light-bringer, then what is the role of the Christian? The Christian's role is to “shine like stars “(Phil. 2:15). The stars(or planets) are reflections of the true light - the sun. So, our work is to point the world to Christ, and to let the life of Christ be seen in us. Thus we may say that the Bible, God's Word, faithfully received and lived and applied by any Christian, points people to Christ and with the help of the Holy Spirit helps to dispel the spiritual darkness of this world.
So, when Jesus was physically present on this earth, He was able to say in John 9:5 : “While I am in the world , I am the light of the world “. But when He left to complete the work the Father has given Him and to return to where He was before, then what? He gives the charge to His disciples! “You are the light of the world”. The Christian is now called to bring the light of the Word of God into the dark world of men, primarily through the preaching of the Word. The Psalmist says : “The unfolding of your words gives light ; it gives understanding to the simple“ (Psalm 119:30) .
2. Ordinary Christians, even though they may not be considered very wise in terms of the world’s wisdom actually have more light than an educated academic who is not a Christian. The ordinary Christian understand the meaning of Hebrews 11:3 : “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command , so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible“, but the evolutionary scientist does not see this. This is because of what Paul says in 1 Cor. 1:20 – 23 which asserts that God has made foolish the wisdom of this world …through the preaching of Christ crucified ! Worldly philosophers do not understand this kind of wisdom. We are not saying that worldly people cannot make a very accurate diagnosis of the psychological condition of mankind, but the world consistently fails to find a real cure or a remedy for the problems of the world, because they do not know Him who is the source of true light.
3. If Christians are the light of the world, then that defines our calling to this world . Jesus calls us “to let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven“. (Matt. 5:16) That is the Christians mission- to glorify God. That is why you exist. In his letter to the Philippians the apostle Paul puts a practical twist on to our light-bearing. He says : “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…”. (Phil. 2:15)
|Namibian sunset over the Atlantic ocean|
4. To say that we have light and then to hide it under a bowl (v.15) is a contradiction in terms. It is like salt-less salt. It is useless. Christians are the light of the world . If they hide that light, then they are the same as a salt-less Christian.
CONCLUSION : Be a part of your local SALTWORKS and LIGHTHOUSE COMPANY - the local church !
We must see our Christian responsibility as two-fold. For this we want to incorporate the "Salt-metaphor" of v.13 into this application.
1. Like salt we must be preventatives & preservatives : All Christians are called to prevent the spiritual , moral , social , economic decay of our societies .All Christians are called to preserve the truth as it is in Jesus in their societies.
2. Like light we must expose and illuminate: All Christians must expose the darkness for what it is and all Christians must give spiritual direction and counsel to a world that possesses none.
Perhaps we can describe these two activities as "evangelism" (preaching to the lost) and "discipleship" (teaching, equipping) . The church must not only be concerned with one or the other. The church must do both.
Effective medical treatment, does not only depend upon the treatment of sick patients, but also on preventative medicine and public health.
And so it becomes evident what we have asserted so strongly last week. Jesus calls Christians towards a clear involvement in this world.
Christians must not separate themselves from the world.
1. Christians will be blessed. (See beatitudes)
2. The world will be served.
3. God will be glorified.