Matthew 5:14-16 NRSV "You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, 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 in heaven.
These familiar verses from the sermon on the mount tell a truth we probably hear often as followers of Jesus Christ. The purpose of a light is generally to shine in darkness so we can see. This seems fairly simple, walk into a dark room and turn on the light, it is no longer dark. The world is in darkness, we have the light and should be letting it shine, continuously. Jesus is asking that the listeners shine, everywhere.
Since I was very young, I have always been fascinated with the glow of towns, villages and cities at night, from a distance. Sometimes when driving at night, I make the painfully obvious observation that the glow of different towns are far apart but as I come closer to a town the light drowns out all of the other towns and villages. I do not know why this is such an attraction for me! But, it is exactly what Jesus was speaking too, on a grander scale perhaps. Jesus speaks of the city on a hill, you can not hide it, especially at night in our modern electric day. The light shinning from that city is so brilliant that it can not possibly hid from view. Jesus says that they are the light, to all the world.
Before Jesus arrived, there was very little light. The works seen were those of a man-made system, hundreds of requirements put in place by the religious elite. The very elite that were shutting people out of the kingdom with all of their outlandish laws and customs. When did they shine? After Jesus came on the scene. It was very bright, people literally came from miles away to see him. Thousands followed, Jesus. This was a taste, just the beginning of what was told in Isaiah 60:1-3. We can see in the apostle Paul's ministry the light slowly spreading into the world. Jesus is still the light , but today he shines through us. See, Jerusalem benefited from the source of light, and it shined regardless of those who tried to cover it. What about today? Does Matthew 5:14-16 apply? I believe it does, absolutely, with the difference being that the light was not to be hid while it shined forth directly from it's awesome source.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. John 1:9 NRSV
The true light enlightens everyone. The enlightening was making known what we were to be, what humanity could be. Jonathan Mitchell has a very interesting note in John 1:4, Furthermore, the Light progressively came to be the life known as "humanity," and was for human beings; or: Then the life was existing being the light from the humans. This is the very light that we should not hide under a bushel, or under a bed, or in your heart and mind. Do you remember what Paul says? Imitate me as I have imitated Christ? This is the point of the light. If we are not allowing Christ to shine forth, then we are not shinning. We shine when we are step with the purpose.
In Ephesians 5:8-9, Paul shows us how we are to shine, in the Lord. We are no longer in darkness and as children of light we should live as such. Paul states that the light bears fruit, all that is right, all that is true and good. This describes Jesus. In Philippians Paul s writes that we shine like lights in the world. I like to see this as the celestial beings looking down on earth and seeing us shine, but do those in the world see Christ in us?
One final thought on this for now. Matthew 25:14-30 offers a wonderful parable. Some servants are given talents (a lot of money!) to use and invest for the master. One man utterly fails. He hid the talent and the time he had it was wasted, for him and his master. I love how the Message Bible wraps this parable up: "The master was furious. 'That's a terrible way to live! It's criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least? The least you could have done would have been to invest the sum with the bankers, where at least I would have gotten a little interest. "'Take the thousand and give it to the one who risked the most. And get rid of this "play-it-safe" who won't go out on a limb. Matthew 25:26-28 The Message Bible
It is criminal, a terrible way to live, "play-it-safe", to not use what God has given us. The Light has been given to us. A record has been written and preserved to show us how to live as Jesus did. Is it criminal to hide the Light? I know one thing is sure, with you in command it will be hidden. Most of us will naturally "play-it-safe". Jesus desires that we let go, and let him shine. The path he takes on will probably not be a "play-it-safe" path, but it will be the most rewarding and productive in God's ultimate plan for humanity.
"No one lights a lamp, then hides it in a drawer. It's put on a lamp stand so those entering the room have light to see where they're going. Your eye is a lamp, lighting up your whole body. If you live wide-eyed in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. Keep your eyes open, your lamp burning, so you don't get musty and murky. Keep your life as well-lighted as your best-lighted room." Luke 11:33-36 The Message Bible