When we ask the question, “Who is Jesus?”, we discover in Isaiah that he is the divine light that has come into a very dark world. At first, Isaiah appears only to be talking about Israel’s return from exile in Babylon, but the vision it portrays is too great for that: all of Earth’s kings are reconciled and come to live in Jerusalem forever (the book of Revelation talks about a similar time). And although it doesn’t mention his name, it clearly is talking about Jesus, the Light of the world. And because of our association with him, we too can be lights in the world. Isaiah uses the imagery of the sun to talk about spiritual light (v. 1-2). In what way is God the Light of the world? Because sunlight brings life. If the sun burned out, life on earth would cease to exist. Similarly, God is the source of all life (1 Timothy 6:13; Acts 17:28); he holds our molecules together (Colossians 1:17). Our existence is just borrowed! The sun also is like God in that it reveals what is true. When you hit a pothole and wreck, it’s because you needed more light to see the truth. Sunlight brings truth. Just as sunlight reveals things as they are, so God is the Light of the world, revealing truth to us (Psalm 36:9). When you look at a mountain, you’re not really seeing the mountain— you’re seeing the sunlight that bounced off the mountain. We only see truth because God is the source of all truth. Finally, sunlight brings beauty. As an amateur photographer, there is nothing I enjoy more than taking pictures of a gorgeous sunrise or sunset. Light is dazzlingly beautiful! We need light, not just for life and truth, but also for joy. Rates of depression are higher in parts of the world where it’s dark for long portions of the day. Saint Augustine once said, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.” So to say, “God is the Light of the world” means that he is the source of all life, truth and beauty.
But this passage is telling us much more. Isaiah not only says that the light of God shines on us, but that in response, we become light reflectors (v. 3-5; cf. Ephesians 5:8)! As followers of Jesus we have an obligation to reflect God’s light by how we live and love, with the goal of pointing others to our great and gracious God! To be lights in the world means that we have a great capacity to exhibit the spiritual life that God brings. A good, moral, religious person who does a lot of good things may be heaping up good deeds, but he’s doing it like someone who piles up bricks. But someone who is growing in grace is experiencing organic spiritual transformation from the inside out, just like a flourishing fruit tree grows. Are you growing as a pile of bricks grows, or as a living, flourishing tree grows? Are you more contented, more resistant to discouragement, than you used to be? Are you more humble and able to take criticism than you were two years ago? Are you a wiser person than you used to be? Are you less impulsive, less anxious, more reflective? Walking with Jesus makes you less impulsive and more reflective. You grow in humility. Growth in Christ also emboldens you. It keeps you from being too cautious. You become more courageous. If you are not changing, ask yourself, “Am I really a child of light? Am I truly born again? Is God’s light radiating from me for all to see?” Is it?
When God’s light shines on you, you see things you couldn’t see before, because you were walking in darkness. Seeing the selfishness in your heart—and agreeing with God that passages such as Romans 3:10-18 are not exaggerations—is one of the ways you know God’s light is shining on you. And our eyes are opened to see the beauty of what God has done for us (Isaiah 60:10-11, 15-16). Today, as Christians, we can better understand the richness of this statement because we know that in Jesus God became our redeemer. Jesus said “I am the Light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life” (John 8:12). He said this during the Feast of Booths, which commemorated God’s glorious pillar of fire which led the Jews through the wilderness (Exodus 13:21). Jesus was claiming to be the glory of God in human flesh, our Redeemer! God does not strike us down for our sin because he struck Jesus in our place. We aren’t forsaken because Jesus was forsaken for us. The Light of the world hung in darkness on the cross (Matthew 27:45–46). You will never experience new life unless you see the ugly truth of who you are and the beauty of what Jesus did for you. Only then can you become for others, “The light of the world!”
APPLICATION / CHALLENGE
- Spend some time this week reflecting on some of the ways that Jesus is the Light of the World. Consider how he is the source of life, truth and beauty. Talking Points Walking Points will help!
- Ask yourself: “To what degree am I reflecting that light to others by how I live and by how I love? Am I really growing in Christlikeness? What are some specific ways that I’m growing and changing?” Make sure you watch or review last week’s sermon, Spiritual Checkup.
- Allow the Holy Spirit to more fully control your life. Submit to him and allow him to produce the fruit of the Spirit in you—qualities like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
TAKE ONE STEP
Each week, write down one doable concrete step of obedience, small or large, that you will put into practice this week. (James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”)