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11. The Beatitudes – You Are The Light Of The World

Matthew 5:14  “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 

Matthew 5:15  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 

Matthew 5:16  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. 

“You are the light of the world.” The Jews thought to confine the benefits of salvation to their own nation; but Christ showed them that salvation is like the sunshine. It belongs to the whole world. The religion of the Bible is not to be confined between the covers of a book, nor within the walls of a church.

 It is not to be brought out occasionally for our own benefit, and then to be carefully laid aside again. It is to sanctify the daily life, to manifest itself in every business transaction and in all our social relations.

True character is not shaped from without, and put on; it radiates from within. If we wish to direct others in the path of righteousness, the principles of righteousness must be enshrined in our own hearts.

Our profession of faith may proclaim the theory of religion, but it is our practical piety that holds forth the word of truth. The consistent life, the holy conversation, the unswerving integrity, the active, benevolent spirit, the godly example,—these are the mediums through which light is conveyed to the world.

Matthew 5:14  “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.

In the Greek this pronoun YOU is emphatic: “You are the light of the world.”

Light has ever been a symbol of the divine presence. John refers to Jesus as “the light of men” shining forth amid the darkness of this world. Toward the close of His ministry Jesus referred to Himself as “the light of the world”.

Having accepted Jesus as the light of the world, a Christian, if true to his calling, becomes a reflector of that light. In Messianic prophecy Jesus is referred to as “a great light” (Isa. 9:2), and as the “Sun of righteousness” (Mal. 4:2; see on Luke 1:79).

When the true Light illumines men, they are admonished to “arise, shine” (Isa. 60:1–3). Those who love and serve the Lord are pictured as being like the “sun” both here and in the hereafter (see Matt. 13:43).

It was yet morning as Christ spoke (MB 38), and the sun was ascending the heavens toward the zenith (cf. Ps. 19:4–6). In a similar way the Twelve—and all future citizens of the kingdom as well—were to go forth and let their light shine abroad in the world, dispelling the darkness of sin and ignorance of the will and ways of God. See on John 1:4, 7, 9.

Matthew 5:14  “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.

Ancient Palestinian cities were commonly situated on hills, as their ruins testify today. Such a city would be visible from a considerable distance. From the place where Christ and the multitude sat, many towns and villages were visible on the surrounding hills (MB 39).

Matthew 5:15  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Ancient lamps consisted of a clay or metal bowl often in the shape of a saucer, with the wick floating in the oil and its lighted portion resting on the side of the dish or projecting through a special orifice.

A basket. Gr. modios, a grain measure containing about 8.75. It was often used at home as a flour bin. Christ spoke of the “basket” because in the average home of that day there was usually only one in the room.

As a nation the Jews were effectively hiding their light. Jesus pointed out that the light entrusted to them belonged to all men.

All the members of a household may benefit from a lamp set properly on its lampstand. In a similar way it was God’s design that the entire human family should benefit from the light of truth God had entrusted to the descendants of Abraham.

Matthew 5:16  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

The light of truth comes from heaven (John 1:4), but when it illuminates our own lives, it becomes our light. The Twelve, so recently appointed, were Christianity’s first commissioned light bearers. The effectiveness with which the disciples came to reflect the light of truth and the love of God became evident even to their most bitter foes, who “took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

He it was who had shed abroad the light of heaven in the world (John 1:4). No greater compliment could the Jewish rulers have paid to the disciples; no greater recognition could they have made of the effectiveness of Christ’s mission. He kindled a light in the hearts of men that was never to be extinguished.

See your good works.

A lamp is known by the clearness and strength of the light it gives. The oil in a lamp on its stand may not be visible to those in the room, but the fact that the lamp gives forth light is evidence that there is a supply of oil in the lamp.

Glorify your Father. Satan has ever sought to misrepresent the Father. Christ came to dispel the darkness and to reveal the Father. This same work Christ committed to His disciples. Light shines, not so much that men may see the light, as that they may see other things because of the light.

Our lights are to shine, not so that men may be attracted to us, but that they may be attracted to Christ, who is the light of life, and to things worthwhile.

This is the first time Matthew refers to God as “Father,” a term he uses frequently hereafter (chs..). The concept of God as Father, and of men as His children appears often in the OT (Deut. 32:6; Isa. 63:16; 64:8; Jer. 3:4; etc.). But Christ endowed the Father-Son relationship with new meaning (COL 141, 142). In Jewish literature God is often represented as a “Father” in heaven.

MB “You are the light of the world.”—Matthew 5:14.

As Jesus taught the people, He made His lessons interesting and held the attention of His hearers by frequent illustrations from the scenes of nature about them. The people had come together while it was yet morning.

The glorious sun, climbing higher and higher in the blue sky, was chasing away the shadows that lurked in the valleys and among the narrow defiles of the mountains. The glory of the eastern heavens had not yet faded out.

The sunlight flooded the land with its splendour; the placid surface of the lake reflected the golden light and mirrored the rosy clouds of morning. Every bud and flower and leafy spray glistened with dewdrops.

Nature smiled under the benediction of a new day, and the birds sang sweetly among the trees. The Saviour looked upon the company before Him, and then to the rising sun, and said to His disciples, “You are the light of the world.” As the sun goes forth on its errand of love, dispelling the shades of night and awakening the world to life, so the followers of Christ are to go forth on their mission, diffusing the light of heaven upon those who are in the darkness of error and sin.

In the brilliant light of the morning, the towns and villages upon the surrounding hills stood forth clearly, making an attractive feature of the scene. Pointing to them, Jesus said, “A city set on a hill cannot be hid.” And He added, “Neither do men light a lamp, and put it under the bushel, but on the stand; and it shineth unto all that are in the house.” R.V.

Most of those who listened to the words of Jesus were peasants and fishermen whose lowly dwellings contained but one room, in which the single lamp on its stand shone to all in the house. Even so, said Jesus, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

No other light ever has shone or ever will shine upon fallen man save that which emanates from Christ. Jesus, the Saviour, is the only light that can illuminate the darkness of a world lying in sin. Of Christ it is written, “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.” John 1:4.

It was by receiving of His life that His disciples could become light bearers. The life of Christ in the soul, His love revealed in  the character, would make them the light of the world.

Humanity has no light. Apart from Christ we are like an unkindled taper, like the moon when her face is turned away from the sun; we have not a single ray of brightness to shed into the darkness of the world. But when we turn toward the Sun of Righteousness, when we come in touch with Christ, the whole soul is aglow with the brightness of the divine presence.

Christ’s followers are to be more than a light during men. They are the light of the world. Jesus says to all who have named His name, You have given yourselves to Me, and I have given you to the world as My representatives.

God’s blessings are bestowed through human instrumentality. Christ Himself came to the world as the Son of man. Humanity, united to the divine nature, must touch humanity. The church of Christ, every individual disciple of the Master, is heaven’s appointed channel for the revelation of God to men.

Angels of glory wait to communicate through you, heaven’s light and power to souls that are ready to perish. Shall the human agent fail of accomplishing his appointed work? Oh, then to that degree is the world robbed of the promised influence of the Holy Spirit!

But Jesus did not bid the disciples, “Strive to make your light shine;” He said, “Let it shine.” If Christ is dwelling in the heart, it is impossible to conceal the light of His presence. If those who profess to be followers of Christ are not the light of the world, it is because the vital power has left them; if they have no light to give, it is because they have no connection with the Source of light.

In all ages the “Spirit of Christ which was in them” (1 Peter 1:11) has made God’s true children the light of the people of their generation. Joseph was a light bearer in Egypt. In his purity and benevolence and filial love he represented Christ in the midst of a nation of idolaters.

While the Israelites were on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land, the true-hearted among them were a light to the surrounding nations. Through them God was revealed to the world. From Daniel and his companions in Babylon, and from Mordecai in Persia, bright beams of light shone out amid the darkness of the kingly courts.

In like manner the disciples of Christ are set as light bearers on the way to heaven; through them the Father’s mercy and goodness are made manifest to a world enshrouded in the darkness of misapprehension of God. By seeing their good works, others are led to glorify the Father who is above; for it is made manifest that there is a God on the throne of the universe whose character is worthy of praise and imitation. The divine love glowing in the heart, the Christlike harmony manifested in the life, are as a glimpse of heaven granted to men of the world, that they may appreciate its excellence.

It is thus that men are led to believe “the love that God hath to us.” 1 John 4:16. Thus hearts once sinful and corrupt are purified and transformed, to be presented “faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.” Jude 24.

The Saviour’s words, “Ye are the light of the world,” point to the fact that He has committed to His followers a world-wide mission. In the days of Christ, selfishness and pride and prejudice had built strong and high the wall of partition between the appointed guardians of the sacred oracles and every other nation on the globe. But the Saviour had come to change all this.

The words which the people were hearing from His lips were unlike anything to which they had ever listened from priest or rabbi. Christ tears away the wall of partition, the self-love, the dividing prejudice of nationality, and teaches a love for all the human family.

Who can by faith behold the wonderful plan of redemption, the glory of the only-begotten Son of God, and not speak of it? Who can contemplate the unfathomable love that was manifested upon the cross of Calvary in the death of Christ, that we might not perish, but have everlasting life—who can behold this, and have no words with which to extol the Saviour’s glory?

The cross of Calvary is to be lifted high above the people, absorbing their minds, and concentrating their thoughts. Then all the spiritual faculties will be charged with divine power direct from God. Then there will be a concentration of the energies in genuine work for the Master. The workers will send forth to the world beams of light, as living agencies to enlighten the earth.

Christ accepts, oh, so gladly, every human agency that is surrendered to Him. He brings the human into union with the divine, that He may communicate to the world the mysteries of incarnate love. Talk it, pray it, sing it; proclaim abroad the message of His glory, and keep pressing onward to the regions beyond.

Trials patiently borne, blessings gratefully received, temptations manfully resisted, meekness, kindness, mercy, and love habitually revealed, are the lights that shine forth in the character in contrast with the darkness of the selfish heart, into which the light of life has never shone.

Updated on 15th Nov 2022

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