You are the light of the world. That is the central message of today’s Gospel reading as taken from St. Matthew’s Gospel.
It is interesting that over the past several weeks, we have been reading different segments of this section of St. Matthew’s Gospel, all taken from Jesus’ famed Sermon on the Mount. Today’s Gospel reading picks up at the beginning of his teaching on the Mount of Beatitudes near
On the Mount of Beatitudes, with his disciples, Jesus was thought of as the new teacher, the new Moses. As Moses went up to Mount Sinai, he gave the Ten Commandments to the Jewish religion; so Jesus, the New Moses, went up the mountain and he gave Christians a new set of commandments, a new code for living, a new sense of right and wrong. Jesus gave us a new guideline for life.
We pick up today’s Gospel reading with Jesus telling His Disciples, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matt 5:14). There are so many ways to analyze exactly what Jesus means. Jesus has the ability to make very short statements that pack a great whallop. Light is very important to Christianity. To better understand this, we have to look back to the stories of creation in Genesis. The first thing created was light… out of the chaos, the darkness, the nothingness, the words, “let there be light,” were spoken by God. “And there was light, and it was good.” (Gen. 1: 3-4) So when Jesus says, “You are the light of the world,” it is no trivial statement. He is saying you are the manifestation of God… that the light of God is within you… that God is within you… and you must not hide your sacred nature but share it with the world. Jesus declares this to be perhaps our most holy and awesome duty… to let our light shine.
We must also consider that Jesus was the most effective teacher; he knew what to say, and how to say it so that the message is not forgotten [a great role model for teachers and aspiring teachers]. When we sit and read our bibles, whether at home or in a classroom, academic type setting, we tend to forget the original context in which Jesus was teaching. His disciples and the gathered faithful around Him didn’t have pens or paper, tape recorders or MP3 players to catch each and every word out of our Saviour’s mouth; all they could do was listen and repeat it to themselves and hope they would remember. Jesus, in His Divinity, already knows the pitfalls of these mere mortals, and so He backs up his statement with another, “A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Ah! How clever! Jesus was preaching to a fishing village; of course, they would remember something that they could easily understand. The light from the city on the hill was their beacon that beckoned them home in the dark of night after a day’s labor of fishing all over the
Jesus had another deeper meaning in the way He instructed them, for just as you can’t hide a city that is located on the top of a hill, nor are we to hide our discipleship. Just as we are to put a light on a lampstand so it gives light to all in the house, we are to let our light shine before others. In other words, we are to be GOOD EXAMPLES of what it means to be a Disciple of Christ.
Jesus did not say, “You are to be the light for the church.” The Bible does not say, “When you come to
My brothers and sisters, our blessed Orthodox Christianity is to be visible. It is to be seen, it is to be noticed, not to be hidden. People are to know you are a Christian by what you say, by what you do, and by who you are. If we are true believing Christians, we cannot hide it. The very nature of discipleship is to be seen. There is no such thing as a secret Christian. There is no such thing as a closet Christian. At home, your discipleship is to be visible. At work, your discipleship is to be visible. At school, your discipleship is to be visible. In these places, do people know that you are a practicing, true believing Christian? With your friends at soccer practice? On the golf course? At the movies, a restaurant, or on vacation? Do people around you know that you are a Christian? If you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?
Our faith needs to shine no matter where we are, at work, at play, or at school. It is important that our language is filled with words about God, Jesus, love and the church. By what we say, we show that we love God. We need to use these words as part of our language. Are those words part of your vocabulary? Or…do you hide it? When you get out into the world, do you hide it by blending in with the rest of pagan society? To be a true believer, it means that we need to let that light shine out there in the real world.
The story is told of a lighthouse keeper who worked on a rocky stretch of coastline and who received his new supply of oil once a month to keep the light burning. Not being far from shore, he had frequent guests. One night a woman from the village begged some oil to keep her family warm. Another time a father asked for some to use in his lamp. Another needed some to lubricate a wheel. Since all the requests seemed legitimate, the lighthouse keeper tried to please everyone and granted them all.
Toward the end of the month he noticed that the supply of oil was very low. Soon, it was gone, and the beacon light went out. That night several ships were wrecked and lives were lost. When the authorities investigated, the man was very repentant. To his excuses and pleading their reply was: "You were given the oil for one purpose -- to keep that light burning!"
Jesus says to us this morning, "You are the light of the world." Jesus has given us His light, Jesus has made us light, for only one purpose – to shine for Jesus. Like the lighthouse keeper we have no excuse if we do not keep the light burning.
The conclusion of this Gospel reading has Jesus telling us, “Whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5: 19) We read this Gospel lesson today as we commemorate the Fathers of the Six Ecumenical Councils. These early church fathers helped to shape and form the organizational body of our blessed Orthodox Church, and they are heralded as shining examples, defending church doctrines against heresy, defending our holy iconography from the hands of iconoclasts, and to keep our blessed faith intact.
As we go forth this day as Disciples of Christ, let us also allow our light to shine as individual examples of faith. Let that shining light draw others towards Christ and His Church, and never be afraid to invite them to join you in His house. Amen.