Sister and brothers, “You are the lights of the world.” [The “you” is plural.] These are the words the Lord has given to us as we gather [in the presence of] Christ today. It is a declaration. It is not a message of exhortation. Nor is it a command. He does not say, “Be the light of the world!” Jesus makes a declaration by His own authority: “You are the lights of the world.”
People don’t turn on a light for no reason, without any purpose. They turn a light on, for example, to give light to a room. So, when Jesus says, “You are the lights of the world,” one thing that becomes clear by what He said, is the kind of people we are, that we are never some meaningless purposeless beings. God has a plan and a purpose in calling us here on this earth. So, with a purpose, God has turned us on as “lights of the world” in society.
What might His purpose be? When you turn a light on it produces a change in the room, it makes it more bright and clear. So, when Jesus says, “You are the lights of the world,” the significance of our existence lies in that it will bring change on this earth and to society.
For that matter then, in order to change the world, God has turned on the lights. If Christ was focusing His attention on mere humanly produced strength and on human ability and influence and said, “You are the lights of the world,” I don’t think that the Lord would have chosen to speak to the common person, like He did to the Apostles who were fishermen and everyday men. He would have instead gone to an assembly of persons of higher social standing with a great deal of influence in this world, like the council members of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish supreme-court. However the Lord did not do that. He did not do it then, and He does not do that now. It is not on human ability, talent or influence which the Lord has been focusing His attention, but on “faith.”
We are a variety of different people assembling here today. You could say that [we] have nothing in common, except for one thing. That one thing is our “faith”, to come and stand in the presence of Christ and each other, hopefully as a brother and a sister. Today, Christ is turning His eyes on our faith and is saying the following to us with just [our] faith as the least common denominator. “You are the lights of the world.”
Christ says, “A city that is on a mountain cannot be hidden.” When we make our faith public and begin to live as believers, it gets to where we cannot hide it any more. It gets to the point that we look like people who believe in Christ. In a certain sense, it means we start being seen with a special look on us. There are some words baptized people will probably hear at least once in their lifetime. It is the words, “So, you’re a Christian, are you?” It means, in effect, they are being seen with a special look on them. Or you may be asked if you’re a Christian and criticized for it. Fearful of this, some folks may hesitate to be baptized. Or else, after they become Christians, they may try to keep their being a Christian hidden. They may want to keep their going to church a secret. These situations occur.
However, Jesus says, “You should be seen with that special look. Indeed, it is a duty to be looked at in that way.” He says this, “Because you are the lights of the world. Because nobody puts a light under a container.” And, the Lord goes on to say in an assertive and positive way, “Shine your lights before others. You do it so that the people will see your fine deeds and worship your heavenly father.”
We need to be careful with these phrases of “your lights” and “your fine deeds.” As ordinarily construed, if [I] shine “my light” and people look at “my fine deeds,” nobody will begin to worship “me.” But, the Lord says, “Do it so they will worship your heavenly father.” If that’s the case, then naturally, when it says “to shine [your] light” here, it is referring to the light that comes from the heavenly father. For instance, [it is referring to] the faith in us. Also, when it refers to fine deeds, it is what comes from the heavenly father, for instance, the fruit that is produced out of faith. If it’s not that, then it will not come to pass that they “will worship your heavenly father.”
When we are trying to do the shining ourselves, then we will always wind up being hypocritical. We end up being just displays on show. Then ultimately, it could even happen that our “fine deeds” were only ourselves seeking that “I” be worshipped. Therefore, the chief thing is not our good deeds in and of themselves, but the day to day life of faith that lies behind them.
Are we truly living with God? It is all about having a living relationship with God, being faithful. “You are the lights of the world.” That’s what Jesus said. Ordinarily for us, the lives we live may perhaps be plain and repetitious each day. Or worse, [you] may have a hard time at life in which seemingly meaningless hard work just seems to go on and on and on tediously. But, the Lord says there is meaning in our being and living. There is eternal meaning – Because of God – the one who has called us into life and turned us on [as lights]. The point for us to value is that we are to live by faith. We are to live having the flavour and experience of faith [upon us] and shining the lights that come from [that] faith.
Christ said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven.” According to St Paul, good works means meeting the urgent needs of the community, therefore we must observe where we are lacking, and try to build these weak points out of love for each other in Christ, for the glory of God.