Light and Darkness are important images in the Bible. Jesus uses them here in our passage.
Let’s begin by thinking about darkness and light
Think about darkness. The darkness of night or deep underground. The cold. The blackness. We cannot function in darkness for very long. It’s not just that we cannot see, darkness seems to have substance to it. It is only the absence of light but darkness feels like an oppressive presence. Novelists speak of brooding darkness
At different times people have tried to see how long they could live underground in total darkness - proved very bad for physical and mental health. We’re not made for darkness.
Darkness is associated with fear. Bad things happen in the dark. There are ‘dark days’ when things turn for the worst. In the darkness we can feel hopeless and out of control.
And darkness is not always external. Darkness can describe an internal emotional or spiritual condition. Inner darkness. The darkness of sadness, or grief, or depression. As Simon and Garfunkel sang, “hello darkness my old friend. I’ve come to talk to you again.”
Darkness can describe a moral condition. The darkness of the heart.
Thankfully there isn’t only darkness - there is light.
Light is the direct contrast and opposite to darkness. The light of day, of warmth of colour. And of course light and darkness are not equals. Light counters and overpowers darkness - not the other way round. Heavy as darkness can feel it is only an absemce. Light is a presence - a candle flame, a torch beam, a flood light, a lightning flash, the all pervading light of the sun.
The sun’s light is simply extraordinary isn’t it? It’s light gets everywhere. We put up black out curtains in our kids rooms to try and ensure that they get sleep beyone sunrise but even with that attempt when the sun rises - light gets everywhere. Light is like a liquid, bathing, flooding, filling every corner - challenging every shadow, every gap - even the darkest places are no longer dark any more - not really.
Light has a cleansing quality - especially really bright and pure light
Light adorns in an almost regal way. The golden sunlight of dawn or evening or autumn can make the dreariest place look royal
Light of course also exposes - your dirty windows and dusty corners. Things ‘come to light’. Which might explain why we might want to hide from the light. The judgement thing again: John chapter 3 speaks about people hating the light of Jesus and hiding from the light because they don’t want their so called “evil” deeds to be shown up. Maybe they don’t want to have to stop living as they want to live.
One one level though, if things can be exposed, they can be dealt with.
The mechanics light under the engine; The surgeons lamp in the operating theatre. Light enables sight to get things done. Light brings reality, clarity and truth. ‘Enlightenment’ Light brings deeper understanding ‘greater light’
Darkness and Light
In our passage here the first thing we see is that Jesus is light that shines out x2
A familiar saying. v33 You don’t put a lamp in a cupboard or hide it behind a sofa or under a bucket. No if you want the room lit - you let it shine.
In Matthew chapter 5 Jesus quotes this saying applying it to his disciples; his church - not hiding away but, like a city on a hill, letting their presence be felt - letting their light shine.
But here - the saying refers to Jesus.
We’ve seen what’s happening around Jesus at this point when he says these words. Lots of people and especially the religious people, the people who should know - have been avoiding facing who Jesus is. We saw last week people sidestepping Jesus’ authority. Some were seeing Jesus’ miracles and saying hmmm can you do that again? can you do another? give us another sign - we need more evidence, it’s still not clear. Others were seeing Jesus miracles and ascribing them to dark forces, dark arts. Don’t trust him!
Many people today would call themselves agnostic. They’d say - there might well be a God but nobody really knows. There’s insufficient evidence to move from sitting on the fence. the truth is hidden. Others would be more hostile. Give your life to Jesus. Who? Keep my kids away from that shady business.
But Jesus here says, No
No-one can have the excuse ultimately either that we never knew, the truth was hidden - or o we thought you were shady
because He has come and He is light shining out
You don’t hide a lamp, obscure it you let it shine - illuminate. You put it in the pace where it will most and best fill a room.
Jesus IS that shining, open, visible, public light. In his person and in his message of the kingdom.
The stuff in vv29-32 about Jonah and the Queen of the South is a searing rebuke against the people of Jesus generation not seeing Jesus’ light!
The Queen of Sheba from Southern Arabia she a foreigner puts to shame this generation of Israel because she travelled to and marvelled at the wisdom of King Solomon, while this generation are failing to receive Jesus who’s wisdom is far greater than Solomon’s
The people of Nineveh, Israel’s greatest enemy - they put to shame this generation because they repented when they heard the preaching of Jonah while this generation is failing to respond to Jesus who is greater than Jonah.
Jesus is light shining out. There are no excuses.
2. Let Jesus’ light in. vv 34-35
I regularly have eye check ups because my vision is not great. I’m often grateful with my poor eyesight that i wasn’t born in the stoneage where i would have been completely useless and dependant on others for hunter gathering!
I also have eye checkups because there’s a history of glaucoma in my family and they want to keep my eyes healthy. The eye is after all ‘the lamp of the body’. Just as lamps guide us in darkness so our eyesight guides us through life. But Jesus is not giving us advice about caring for our physical eyes here is he. The eyes ares ometimes called ‘windows to the soul’ and it’s true that sometimes you feel you can see in someones eyes the health or ill health of their soul. (Though it’s not a strict science - some people are naturally dour - others are natually sparkly but might have pretty murky inner world.)
But Jesus is saying here that our eyes are windows to our bodies/our inner world not just in the sense that they might reflect out the state of our hearts but also that they reflect inwardly. That is, our eyes let light into our bodies. v34 “if your eye is focussed, your whole body is full of light. But if it is evil your whole body is in darkness”
So is Jesus here warning us about the spiritual dangers of focussing your eyes on the wrong things - letting darkness in - and what might those things be? I’m sure we could make a list but actually it’s a lot simpler than that. The passage makes most sense, especially where Luke has placed it as a warning to this generation, his contemporaries to watch out in case they fail to see the light that is standing in their midst - the Lord Jesus Christ.
Some eastern cultures speak about - the evil eye - as a kind of curse. Maybe we have an equivalent in the playground or the office where we might say of someone who is somewhat hostile towards us: “ she was well giving me the evils, man”
There really is such a thing as the evil eye. The evil eye is tocinsciously close your eyes to, look away from, reject Jesus - THE light.
If you do, your whole body is full of darkness. Because Jesus is the light of the world and there is no other light. Just as the sun is the light of the earth and there is no other sun. Switch off the sun and there is no light. Close your eyes to Jesus and there is only darkness.
This is telling us that there is no such thing as a natural, inherent, spiritual light in human beings. Any light we find in the world, in philosophy and other religions and such - and there is light to be found there but it is light that is derived ultimately from Jesus. It also means that we are not spiritually alight because of anything in us, good genes, or good thoughts, or good deeds or eating the right food or spending hours in meditation.
Jesus is THE light of the world and there is no other light. The only way we get light within us is to look at him, focus on him, turn your eyes upon him, receive him and his light will fill you - as a gift of grace.
It’s worth reminding ourselves that there is a challenge to that. We naturally prefer darkness to light. Like woodlice scurrying away when you lift up a rock. We don’t want to be exposed - we fear that. But we also have a bias away from the light. We perversely prefer our solutions are better than Jesus. We believe the lie that the glorious free creator of all things is actually a controlling killjoy who wants to spoil our fun. So we convince ourselves that life away from Jesus’ authority is the life of light! We quickly discover that it is not. If the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness. Come to your senses. Why choose darkness over light? Coming into the light there may be humbling shame for a moment but God is grace and forgiveness and light. Step into the light.
How do you look at Jesus? Where do you see him?
In the pages of the bible - that’s where we see Jesus. We read Jesus and because he is alive he steps out of the pages of the Bible and meets. the Holy spirit opens our eyes and Jesus’ glory and radiance changes us.
In teh Exodus, when Moses came down from MT Sinai after talking with God and receiving the 10 Cs he had to veil his face because his face was glowing with God’s reflected brightness and the people were not in a position with God at that time to cope with that. The NT says of Christians. “We, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord (Jesus’) glory are being transformed into his image with every increasing glory
When you spend a lot of time with a friend their character ‘rubs off on you”. You might start talking, thinking acting like them. For good or ill. It might improve you or diminish you as a person. So choose your friends wisely and realise the influence you have on others
But you see… Spend time with Jesus and his character will rub off on you. Let his light in
3. Shine Jesus light out.
Read v36 “…”
Let jesus’ light in and you can shine his light to others
This happens in the Christian community. “If we walk in the light as he is in the light we have fellowship with one another” Fellowship is an oddly Christian word chiefly because it is a uniquely christian phenomenon. A church is not a club or an interest group. A group of friends are friends because they naturally, easily have become friends. But God’s gifted to the church is fellowship rooted in the light of Christ. A profound loving unity between people who are very different. A standing together as ONE. And it is as each one of us walks in the light of Jesus ,reflecting his light towardseach other that we have fellowship with one another. Let’s pursue that gift.
But you also have a radiant light for others beyond the church. I love Hannah’ sister’s contemplative prayer day that she was leading for contemplative activists or active contemplatives. Because you can’t be an activist you can’t shine for Jesus without contemplating, looking to Jesus light. But equally you can’t bathe in Jesus’ light without then being sent out to shine!
You might not think much of yourself. You might not think you have a lot to offer. Perhaps you’re a parent frazzled with kids. Perhaps you’re frazzled with work. Perhaps you feel a broken person frazzled with yourself but if you’re one who looks at Jesus then his light is in you for others. You have so much to offer people. The light of God. So get out more. get close to people for their sake!
You don’t have to put on a happy face if things are hard. You don’t have to awkwardly try and crowbar Jesus into every conversation or force tracts or worship music on people. Please don’t! Just be yourself. Follow your interests, join people, like people and follow the nudges of the Spirit. Talk about Jesus when the Spirit opens up opportunities which he will more than you imagine. Be yourself with Jesus and Shine on!
And of course jsut as Jesus had a mixed response to his light. Some came to him but many more turned on him, ran for cover; were hostile. So it will be for us. Sometimes people are drawn to the light, interested … and then reject you wholesale… they might even betray you. There’s a spiritual battle going on. The challenge of the light to the darkness. Don’t lose heart when that happens.. upsetting as it is. Pray. Persevere. Shine on.
Jesus is the light who shines out
Let his light
Shine his light to others..