The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. …
So the Word became human and made his home among us. (John 1:1-14)
Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (John 8:12)
Jesus shouted to the crowds, “If you trust me, you are trusting not only me, but also God who sent me. For when you see me, you are seeing the one who sent me. I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark. (John 12:44-46)
Jesus is the Light of the World. He is the King of Kings, at home in the heart of heaven, shining with a light that outshines the sun.
But this King, this Light, stepped down into our darkness. He entered our broken, hurting, violent, dark world. He took human flesh and made his home among us.
He entered our darkness not as a blazing light. He came not as a conquering and powerful King. He came not as a doctor or a scholar or a rich man. He came as a baby, as a very poor baby, the child of very poor parents in a very poor country. “All for love’s sake, he became poor.”
Jesus, the Light of the world, entered our darkness and did not bring light. Jesus, the King of Kings, entered our world and did not bring a Kingdom. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, entered our world and did not bring peace.
Listen to what Matthew says about Jesus’ first days on earth. (Read Matthew 2:13-18.)
After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.”
Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
“A cry was heard in Ramah — weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead.”
The King of Kings has come. The “righteous Branch” has come to rule on “King David’s throne.” Through Jesus, “Judah will be saved, and Israel will live in safety” (Jeremiah 23:5-6).
But mothers still cry because their sons are dead. Jesus comes, but the world is still dark and unsafe and unjust. The people are not saved.
Jesus did not gather an army and kick out the Roman oppressors. Jesus did not give the people freedom or protection or the peace that they wanted, the peace that they prayed for, longed for, cried for. Jesus’ birth was ushered in with the massacre of 20-30 baby boys in Bethlehem.
The Messiah comes. The Light of the World comes, but the world is still dark.
The Light is hidden. The Light is a mystery. The Light is not what anyone expected. The Light of the World is hidden away in a little baby lying on pile of hay. The Light of the World is secretly carried on the back of a donkey to Egypt to escape an evil king. The Light of the World shines, but the world is still dark.
What good is a Light like this? Who needs a Light like this?
The Light of the World is not a star to be worshiped. The Light of the World is a path for us to follow. Jesus has come into our darkness to lead us out. He has not come to make our darkness better. He has not come to make our darkness more comfortable. He has not come to prop up and to mend our old systems. Jesus has come to show us a new way of life. Jesus has come to show us a whole new world. Jesus, the Light of the World, is a path for us to follow out of our darkness.
Jesus came to the Jews who were a poor people oppressed by the Romans, and he showed them a new way to live, a whole new system for viewing the world.
They wanted freedom from the Roman political, religious system which oppressed them and kept them from experiencing real life. Jesus did not do this. The Romans still ruled. But Jesus did set the Jews free from their own Jewish political, religious system which also oppressed them and kept them from experiencing real life.
They wanted freedom from the sins of the Romans. Jesus did not do this. The Romans still taxed and stole and raped and killed. They even taxed and killed him. But Jesus did set the people free from their own sins.
They wanted Jesus to crush their enemies, to kill their enemies, and to put their enemies under their feet. Jesus did not do this. Rome still held its foot on Israel’s neck. But Jesus did set the people free from their enemies through love. “Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” (Matthew 5:44). “If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles” (Matthew 5:41).
They wanted Jesus to bring them economic prosperity. Jesus did not do this. Israel was still poor. Instead, Jesus brought them freedom from worry about money. “Give to all those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow” (Matthew 5:42). “So don’t worry about having enough food or drink or clothing. … Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern” (Matthew 6:31-33).
They wanted Jesus to work within their own system of power and righteousness by rules and violence and money. Jesus told them that there is an entirely different system. Jesus explained that there is a whole new world out there, called the Kingdom of God. This system is completely different from our system. Living in this Kingdom requires living in a whole new way. We have to leave our old system of darkness behind and follow Jesus into his new Kingdom of Light.
Those 1st century Jews who decided to follow the Light of the Word actually experienced this new Kingdom of Light.
“A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity - all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved” (Acts 2:43-47).
In 137 AD a Roman official was apparently asked to research the Christian religion and to write a report on it for the Roman Emperor. This is what he wrote:
It is the Christians, oh emperor, who have seemed to have sought and found the truth for they acknowledge God. They don’t keep for themselves the goods entrusted to them, but they show love to their neighbors. They don’t do to another what they would not want done to themselves. They speak gently to those who oppress them. In this way, they make their enemies their friends. It has become their passion to do good to their enemies. Every one of them who has anything gives ungrudgingly to the one among them who has nothing. If they see a homeless stranger they bring them in under their own roof. They rejoice over that brother or sister as if they were a real sister or brother. For they do not call one another sisters and brothers because of the flesh, but because of the spirit of their God. If anyone among them is poor, while they themselves have little to spare, then the whole community will fast for two or three days until everyone can eat together. In this way they can supply any poor person with what they need. This, oh emperor, is the rule of life of the Christians. This is the way they have come to live.
They were experiencing the living Kingdom of God! The Light of the World was shining among them. The Light of the World was hidden in small communities of Christians around the world who were loving and caring for each other. The Light of the World was hidden in poor Christians who gave up their own food so that they could provide food for others.
The Light of the World was shining on the world, but it was hidden in people. It was hidden in people like you and me.
The Light of the World is still shining on the world. The Light of the World is still hidden. The Light of the World is hidden in small communities like ours around the world who are loving and caring for each other. The Light of the World is still hidden in Christians who give up what they have so that others may eat. The Light of the World is still hidden in you and in me.
The Light of the World is in us. The Messiah of the universe has come to us, in us, among us.
What will you do? How will you live? Will you live so that he shines in you? Will you live so that someone will look at your life and say, “Surely they have sought and found the truth”? Will you follow the Light into a whole new way of living?
Will you live the Light, so that it shines out through everything you do? Or will you ignore the Light, bury the Light, so that others might never know it is there?
What will we do? How will we live? How will we live so that others see the Light of the World by our very life together? Will we follow the Light to a whole new way of being the church together? We cannot simply worship the Light. We must follow the Light to the whole new world of the Kingdom of God.
The Light of the World is shining among us. The Light of the World is hidden among us. And our world is still dark. Our world still needs the Light. God has put that Light in us.
What will you do?