December 7: Light of the World

Light of the World

God commanded the male Jews to go to the Temple three times each year (Deuteronomy 16:16):

  1. Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread
  2. Feast of Weeks
  3. Feast of Tabernacles

During the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) there was a great ceremony called the “Illumination of the Temple,” which involved the ritual lighting of four golden oil-fed lamps in the Court of Women. These lamps were huge candelabras (seventy-five feet high) lighted in the Temple at night to remind the people of the pillar of fire that had guided Israel in their wilderness journey.

All night long the light shone their brilliance, it is said, illuminating the entire city. In celebration and anticipation, the holiest of Israel’s men danced and sang psalms of joy and praise before the Lord. This festival was a reminder that God had promised to send a light—the Light—to a sin-darkened world. God promised to send the Messiah to renew Israel’s glory, release them from bondage, and restore their joy. Imagine that you are in ancient Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles.

Visualize seeing these massive menorahs giving a tremendous amount of light. Now imagine the impact of the words said by Jesus in the Temple courtyard when he announced, “I am the Light of the world.”

Jesus is the Light, the source of illumination to bring the lost out of darkness (which is a symbol of evil, sin, and ignorance). Jesus was speaking of salvation. Wherever the light shines, it reveals man's wickedness (Eph. 5:8–14). Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness (Mal. 4:2) shines the way of liberty to the captives (Isa. 61:6), and love and hope to the discouraged (Isa. 49:14–50:3). 

When Israel was in the wilderness, God provided a pillar of fire for protection and guidance. Just as the children of Israel had followed the Light to receive protection and guidance, we follow the Light provided by God—Jesus, his Son. To follow the Lord Jesus means to believe on him, to trust him.

The sun shall be no more thy light by day; 

neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: 

but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light, 

and thy God thy glory.

(Isa. 60:19)

Jewish literature uses the title Light of the world, applying it to Israel, Jerusalem, the patriarchs, the Messiah, God, famous rabbis, and the Law, but Jesus is the true light; all others are shadows of his reflection. 

Just before Jesus announced that he was the Light of the world, Jesus had shone upon the consciences of those who accused the adulteress. Read the story in John Chapter 8

John also records Jesus healing a blind man (9:1–12) at about the same time (8:12 and 9:5) that Jesus declared himself to be the Light of the world. It is not clear from the text when this incident happened, but it was some time between the Feast of Tabernacles and the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah); both of these celebrations focused on light.

Can you imagine the change in the blind mans life? He was blind from birth, and suddenly was able to see. Our experience from spiritual darkness to light should be just as dramatic. 

In John 5:35, Jesus calls John the Baptist the burning and shining light of his day. In Matthew 5:14–16, Jesus calls his followers the light of the world Christ, the Light of the world, reflects his light through us. Our light must shine, doing such good works for others and illuminating God’s ways. It is by our visible goodness that we will bring glory to God. 

When we walk in the light, our paths become illuminated and purposeful, and there is a glow of warmth and love in our lives that makes us want to care for the needs of others. This life of love is not merely a soft sentimental feeling, but rather a life of action (Osbeck 1990).

Matthew 5:15 likens believers to a candle which is placed on a lampstand, giving light to all who are in the house. If someone were describing you, would they say you were a light to them?

When Paul talked of spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6:12, he said, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world.” You have the power of the Light within you to overcome the powers of darkness. "Ye are of God little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world" ( 1 John 4:4). 

We worship God by emulating him. To follow Christ is to imitate his life and habits; only then can we be truly enlightened and free from all blindness of heart. Our main goal here on Earth should be to study the life of Jesus Christ so we can reflect his glory. Let your light shine!

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