This month’s article brings us to Matthew 5:14-16
“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven. (KJV)
In the previous verses, Matthew records the words of Jesus, where He compares the disciples with salt. You’ll notice very soon that this verse stands in relation with the 3 following verses on light. To fully appreciate this bible passage, we will look closely at the parables that Jesus used in this passage, which will direct us to the core message that Jesus conveyed.
Light in the ancient times
In the ancient world people did not have electricity like we have today, in fact the inside of the home was about as dim as a 40 watt light bulb.Most homes would contain several oil lamps because olive oil was in abundance and therefore not expensive.There was also an oven that provided a little bit of light, but the oil lamps were the main source of light in every home.
The King James Version of the Bible translates the word for lamp “candlesticks,” but that is not an accurate translation because in ancient world they did not use candles. Even the seven branches on the menorah within the Tabernacle and the Temple were actually lamps that held olive oil and wicks.
Ancient lamps were oval shaped, and flat on top. They actually had small bowls on one end,with the other end pinched real tight which formed a groove to hold the cotton or flax wick.One end of the wick would even float in the olive oil.Some of the lamps had a lid over the bowl. They were usually made of clay, but the more expensive lamps were made of bronze and sometimes even of gold.Some of these were very beautiful and would contain very elaborate decorations…
At first, Jesus clearly states that the disciples are light! First and far most, Jesus is pointing to the nature of the disciples and not so much to what they have to do! Jesus is referring to their being!
The city and the lamp
In ancient Israel, the most common place to build a city was on a hill (read more here). If you would think of building a city in those days, you would look for a hill. An unintended result was that everyone can see a city on a hill; it is perceivable by every eye. This visibility factor, was far from being the intended objective from building a city on a hill. Meaning, the city is not on the hill to be visible, the city is on the hill, because it is a city.
Jesus sharpens this point, by saying that a lamp’s proper place is on its stand. Because it is a lamp it is on a stand. And because of its place, it gives light to all in a house.
What should we appreciate
The message is simple: “We should be standing out in this world, because of who we are (our nature /our being)”
This is only possible, because we are Christians! What does being a Christian mean?
Being a Christian means that we are rooted and grounded in the person of Jesus Christ. We understand that knowledge, works and experiences flow from Him. We are people with a changed nature, we are persons who have received a new state of existence in and through Christ. (Source: Michael Ramsden. Core Module, RZIM Academy.)
A Christian life cannot be hidden, because our life is light. In this world that seeks to privatize our faith, we boldly take our place as a lamp on the lamp stand. The goal is not to seek visibility or fame, but the goal is to follow Christ in obedience.
Because the One we follow is light, our life will strikingly stand out in this dark world full of lies and brokenness. Our faith in Him, lets other see who God is.
Faith produces works that demonstrate what quality of life that we live. With quality of life I mean: moral power and excellence of soul! It is herein that the Father is glorified. Our faith should be seen (visible)!
For us today
The important question for us becomes: ” How do we live our lives?” Is our focus on works (doing things) or on being? For our sake, I hope that our focus is on being. This means that we need to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. It is in and through Him that we are transformed. This transformed life results in a renewed character. Without His seed in us, what we do, say or know is useless. The more we relate to Him, the more He rubs off onto us!
Jesus is not powerful because He can do miracles nor does His power lie in His words or knowledge. The power of Jesus is in His life!
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4-5
In His time here on earth He was faithful to the voice of His Father. He resisted and overcame every test and temptation. He did not violate His purpose and was obedient till the cross. Even when His soul was in the deepest depths of anguish, He could say: Not my will, but Thine be done. Because He overcame, we are now restored to purpose. Most importantly, His life is in us!
Because of Christ in us, our lives testify of the very existence of Christ and God. Our lives are light and power! Because of Jesus we are of the same nature as God Himself. Yes, we are His offspring. Living in Him is a testimony to the world that Jesus was sent by the Father. Living in Him gives glory to the Father.