I am the Light of the World

If the links don’t work for you, here is John’s video presentation Light of the World, Our Lighthouse and Glow.

Todays reading is John 8:12-20Open Link in New Window

Here is today’s reflection by Richard.

Good morning, it is good to be with you. Today we are continuing with our sermon series on the ‘I am’ sayings of Jesus. Last week Ian spoke about Jesus words from John 6Open Link in New Window, ‘I am the bread of life’ and if you want to revisit that talk do go to our You Tube channel.

There is a very famous painting in St Paul’s cathedral entitled ‘the Light of the World’, painted by William Holman Hunt around 1904 which many of you will know and have seen. The picture depicts Jesus with a lantern knocking at a door which has not been open for a long time—it is overgrown with weeds and has rusty hinges. The lantern represents a person’s conscience, the door which opens from the inside is a person’s soul and Jesus’ halo represents Salvation. The words at the foot of the painting on the frame are from Revelation 3:20Open Link in New Window: ‘Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.’ This picture went on tour in the early part of the 20th Century and became the most travelled painting ever in the history of art. William Holman Hunt was a Christian and he said that felt that God had commanded him to paint it. It is described as a ‘sermon in a frame’ and has been seen by millions of people.

It might not be to everyone’s taste but I find it deeply evocative of the love and compassion of Jesus and I feel quite emotional when I look at it. Jesus’ face is open and inviting and it makes me want to join him.

Which leads us nicely to this week’s sermon title, Jesus words from John 8.12-20Open Link in New Window: ‘I am the light of the world’. In a sense William Holman Hunt’s picture says it all, but you may feel a bit cheated if I finish here!

To put today’s passage in context Jesus was teaching in the temple courts during the feast of Tabernacles. As part of this festival there was a great ceremony called the “Illumination of the Temple,” This involved the ritual lighting of four golden oil-fed lamps in the Court of Women. These lamps were about seventy-five feet high and lit 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 and the holiest of men would dance until dawn beneath the light. It was said, the lights illuminated the entire city of Jerusalem. Commentators say it is likely that this was the backdrop to Jesus words ‘ I am the light of the world’.

He was in effect saying that you see all this light and brilliance well…it will be gone in the morning. However, I am a light that will never fade and whoever follows me will have that life of light forever. Last week when Ian talked about Jesus being the bread of life, he said Jesus was revealing his divinity. Likewise in this passage today, Jesus is revealing that he is God—it is only God who can give us eternal life.

Jesus was fulfilling the prophecy in Isaiah 9:2Open Link in New Window and quoted in Matthew 4Open Link in New Window about a future saviour, the Messiah:

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.

Jesus is the Messiah and he offers an invitation to anyone who will listen: Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life. This is an open invitation—if you follow me I promise you eternal life.

But there is a choice, we can choose to accept the light of Christ or reject it.

If we accept Jesus offer and follow Him what does this mean? The Greek word for follow means a number of things, but is perhaps expressed well as a Master/Servant relationship, where the master goes, the servant goes. In the words of one commentator ‘To follow Christ is to give oneself, body, soul and spirit into the obedience of the Master’. This is not an onerous thing, it is a joy and through it our lives become transformed.

I am a Manchester United supporter and although I have not waivered since childhood, in reality, I am an armchair follower. I have a friend who is a Bristol Rovers supporter, they are not glamorous, lolloping around in the lower divisions, but come whatever he is at their football matches at home and where possible, away. He is a proper fan, he is dedicated and his reward is a sense of belonging to the Rovers tribe. As followers of Jesus we need to be like this—home or away in sunshine and rain we follow His every move.

And what are we leaving behind?—Jesus promises us that we are leaving the darkness behind. The darkness of death has been overcome by the Light of Jesus, what a great image that is. There is a lovely passage in Revelation where John describes the vision of a new city, a new Jerusalem that one day we will be part of:

I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into it.

The city does not need the light of the sun, Jesus and God the Father are the light—the light of a new heaven and earth. It is an outstanding image.

But the darkness of this world, is also overcome by the light of Jesus. We only have to look at a newspaper or switch on a TV to see how dark the world can be. The news is invariably bad, because bad news sells airtime or newsprint. As Christians, however, even in these challenging and uncertain Covid ridden times we can have hope, that our lives are in Jesus hands. I find this gives me comfort and I hope it does you too.

It does not stop at Jesus being the light of the world, He says that we too are the light of the world.

In Matthew 5:14-16Open Link in New Window Jesus says this

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

We can bring the light of Jesus and hope to others. When I read this passage I often imagine a disco ball. The light shines on the ball and the hundreds of tiny mirrors reflect all around. We become reflections of the love of Jesus and can bring light and life to others.

My prayer for each of us today is that we become dedicated followers of the Light of the World.

There will be a video version of the service and a podcast of the sermon.

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