By Russ Ramsey
Section 1: The Light of the World
Jesus declared Himself to be the Light of the World. Apart from Him, we live in darkness.
But this story of light didn’t begin with the birth of a baby boy under a shining star in the city of Bethlehem. From creation to the incarnation to the coming eternal city, Scripture speaks of our God as light in a world prone to darkness. In the midst of the sin and sorrow of this world, His light is a reminder of His life-giving presence and His power over sin.
In the first section of the plan, we’ll explore together the role of light in Scripture to better understand the gift of Jesus, reading how God used light to remind His people of His presence and His promises.
I once visited the set of a TV show, the sound stage where they create sets in a warehouse that look like mansions and offices and famous landmarks. If you look closely, the plants and stone walls are obviously fake, but when you see them on TV, you’d never know. How do they create that illusion? With light. They use it to illuminate what they want to show, and to wash out or overshadow what they want to conceal.
We do this too. We conceal just as much as we reveal. We manipulate how we’re seen by illuminating what we’re proud of, filtering out the rest. How do you control how your life is seen, or for that matter, how you see it yourself? On social media? In how you dress? With the words you use? With the company you keep? Sometimes, we illuminate something else to conceal our darkness.
With Jesus, it’s different. His light is a scrutinizing light. When Jesus says He is the Light of the World, and that those who follow Him will not walk in darkness, He is saying so much more than simply that He will illuminate our paths for us. He is telling us He will be in our lives as a scrutinizing light. As a searching light.
What are the scrutinizing lights you live by otherwise? Public approval? Parent or friend approval? When the approval of others is the light we see by, we dare not deal in honest terms about where we’re hurting, broken, or in need. When I make what the world thinks of me the light of my world, my entire goal in life becomes about mastering the art of walking in darkness, then at least in shadow, because my worth is found in what I accomplish, not in who I am. And we know public consensus can be a fickle master.
But when Jesus tells us He is the Light of the World, and that those who follow after him will not walk in darkness but have the light of life, He says it as the One who will bring illuminating scrutiny unlike anything you have ever known before. It is the scrutiny that asks: Who are you really? Who are you meant to be? What are your deepest needs? What do you lack? Where are you lost? Where are you hiding?
These are the deepest questions we have. To walk in the light of Jesus is to welcome His scrutiny, examination, correction, and challenge. But if we’re going to do this, we must trust that such scrutiny will not be unto the end of revealing how unlovely we are, but how beloved.