I Am The Light Of The World
November 12, 2006
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
1. It's about that time when the Christmas pageant booklets are passed out to the children and practices begin. I thought to myself "Christmas this year is here, wow!" Each year we celebrate Christmas by commemorating the fact that Jesus was born on this earth. But, our way of celebrating "The Nativity Anniversary" is not so that we follow a great historical character. The reason we celebrate Christmas is not because he is a great character who used to live, but because he is the Lord who is still living today. He was born in a stable in Bethlehem, he spent over thirty years of life on this earth, and he was crucified and killed, but we celebrate because of the fact that he rose from the dead and he is the Lord who lives even now.
2. We recited The Apostles' Creed a bit ago and before coming to the concluding words to this confession of the faith, [there is] a short but a most ancient statement in the confession that has been used by the church, it is the phrase "Jesus is Lord." People express that they are Christians with the statement "Jesus is Lord." [It's] not "Jesus was Lord." [It's] "Jesus is Lord." It is still the same even in modern times after about two thousand years. Jesus is Lord. He is alive now and is deeply involved in [each of] our lives.
3. Because of the fact that he is such an One, the word of God I read to you today also has significance. The Lord said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me does not walk in darkness, but has the light of life." The reason these words are recorded in the gospel [of John] and have been passed on by generations of the church was not so that it would pass on the fact that a character named Jesus had once said this. These words are recorded in this gospel in order to communicate -- to me and to you -- who this one named Jesus is. Today I would like to speak with you on two points based on this statement from Jesus.
I Am The Light Of The World
4. First, he states that he was "the light of the world." It is about the fact that for you and for me Jesus is "light."
5. So now what was Jesus wanting to say with the statement that he is "the light of the world?" In order to find this out, we'll need to consider the setting in which these words were spoken. The Bible says, "Jesus spoke again." His speech is connected to [what he said] from before. When we read chapter seven, we'll see that the setting is "The Feast Of Booths."
6. The term "booth" may not be a word we're used to hearing. To be brief, it is "a small hut." At the time of this feast, the people would build huts in [their] gardens or on [their] rooftops. Even today the Jews celebrate The Feast Of Booths in that way. Recently, simple to build "Booth Construction Kits" are being sold through online ordering. The reason they build booths is because "The Feast Of Booths" is a festival to remind them of the fact that Israel had once upon a time fled from Egypt and sojourned for forty years in the wilderness. It reminds them that their ancestors had at one time traveled the wilderness while constructing these temporary shelters or erecting tents.
7. They say that on the first evening of "The Feast Of Booths" about four great golden candlesticks were set up in the temple. I'm told a fire was lit there and that fire cast light to every corner of Jerusalem. At the point when the great lights were truly radiating, it was The Feast Of Booths. The Bible has written in it that when the people used to travel the wilderness for those forty years, a pillar of a cloud in the day and a pillar of fire in the evening had led the people. The reason Israel could travel the wilderness was God had led them with the pillar of the cloud and also with the pillar of fire in the dark night. In short, during "The Feast Of Booths" the great fires of the candle stands would symbolize the light of the pillar of fire that had once led the people in the dark nights in the desert wilderness.
8. In the temple at The Feast Of Booths when the fire was lit like that, Jesus exclaimed, "I am the light of the world." I'm sure what he meant by that was perfectly clear to the people who heard [him say it]. Just as the pillar of fire had led them once in the black night in the wilderness, Jesus shines in the dark night, and says that he is the light that guides people who are walking in the wilderness. By Jesus' saying "I am the light of the world," he was likening "this world" to the black nights in the wilderness where Israel used to walk.
9. We, who live two thousand years later, can easily understand how that living in this world can be compared to a wilderness journey. Of course, this world is no Garden of Eden. It is a wilderness. We travel a wilderness where rugged rocks are tumbled about everywhere and which has lost the moisture of life and is rough and dried up. As many folks watch the news each day, they may talk about what has gone on in the cruel world. But, today's world is not especially cruel. When we read the scriptures, we see that clearly. The way of the world has not changed whether several thousand years or now; because the sin that dwells inside human beings has not changed in essence. Just as ever, those same sins of humanity make this world a wilderness.
10. Furthermore, the black darkness of the night covers that wilderness. We can probably come up with any number of terms right away that are associated with the phrase "the black darkness of the night." Like "worry," "fear," "loneliness," "hatred," "futility," "fear of death," "hopelessness." These various different darknesses do cover over this world. The world is engulfed in darkness. The prophets from of old have also said, "Look, darkness covers the land, pitch darkness engulfs the nations," (Isaiah 60:2). But, the many "darknesses" I gave as examples just ago are all actually rooted in one thing. It is the darkness which has lost God. Because we lose God it is dark. It was that kind of darkness that Jesus was looking at. That he said it at a festival is also ironic. There were religious folks. There were also the folks who respected the religious laws and practices. But, they had lost God. So it was dark. It was pitch black dark.
11. However, in that darkness, into that kind of "world," came the Christ. And he declared: "I am the light of the world." [I am] that light that guided Israel when it used to travel the dark desert. [I am] the light that will shine upon you as you wander the darkness and which will guide you. Indeed, he is; Christ said, "I am the light of the world. I am your light," as somebody who cares for our lives as we still live in the dark night.
Whoever Follows Me Does Not Walk In Darkness
12. Then second, Jesus said, "Whoever follows me does not walk in darkness, but has the light of life." The night does not depart until the morning sun arises. The world is also the same. Until this world ushers in the morning of complete salvation, the darkness of the night will never depart. But even still though, a person does not need "to walk in darkness." No one needs to wander about becoming full of injuries from falling and getting banged up. We should be walking with the light. We should be walking while being guided by the light. Whenever the light is with us, though we are in the wilderness of the night, we don't ever have to walk in the dark.
13. Everybody, what we need to walk the wilderness of the night is neither to be a top notch walker nor excellent eyesight. It is light [that we need]. It is the sure light that leads through the wilderness. The Lord said, "Whoever follows me." "To follow" means to walk right behind [someone]. It is to walk without being separated. When the Israelites made their journey the important thing was not to be separated from the pillar of the cloud or the pillar of the fire, which went on before them. This very thing was more important than anything else.
14. When we are placed in a situation where we're traveling and we must walk in total darkness, we'll see the importance of the light indeed so. Nobody wants to be separated from the light. But, when it comes to problems in life, we don't readily understand the importance of light. We feel like we can go it alone.
15. Today [we have our] joint service with the children. Just ago a lot of children came up front. While looking at them, I remembered those days I used to have [as a child]. It was in my childhood when I discovered Jesus Christ as the Light of the World. Even though the children came up front just a bit ago, yet I heard about Jesus Christ during church too just like them [when I was little]. Christ is a [time transcending] being who is always with [us].
16. But, about the time I was a middle school student, I didn't have much interest or care about Christ. I quit thinking I needed Christ while going on [with the business of] living. The teachers in school and the adults in society taught me, you might say, the importance of training as a good walker and how to train in it. [They said:] Become a strong person unbeaten by others. When you compete, be the best. Break out those strengths you've never seen before. I think I was raised hearing those kinds of words out loud over and over. Also, the adults taught me that we should have eyes that see right through into the future. They said it was important that we should read other peoples' steps, one or two steps, ahead of time. They said be wise. Thus in that way, without realizing it, I became convinced that if only I had strong feet to be a good walker, if only I had good eyes that saw through into the future, I could even walk the wilderness in the nights.
17. But, what really happened? I wandered the darkness, I wrestled with one guy, then I wrestled with another, I stumbled here, then I stumbled there, I collided with someone over one thing, then I ended up hurting myself and those around me so much. Where was I going in the first place? I didn't even know where I should have gone. Where was my life ultimately headed for? Why try listening to the adults in my life, they didn't even know from Adam I wondered. They were practically no help.
18. When I was like that, Jesus Christ as the Light came into my life again. I came to know again the blessing of being with the light. We ought to be good walkers with good feet. -- It is certainly useful. We ought to have good eyes that can see far away [into the future]. -- It s certainly useful. But, it is the light that we really need. We ought to be with the light.
19. As long as a person lives, one cannot avoid traveling the wilderness. And, the place where we are living is the world, where darkness spreads without limits [as far as] you can look out. As long as we're living in that, there will surely be troubles. There will be hard times too. You'll probably have to shed a tear [or two] of sadness a few more times. Nevertheless, though, a person does not need to walk all wandering about in the dark. Not when you're following Jesus Christ the Light! The Lord said, "Whoever follows me does not walk in darkness, but has the light of life."