The Inner Light Hasn't Gone Out, Has It?
October 31, 2010
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
The Person Whose Entire Body Is Shining
1. In today's gospel reading, the words of Jesus were read, "If your entire body is brightly lit and has not even a little dark spot, your entire body is shining, just like when a lamp shines on you with its radiance," (verse thirty-six). When we read this by itself, they are strange words, none of which we understand clearly. However, the words, "Your whole body is shining," are quite intriguing. I want to be that way. A person who shines. A shining sparkling Christian. A church that completely shines as a body. Since the expression is that "the whole body is shining" and it is not a matter of measuring up to a standard for shining, what a radiant shine it must be!
2. As we can see from the words just ago, the expression, "Your whole body is shining" is connected to the word "lamp" from the very beginning. From "the [burning] lamp [light]" to "the shinning [light]" a piercing ray runs through. How can we define that "lamp [light]?" It is Jesus himself. In verse thirty-three Jesus says, "No one lights a lamp and then puts it in a cellar or under a container. He places it on a light stand, so that the light can be seen by the people coming in." When we read just this [text] we do not understand any of it clearly, but just before this he says, "There is one here who is greater than Jonah," (verse thirty-two). Furthermore, before that he says, "There is one here who is greater than Solomon," (verse thirty-one). I [will have to] omit the details today, but Jesus is speaking about himself to the crowd. And he spoke some more about "the lamp light." As it were, Jesus says it is "a [burning] light" that is put on a light stand. Jesus said, it is the kind of "light" that is not put in a cellar or under a container, but is put on a light stand so that everyone can see its radiating light.
3. The light which Jesus as "the lamp light" gives off is the light of God's love. Jesus is "the lamp light" put in this world in order to radiate the light of God's love. Jesus did make statements with words on God's love and forgiveness. But yet he did not speak just with words, he spoke with his actions. Jesus gave the story of the father who joyfully welcomed his returned prodigal son, and this same Jesus himself had meals with sinners. He placed his hands on persons considered defiled, he healed persons suffering and afflicted for a long time. With the authority of God he pronounced forgiveness of sin. Ultimately he would walk the road to the cross in obedience to the will of the father. In order to forgive us and to accomplish the atonement of sin for this world, God would crucify [him]. God certainly did love this world, [though] it has turned its back on him. In spite of our being sinners, God has loved us. Through Christ he has revealed his love. The existence and the life of this one named Jesus is the very radiance of God's love. This is what it means that Jesus is "the lamp light." [His] light is put on the lamp stand [of the cross].
4. This one who has been "the light" says "Your whole body is shining." When Jesus said that, he probably meant that you shine by the same light as Jesus, the light from heaven, you shine with the light of God's love. Therefore then, we should seek and ought to seek to live shining in this manner. There are certainly [days] we have our different requests for God, we have different things we seek from God, and in fact [at times] we even frantically seek our requests from him. People will also have different dreams and may even desperately try to pursue [those] dreams. However, just as the Lord says, above all else what we ought to pursue after is to become "persons whose entire bodies are shining" no matter we do, no matter what condition we're in, whether we're in health or in sickness, whether we're young or old. For the youth it may matter "What will I be?" and for the elderly it may matter "How will I live out my old age?," but even more important than that is "Who am I becoming?" We are to become the kind of persons who shine in the true sense, persons who shine with light from heaven, the light of God's love, and by that radiant light many will come to know God's love. Isn't this the very thing we ought to be pursuing after?
When The Eyes Are Muddied
5. Well, how should we do this? Jesus says the following. "The light of your body is the eyes. When your eyes are clear, your whole body is bright and clean, but when they are muddied, your body is dark, too. Therefore, examine whether the light that is in you has gone out!," (verses thirty-four and thirty-five). This is another statement that is hard to understand. But one thing is clear. Whether your body is bright or dark, or whether it is shining or it isn't, he says it is an issue of "the eyes." He says it is an issue of your eyes either being clear or muddied. It is logic with respect to one's "eyes," but I'm told people long ago thought of "the eyes" as "the window" into the body. Of course when you close your eyes, it gets completely dark. When you open your eyes, the light comes in again. Whether these windows [of yours] are clear or muddied, the brightness from the light will be different. That seems pretty certain.
6. Earlier, Jesus said it was "a lamp light," which is the light that you put on a light stand. When we think of light stands, they are normally in a house, aren't they? In fact, the text says, "like the light that the people who are coming in see." So far, it is the image of a lamp stand in a house. In other passages the scripture speaks about "the Christ within me, [the Christ as the inner light within me]." That is a correct understanding. But, in this text if we read it with the image of "the lamp" we won't get the picture correctly because the Lord is evidently speaking of it here as something outside where the people are standing. Like "the lamp light" Jesus is outside. You could say there is a lamp on the outside of the window. The light is coming in through "the window." It is that kind of image. Therefore, in that case, we could make the case that "the window" is "the light" for that person because the light is coming in from "the window." As a result, the Lord says, "The lamp light of your body is your eyes."
7. Therefore, even though the lamp is continuously shining, based on the condition of the eyes, [the window of the eyes] may keep [the light from the window] out even when the light is coming in. It could be either light or dark. That's the kind of logic being given in this text. In other words, it is saying that whether we are light or dark, whether we are shining or not doesn't depend on Jesus' part as "the light," but rather on the condition of our "eyes," that is the condition of "the window," it is an issue on our part, not Jesus' part.
8. Jesus' part doesn't change. Just as he said, "No one lights a lamp and then puts it in a cellar or under a container. He places it on a light stand, so that the light can be seen by the people coming in," thus, Jesus put himself on the light stand. Jesus did not build a secret society. Jesus always spoke publicly what he was supposed to say. Even if it led to his being hated and it bought the envy and the animosity of the religious back then, Jesus [still] had meals with sinners, he announced forgiveness of sin, and he proclaimed with both words and actions that the rule of God's overwhelming love has arrived.
9. Indeed, even after the resurrection Jesus still continued to be the lamp light on a lamp stand. Through the church the Lord kept speaking, and [the church] considered it worthwhile to tell about Jesus and his salvation throughout the world. And the gospel of Christ has actually been told even in Japan, a land in the Far East. Worship on the Lord's Day is done publicly even now. Preaching in the church is given openly. In Shoei Church, the sermon each week is open to the public on the internet. We also distribute it to those needing it printed because they don't have internet access. Not just worship services, but various other meetings are also put together. People can listen as much as they want. If I may add even further, at least in this country, we can freely publish books for communicating Christ, and when we go to a Christian book store, they are filled with so many publications that it is hard to choose from them. In that sense, Jesus has continued to be the light on a lamp stand in this country as well, and he is still that way now.
10. But even so, whenever we are dark, it is not because "the lamp light" is hidden but because of the problem with our eyes. The Lord says, "When your eyes are clear, your whole body is bright and clean, but when they are muddied, your body is dark, too." "Bright and clean eyes" stand for "eyes that are turned wholeheartedly [to Jesus]." They are eyes that are turned wholeheartedly, obediently, and truly to Jesus. That being the case then, "muddied eyes," (if translated literally, "wicked eyes"), are eyes that are not currently turned to Jesus.
11. Once a person meets Jesus, he or she is all the time thinking about Jesus, wanting to know Jesus, just wanting to know him, wanting to know the truth of the gospel; he or she reads the scriptures with all one's heart and listens carefully to sermons. Morning and evening he or she has prayer time, making the windows wide open so the light of God's love will come in, and one way or another with a steadfast whole-hearted commitment he or she turns to Jesus, with eyes wide-opened turned to the light of God's love. But it is not always true that one [stays] in this condition. Without even realizing it, it is possible that one's eyes become muddied. Our hearts become preoccupied by all sorts of other things; our hearts separate away from Jesus and stop seeking him. Light is clearly not entering in from the eyes. The light of God's love used to fill a person on the inside, [but now] without even sensing how it happened, it has turned dark. The shining of the light of heaven has gone out from one's daily life. Such a thing may happen to us. Of course we could come up with various justifications. It's this guy's fault, or it's that guy's fault, or had some event not come your way, etc, etc. Different excuses can be listed why we are in this condition now. But, we should really already know why. It is because our eyes have become muddied. It is because they have turned dark.
12. Jesus said, "Therefore, examine whether the light that is in you has gone out!" Though he says, "the light that is in you," it is not the light you would have by nature. It is the light that used to enter in from "the lamp light" when you used to turn to Jesus wholeheartedly. That light has not turned dark [in you], has it? The Lord says, "Inspect this!"
13. Today is the day for our big day of cleaning*. Let's wipe the windows clean. And not just the church windows, let's clean up the windows of our hearts. Let's recover [our] pure and clean eyes! Let's recover eyes and lives that are turned to Jesus with our whole hearts! "The light" is on the light stand. When we seek the Lord and have every intention to seek the light of God's love, that light will immediately be within reach as much as you want. We expect this experience to get its start in specific ways. In that sense, today is also our own spring cleaning day.
14. *In Shoei Church each year on the last Sunday in October we have a spring cleaning.