Throughout the Bible, metaphors are used extensively. What is a metaphor? A metaphor is a figure of speech that is used to compare two or more things. Metaphors add colour to the text, making it more vibrant and easier to understand.
In the Gospels, Jesus used metaphors to refer to Himself – as “the bread of life” (Jn. 6: 35); “the true vine” (Jn. 15: 1); “the good shepherd”; “the light of the world” (Jn. 8: 12); and “the good shepherd” (Jn. 10: 14).
In His discourses, our Saviour also made frequent use of metaphors. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus alluded to believers not only as the “salt of the earth” (Matt. 5: 13), but also as “the light of the world”: “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 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. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5: 14-16).
Why did Jesus use the analogy of “light” to describe His disciples and their role in the world?
o God is Light
In his epistle, the apostle John exhorted the believers with the precious truth that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (I Jn. 1: 5). Light, which is part of God’s essential character, is a symbol of righteousness, purity and truth. Light repels darkness which signifies sin and evil. If we claim to know God, but “walk in darkness” by continuing in sin and error, “we lie, and do not the truth” (v 7). John enjoined us to “walk in the light, as he is in the light”. God is light, and He desires that His children live pure and holy lives by the light revealed to us in His holy Word (I Pet. 1: 15-16).
We note also that the Lord Jesus Christ called Himself, “the light of the world” (Jn. 8: 12a) – a term which He now applied to His disciples: “Ye are the light of the world” (Matt. 5: 14a). Jesus promised that whosoever followed Him “shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (Jn. 8: 12b).
“Christ calls himself the Light of the world (Jn. 8: 12), and they are workers together with him, and have some of his honour put upon them. Truly the light is sweet, it is welcome; the light of the first day of the world was so, when it shone out of darkness; so is the morning light of every day; so is the gospel, and those that spread it, to all sensible people. The world sat in darkness, Christ raised up His disciples to shine in it; and, that they may do so, from Him they borrow and derive their light” (Matthew Henry).
o Light is conspicuous
As lights of the world, Christ’s disciples stand out as beacons in a dark and sinful world. Conspicuous because of their different convictions, principles and values, their conduct is being observed by many. Just as “a city that is set on an hill cannot be hid” (Matt. 5: 14b), our daily lives and conversation “cannot be hid” any more than a city that is built upon a hill which can be seen by one and all. Non-believers watch closely the lives and conversations of Christians to see whether or not they live up to their faith and profession. Any sinful action or compromise of our faith can stumble them. Let us therefore be mindful of our witness before the world. Walk circumspectly before God and men.
o Light shines for the blessing of others
Light has many benefits. It enlightens and guides those in darkness. A light that is hidden or covered is of no use to anyone. “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” (Matt 5: 15).
“A Christian must so shine in his life, that a person could not live with him a week without knowing the Gospel. His conversation should be such that all who are about him should clearly perceive whose he is, and whom he serves; and should see the image of Jesus reflected in his daily actions” (C H Spurgeon).
We have been called by our Lord Jesus Christ to be His shining light in this world. Having found grace, let us not keep the good news of the Gospel to ourselves. Neither should we be secret Christians. We must shine forth our light for all to see. Employ our gifts, time and energies for the blessing of others. By our conduct, show them the love and grace of Christ our Saviour that they too might be drawn to Him. (… to be continued)