My weekly memory verse continues with these words of Jesus:
Last year I did a little bit of research into what happened between the events of the Old Testament and the start of the New Testament. It was a period of around 400 years during which the Greek Empire rose and fell, and the Roman empire emerged.
I discovered it was also a time where two opposing schools of Jewish faith developed. Whilst the Greek influence became a dominate force in Israel a number of Jews adopted the philosophy of Greek Rationalism and stopped believing in anything supernatural altogether. They were called the Hellenists, and later the Sadducees mentioned in the New Testament. To counter this another group of Jews went to the other extreme, they became very nationalist and strict in following the law, and resisting foreign influences. This second group became known as the Pharisees. The word Pharisee means ‘to separate’ and that is what these people did – they separated themselves from other races, religions and then even separated themselves from other Jews who did not follow the Law as strictly as they did.
Throughout the history of Christianity that urge to separate from the world has resurfaced from time to time. That is why we have monks and nuns living in isolated communities, and why hypocrisy and judgy pants can become common problems in Churches.
But Jesus is saying here that people of faith are the light of the world and they need to be visible and present in the wider community. Jesus doesn’t want His people to draw away from other people, He wants them to draw closer.
Why? Well, I think of it like this. If a light is far away from me and I look towards it all I can see is the light it self. I might be able to make my way towards it but everything around me is still in darkness. If a light is close to me, I can not only see the light, I can see my surroundings for what they truly are and I can even see myself. Light makes reality visible, so we need it close by.
In our culture we often see light as meaning fame, ‘My name in lights’, but in the Bible light often represents truth. Jesus wants His people to be people of wisdom and truth, because as He says ‘the truth will set you free.’ Jesus isn’t calling people light so that they can puff themselves up and feel proud, He is calling them light and reminding them that the purpose of being light is to help people in darkness. Being the light of the world is not about making yourself look good like the Pharisees ended up doing, but it is about sharing the truth about Jesus, that will make people’s lives brighter.