The Light of the World, 1854, William Holman Hunt, English painter (1827-1910)
Jesus, bringing light, preparing to knock on an overgrown and long-unopened door (Revelation 3:20).
(…continued) Matthew 4:16 tells us what it means to walk in this darkness. The last half of the verse refers to those living in ‘the land of the shadow of death,’ and that is, of course, all of us. Death is an ever-present threat, so we are all, always, living in its shadow. We grieve the loss of those we have loved, we worry over the living, and we live with the knowledge that any day could be our last. And it’s not only people that die. Hopes and dreams also die, as the once bright future gradually grinds along into the distant past; and so much always remains unfulfilled, and so many plans end in disappointment. Not only that, but relationships die and hearts are broken. And even in those times when everything works out wonderfully, and the all dreams do come true, and relationships do work out, it is only for a little while, and then, as my mother used to say, “All good things must come to an end.” We would be playing outside at the end of a perfect summer day, and even though we knew it was late and getting dark, we would not like to hear her say, “Time to come in now.” As we walked into the house grumbling, she would say it every time, “All good things must come to an end.” We got kind of tired of hearing it, but it was, and still is, the truth. Good times end, hopes fizzle out, relationships fail, people die; and so we all know very well what the Bible means when it talks about walking in darkness and living in the land of the shadow of death.
But when you see the light of Jesus, your eyes are opened to his promise that, “He who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live;” so as Paul wrote, “We look not to what is seen but to what is unseen, for what is seen is temporary and what is unseen is eternal” (II Corinthians 4:18). That truth changes everything.
There is another kind of darkness. Hank Williams referred to this darkness when he began the song with, “I wandered so aimless, my life filled with sin.” I John 1 says: “This is the message we heard from Jesus and declare to you; God is light, in him there is no darkness. If we claim to be with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we confess our sins, and walk in the light, the blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin.” Hank Williams put it like this: “I was a fool to wander and stray, straight is the gate and narrow the way, but now I have traded the wrong for the right; Praise the Lord, I saw the light.”
God did not give his commandments to pester us with busy work. Rather, these commands simply teach us how to best live the life God has given to us, in this world that He has created for us. He ought to know what works. So when we sin and disobey God’s commands, we end up in the darkness of guilt and regret, of conflict and broken relationships and troubled communities, and in the darkness of fear and anxiety. And this darkness comes not only from our own sins, but we are also hurt by the sins of others. We are all familiar with the darkness of sin. But when we see the light of Jesus, and obey his commands, life can be built on the solid foundation of his Word.
There is still another kind of darkness, and this is the darkness of ingratitude, of being blind to all the wonders of God’s good creation. It is the darkness of an ongoing bad attitude, focusing only on everything that is wrong in the world and in your life. In every life there is plenty of evil, wickedness, troubles, bad luck, and frustration; and there are those who get way more than their share of such afflictions. But no matter who you are, if that is all you see, you are in the darkness; you are blind to so many blessings, so much good, and so many promises. You have got to pray that you, as the song says, can be “like the blind man that God gave back his sight.” We all know people who have been clobbered around by life more than most, but they still find all kinds of reasons to thank and praise God and have a smile on their face. That’s a powerful witness. Seeing the light of Jesus means seeing and being grateful for the many ways he has blessed you.
Matthew 4:16 says, “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.” In John 8:12, Jesus said: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Seeing the light of Jesus, then, means: #1) being grateful for this life and all that is in it; #2) having the desire live how God wants you to live this life he has given you; and, #3) taking comfort in seeing this life in the context of God’s promise of eternal life. (continued…)
Matthew 4:16 — The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
John 8:12 — When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Revelation 22:5 — There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a poor sinner. Amen.
–Ancient Jesus prayer (based on Luke 18:13)