Here’s the Reader’s Digest version: Upon Jesus’ ascension, He was met by Gabriel at the gates of heaven and their proposed dialogue was something along these lines:
Gabriel: “Oh, Master, how wonderful, how glorious that You have returned! We do wonder, however — how many people down there know how much You love them and that You died for them?
Jesus: “Gabriel, just a little handful — 11 men in a company of 120 in the city of Jerusalem.”
Gabriel: “Master, how will the rest of the world know that You died for them?”
Jesus: “I have asked Peter, James, John and a few more friends to tell others about me. Those who are told will tell others, in turn. Eventually, my story will be spread to the farthest reaches of the globe and all of humankind will have heard of me.”
Gabriel: “Yes, but what if Peter and James and John grow weary? What if the people who come after them forget? What is Your alternate plan?”
Jesus: “There is no alternate plan.”
It is obvious that this story is told to admonish believers to share their faith with boldness and frequency. It has probably galvanized young people to consider missionary service. The legend is obviously not true, but its purpose is clear: to remind us that we — you and I — are still the light of the world.
Early in the book of Matthew, Jesus has just been tempted by the devil for 40 days. He is hungry and tired, yet He holds fast, eventually driving Satan away. On the heels of this, He learns that John the Baptist has been imprisoned. His reaction is quite human: He withdraws and convalesces, then He begins to preach, calling men to repentance.
Shortly afterward, while walking beside the Sea of Galilee, Jesus sees Peter, Andrew, James and John. His overture to them was the same one that still resonates in the human heart: “Follow me.”
At this point, He begins to heal the sick until the crowds become overwhelming. Jesus finds a place on the mountainside to rest and calls his freshmen disciples to Him. After laying some ground rules about being blessed, He stares at the fishermen, tax collectors, laborers, workers, and states very bluntly, “You are the light of the world.” They must have been astonished! Surely science or reason was the light of the world; perhaps self-enlightenment or ingenuity could be labeled as such, but could human beings really be the light of the world? Jesus further admonishes them to let their light shine before others, thereby glorifying their Father in heaven.
It is not coincidental that James described God as the “Father of Light,” or that God chose that medium to communicate with a dark world. In 1905, Einstein theorized that nothing in the cosmos travels faster than light, and that the speed of light is independent of the motion of the light source. That makes me smile. God just needs for us to shine; He takes care of the rest.
John wrote that the entire world lies in darkness. Our cultural, intellectual and political worlds, on the whole, exist in darkness. The light that shines in the darkness is generated by the people of God — those who know Him, those who have responded to Him.
In one of Paul’s prison epistles, he admonished the Philippians to live “blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life” (Phil. 2:15). Our assignment is to concentrate our strength and resources, our devotion and labor to do simply this: make the lamp burn, the light shine.
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