Verse of the Day Devotion. Matthew 5:14
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” – Matthew 5:14
Before we discuss this specific verse, let us look at several verses in the Old Testament that helps lay out what Jesus meant in our focus verse. First, “I am the LORD, I have called You in righteousness, I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You, And I will appoint You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the nations, To open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the dungeon and those who dwell in darkness from the prison.” Isaiah 42:6-7. Notice what this verse is saying. God is calling someone who would do His work through a new covenant on the earth. The Old Covenant was a conditional agreement that God made with the Israelites. The Old Covenant was in effect during the dispensation of the Law. It is ‘old’ in comparison to the New Covenant promised by Jeremiah the prophet and made effective by the death of the Lord Jesus. And this new covenant would replace the old one. “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, to the extent that He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Hebrews 8:6,10.
Then God tells His servant, “He says, It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the protected ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations, so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6. In this verse, we see that God’s servant was declared the light of the world. Jesus tells His disciples this which is recorded in the Gospel of John. “Again, Jesus spoke to them, saying, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” John 8:12. And we see here that God’s servant who was made the light of the world was the coming Messiah.
Now we come to our focus verse. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14. In John, Jesus declares Himself to be the light of the world, however, He knew His ministry would not last longer than His life here, so He passes on this responsibility to His followers. It started out with His disciples, but now it includes all true Christians from the time of Christ until He returns.
As a side historical point, Charles Spurgeon writes the following regarding lights of the world. “This title had been given by the Jews to certain of their eminent Rabbis. With great pomposity they spoke of Rabbi Judah, or Rabbi Jochanan, as the lamps of the universe, the lights of the world. It must have sounded strangely in the ears of the Scribes and Pharisees to hear that same title, in all soberness, applied to a few bronzed-faced and horny-handed peasants and fishermen, who had become disciples of Jesus.”
Physical light is necessary for physical life. A forest full of trees with very thick covers of foliage high above has very little plant life on the ground except for moss or lichen, which needs little sunlight. Plants will never move away from the light; they are said to be drawn to the light. In the same way, spiritual light is necessary for spiritual life, and this can be a good test of our standing in Christ. The believer will always tend toward spiritual things; he will always tend toward fellowship, prayer, the Word of God, and so on. The unbeliever always does the opposite because light exposes his evil, and he hates the light. Indeed, no man can come into the true spiritual light of Jesus Christ, unless he gives everything to Christ.
Now, Jesus gives Christians a great responsibility when He says that we are the light of the world, because He claimed that title for Himself as He walked this earth. And now He wants us to continue this duty, which is to shine the light of truth into a very dark world. And the light that we shine is not our own, but the light of Jesus reflected by us to the world. In other words, when we receive the light of Christ, we are not just to experience it, but we are to share it with those who do not know or see the truth. Note what He says in the next verses. “Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:15-16. Jesus shines His light upon us so we can reflect this light to a lost world. What do people see when they look upon us? Do they see the light of Christ, or do they see the darkness of this world? If they see the latter, then we must get our act together and stop covering the light and start shining it forth, for it is the light of Christ we are called to show the lost, and this is the only way we can convince them we are truly followers of Christ.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, President and Founder of True Devotion Ministries.