A Light In the Darkness.
“…the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. And for those who lived in the land where death cast its shadow, a light has shined.” – Matthew 4:16 NLT
A light in the darkness. What a vivid image this conjures up in our minds as we think about the significance of Jesus’ arrival on the scene in Israel. He is like a like shining into a dark void where there has been no light for some time. Over time, the light that was there had slowly diminished, eventually enveloping the people in total darkness. Unable to see, they wander around aimlessly. They are incapable of distinguishing one thing from another. They have no idea what they truly look like. Slowly, imperceptibly, they acclimate themselves to the darkness, and almost begin to believe that this is just the way life is meant to be. They become content with darkness, having long forgotten what the light was really like.
That is the spiritual atmosphere of Israel at the point Jesus appears on the scene. The nation is blanketed in a cloak of spiritual and moral darkness. The nation has gone through a 400-year period of silence in which God refused to speak to them or do any kind of miraculous work among them. No prophets. No judges. No kings. They had endured invasion after invasion by other nations and had been subjected to all kinds of oppression at the hands of their enemies. Now the Romans, their latest conqueror, held them under their iron-fisted rule. But like fish living in the depths of the ocean where no light is able to penetrate, they had simply adapted themselves to the conditions. They had learned to tolerate their circumstances and had actually gotten used to their condition. Their spiritual world was dark and foreboding, but they failed to recognize it. Which is why they also failed to recognize the Messiah when He burst onto the scene. John tells us:
God sent a man, John the Baptist, to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He came into the world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. – John 1:6-11 NLT
Later on in the book of John, we read this statement from the lips of Jesus, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (John 8:12 NLT). Even Jesus saw Himself as the light of the world and knew that He was the solution to the moral and spiritual darkness in which the people lived. And He called out for them to simply follow Him. Follow the light.
Which is exactly what we see four ordinary fishermen do as they encounter Jesus, the light of the world, for the very first time. There they were, minding their own business, fishing as they always did along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, when along came Jesus, walking along the shore. He called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” (Matthew 4:19 NLT). A strange invitation, but Matthew records that “they left their nets at once and followed him” (Matthew 4:20 NLT). Next Jesus encounters James and John, sitting in their fishing boat repairing nets. Jesus offered them the same invitation and, “they immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind” (Matthew 4:22 NLT). The Light had penetrated the darkness of their world and they made the decision to follow it, to follow Him. They couldn’t see into the distant future and know exactly what their decision would lead to, but they had seen enough light to take the first step of obedience. They were attracted to the Light, like moths to a flame. And they followed. Their lives would never be the same again. This man would shed light on their lives and into their souls, exposing their darkness and expanding their vision of what it means to have true life. They would begin to see the world in a different light. Over time, their eyes would begin to adjust to the Light and they would see their surrounding more clearly than they ever had before. This new vision would confuse them and shatter their previous perceptions about everything. Light has a way of exposing and clearing up what was once shrouded in mystery and confusion. It enlightens and informs. It exposes and clarifies. But most important of all, the Light removes the darkness and replaces it with hope, joy, truth, comfort, and peace..
Father, thank You for sending Your Son, the Light of the world, into the darkness. Without Him, we would still be enveloped in a cloak of darkness and the shadow of death, unable to save ourselves and doomed to an eternity apart from You. I am so grateful that the Light of the world illuminated the darkness of my life and allowed me to see truth for the first time. Now help me to be a light to others, pointing them to You. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men