You are the Light of the World (Matthew 5:14-16)

Translation & Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS, 17 Apr. 2011


14. It is y’all who are the light of the world.

            It is not possible for a city to be hidden when it is situated upon a hill.

            15. Neither do they light a lamp and place it under a bushel-basket,

                        but instead upon the lampstand, and it illumines all those who are in the house.

16. Start shining your light like that before people,

            so that they might see your good works and might glorify your Father in the heavens.

Intro: Light a kerosene lantern

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world” (5:14ff) Υμεῖς ἐστε τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου.

a-1) “Light” in the O.T. (TWOT[1])

In the O.T., the word in Hebrew for “light” is אוֹר (pronounced “or” )


Light is associated with:

·         Light-bearing bodies, such as the sun and moon.

·         God's role as creator of light is stressed.

·         Lightening (Ps 77:18; 97:4; Job 36:32)

·         The pillar of fire (Ex 13:21; Ps 105:39)

·         and Man-made lights, such as the sacred lampstand in the tabernacle (Num. 4:9,16; 8:2) and olive oil lamps in homes (Prov 13:9).

·         It’s also associated with Time, separating day from night (Gen 1:5, 44:3; Jud 16:2; 19:26; Nehemiah 8:3; Isaiah 60:1-3; Amos 8:9).


Metaphorical usages (esp. related to life & happiness) are more common:

·         A person's face or the eyes are viewed as light-bearing objects. (Ps 38:10, I Sam 14:27, Job 29:24, Prov 16:15, Ps 44:3; 89:15).

·         Blessing of the Lord making his face to shine upon you (Ps 31:16; 67:1; 80:3, 7, 19; 119:135; Dan 9:17).


Symbolize general "life" or "prosperity."

·         "To see the light" is "to be born" (Job 3:16), "light of life" poetic reference to being alive (Job 33:30; Ps 56:13, Mal 3:20)

·         Prosperity Job 22:28,

·         Happiness (Ps 97:11, Est 8:16,Proverbs 15:30)

·         Instruction (Eccl8:l, Prov 6:23, Ps 119:105, 130, Psalm 19:8). Denotes adherence to the laws and teachings of God (Isa 2:3, 5; cf. 51:4).

·         A day without light speaks of trouble and calamity. Amos 5:18

·         Darkness is associated with death (Job 3:5; 10:21; Ps 88:6; 91:6), failure and suffering (Jer 28:12; Amos 5:18, 20; Lam 3:2), folly (Job 37:19; 38:2; Eccl 2:13), and sin (Job 24:16; Ps 74:20; Prov 2:13; Jer 49:9),

·         Light is associated with salvation (Job 29:3; Isa 58:8; Ps 36:10), wisdom (Ps 19:9; 119:105, 130;Prov. 6:23; Dan5:11), justice (Isa 42:1-3, 6; 49:6; 51:4f.; Mic 7:8).


God is compared with light. (Ps 27:1, Isa 10:17, 9:2, 42:6; 49:6).

·         The glory of God is described in terms of the sun, but not confused with the sun (Ezk 43:2, Ps 76:4, Mal 4:2).

·         In the future, the glory of the Lord will rise upon us (Isa 60:1-3) and He, not the sun, will be an everlasting light (Isa 60:19-20).

·         From this overview, we could say that light represent’s God’s presence, The life God created, God’s blessing, and the words of God.

a-2) Light in the N.T. (KJV) – comes from God to man

Natural light sources: sun, lamps, fires

·         Luke 8:16  No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light.*

·         Mark 14:54  And Peter followed him afar off, even into the palace of the high priest: and he sat with the servants, and warmed himself at the fire.* Luke 22:56  But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire,* and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him.

·         Acts 16:29  Then he called for a light,* and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,

·         Revelation 18:23  And the light* of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived.


Characteristic of God

·         1 Timothy 6:16  Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light* which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.

·         James 1:17  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights,* with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

·         1 Peter 2:9  But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:*

·         1 John 1:5  This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light,* and in him is no darkness at all… 7  But if we walk in the light,* as he is in the light,* we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

·         Revelation 21:24  And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light* of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. 22:5  And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light* of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.


Specifically of Jesus

·         Isaiah prophecied that Jesus would be a light: Matthew 4:16  The people which sat in darkness saw great light;* and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light* is sprung up.

·         So did Simeon Luke 2:32  A light* to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

·         Then John identified Jesus as the light: John 1:4-9 In him was life; and the life was the light* of men… John… came… to bear witness of the Light,*

·         John 3:19-21  And this is the condemnation, that light* is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light,* because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light,* neither cometh to the light,* lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light,* that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. (cf 11:9-10)

·         Jesus also stated that He was the light of the world: John 8:12  Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light* of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light* of life. (cf. 9:5)

·         Matthew 17:2  And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.*

·         And Jesus called His followers to believe in Him in order to participate in His light: John 12:35-36  Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light* with you. Walk while ye have the light,* lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have light,* believe in the light,* that ye may be the children of light.* These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them… 46  I am come a light* into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.


Light Flows from God to His people

·         Acts 9:3  And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light* from heaven: (|| Acts 22:6-11, 26:13)

·         Acts 12:7  And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light* shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands.

·         Acts 26:23  That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light* unto the people, and to the Gentiles… 18  To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light,* and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.

·         Romans 13:12  The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.*

·         2 Cor. 4:6  For God, who commanded the light* to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

·         “This being the distinctive title which our Lord appropriates to Himself (John 8:12; 9:5) - it must be applied here by our Lord to His disciples only as they shine with His light upon the world, in virtue of His Spirit dwelling in them, and the same mind being in them which was also in Christ Jesus.” ~ Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary


And Light Flows from the people of God to the World

·         John 5:35  He [John] was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.*

·         Matthew 5:14  Ye are the light* of the world…

·         Matthew 6:23  But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light* that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! Luke 11:35  Take heed therefore that the light* which is in thee be not darkness.

·         Luke 16:8  And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.*

·         Acts 13:47  For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light* of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.

·         2 Cor. 6:14  Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light* with darkness?

·         Ephesians 5:8  For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light* in the Lord: walk as children of light:*

·         1 Thessalonians 5:5  Ye are all the children of light,* and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

·         All Christians are light in the Lord (Eph_5:8), and must shine as lights (Phi_2:15)The world sat in darkness, Christ raised up his disciples to shine in it; and, that they may do so, from him they borrow and derive their light.” ~Matthew Henry’s Commentary

b) The impossibility and absurdity of hiding light (v.14b-15a)

 οὐ δύναται πόλις κρυβῆναι ἐπάνω ὄρους κειμένη·

·          “A city set on a HILL” – this is the same word used to describe the mountain upon which Jesus was sitting and teaching. Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth had been built on a hill [show photo], and, during a later visit, the townspeople would try to throw Jesus off that hill. The earthly city of Jerusalem was situated on a hill, and the heavenly city is also pictured as being on a high mountain.                                      

·         [NASA image of lighting of world @ night] Light is naturally a prominent thing. Our eyes are attracted to light instead of darkness. When I carry an infant around, their eyes lock onto light sources and follow light. The character of God outlined in the beatitudes is a normally attractive thing, but it doesn’t stop there:

·         God intends for us not only to carry His light and have His naturally-attracting character; but to display us prominently so that His light and character qualities are unavoidable and the world cannot help but be confronted with God in His people.

·         “And as a city cannot be hid which is built on a high place, so neither could, nor ought the doctrines which the apostles were commissioned to preach, be hid, or concealed from men: they were not to shun to declare the whole counsel of God, nor study to avoid the reproaches and persecutions of men; for they were to be "made a spectacle"; to be set as in a public theatre, to be seen by "the world, angels, and men". ...The design of the expression [put it under a bushel] is, that Christ has lighted the candle of the everlasting Gospel, and given gifts to men for the ministration of it, not to be concealed… [Christians are not] to neglect the gift that is in them; nor, through fear, to hide their talents, or keep back any part of the Gospel, or cover anything out of sight, which may be profitable to souls.” ~ John Gill’s Commentary

Mat 5:15a  οὐδὲ καίουσι λύχνον καὶ τιθέασιν αὐτὸν ὑπὸ τὸν μόδιον,

            Neither do they light a lamp and place it under a bushel-basket,

·         The opposite of being the light of the world is “hiding” – like the man in the parable of the talents who dug a hole and “hid” his talent.

·         Vincent:the bushel;” a familiar object - the [earthenware] grain-measure which is found in every house… the stand. Also a part of the furniture of every house, and commonly but one in the house: hence the article.

·         Bruce: “The figure is taken from lowly cottage life. There was a projecting stone in the wall on which the lamp was set. The house consisted of a single room, so that the tiny light sufficed for all.”

·         [Put a bucket over the kerosene lantern and discuss the absurdity. Lost light, wasted fuel. Either the bucket will catch fire or the lamp will run out of oxygen and extinguish.]

·         Jesus used this line of teaching again and again throughout His ministry:

·         Henry: “The disciples of Christ… are for signs (Isa_7:18), men wondered at (Zec_3:8)... As the lights of the world, they are intended to illuminate and give light to others (Mat_5:15), and therefore, (1.) ...Christ has lighted these candles, they shall not be put under a bushel… and they shall be sent into all the world. The churches are the candlesticks… in which these lights are placed, that the light may be diffused; and the gospel is so strong a light, and carries with it so much of its own evidence, that, like a city on a hill, it cannot be hid, it cannot but appear to be from God, to all those who do not wilfully shut their eyes against it.”

c) How to “give light to all in the house” (v.15b)

ἀλλ᾿ ἐπὶ τὴν λυχνίαν, καὶ λάμπει πᾶσι τοῖς ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ.

Most people in our world don’t have the kind of elaborate houses we have with lots of rooms and locking doors. For many people, their home is like just our living room, and they put bedding around the edges of the room to sit on during the day and roll the bedding out and sleep on it at night. So, for most people, one lamp really could light their whole house.


Jesus said that we are the light of the cosmos - the world.


Now Jesus is not just talking about lighting candles; He is using light as a figure of speech to mean that we transmit the presence of Jesus Christ, the blessings of God, the life of God, the attitudes of God, and the words of God into our houses and into the whole world.

d) The reason for shining: “That they might… glorify your Father” (v.16)

ὅπως ἴδωσιν ὑμῶν τὰ καλὰ ἔργα καὶ δοξάσωσι τὸν πατέρα ὑμῶν τὸν ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.

o       When I get dressed in the morning, I should think, How can I dress so that God is glorified?

o       When I say something in family devotions or Bible study or church, how can I say it so that God is glorified?

o       When I sit down at my desk to study or listen to a lecture or fill out papers, how can I do this in such a way that God is glorified?

o       When I’m talking with my children, roommates, students, patients, or my inferiors, how can I do that so that they will say, “Wow, God is awesome!”

Conclusion(v16a.) “Start shining your light like that before people”

οὕτω λαμψάτω τὸ φῶς ὑμῶν ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων

[1]               Harris, Archer, and Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament.