Do you remember this intro? “And now, The Guiding Light.” It is an old one. According to Guinness Book of World Records The Guiding Light was the longest running drama of all time. It came on the air in January 25, 1937 five days after President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s second inauguration as 15 minute serials. It then lasted some 18,000 episodes and 72 years, finally ending on September 18th, 2009. The series was created by Irna Phillips who based it on her personal spiritual experiences of having given birth to a still-born baby and finding comfort in listening to on-air sermons. These sermons provided the nucleus upon which the show was based. The Guiding Light refers to a lamp in the study of a minister who would turn it on to be a sign for the residents to find help when needed. With such an extensive history the show reflected, in a sense, the changing times of this country. Over the years the preacher was removed, the Christian message dissipated and the inspirational themes evolved into typical soap exploitations and glorifications of sin. Even the “the” was removed and the light went from being exclusive and singular to being just a Guiding Light among many.
Last week we learned about Jesus first claim as being God. He had fed the five thousand and they came back for more food. It was in this setting that Jesus declared “I Am the Bread of Life.” He used the Greek words ego and eimi (I-mee). Eimi meant to exist and ego meant the emphasis being on myself. Jesus emphasized his right to claim that his very existence made him the Bread of Life. The result of this claim was a mass exodus of his followers.
Shortly after this altercation the time for the Festival of the Booths also know as the Feast of the Tabernacles was near. This is Israel’s Thanksgiving feast in which they acknowledge the Fall harvest and God’s provision for them. It is happy celebration and a time of joy and rejoicing.
This feast also remembers Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and their subsequent wandering in the wilderness for forty years. During this time Israel lived in tents and worshiped at the Tabernacle which was also a tent. To remember this time the Jews build small tabernacles or booths. For seven days they were to live in these booths as a vivid reminder of the days in the wilderness living in tents.
Another feature of the feast was illumination of the Temple. The pilgrims who came to the Temple would bring lights and torches. Further the golden lamps stands would also be lighted illuminating the Temple. This prophetically looked forward to the coming of the Messiah as written in Isaiah 49:6. He says, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”
It was during this time that Jesus entered into Jerusalem. In the middle of the week He began to teach at the temple. The Jews who heard him were amazed at his teachings. The Jewish authorities were angered by his teachings. They would debate a lot of issues with Jesus over the next three days. Some wanted to proclaim him as Messiah. Others wanted him arrested and killed. Jesus sought the solitude of the Mount of Olives while all the others went home. However Jesus wasn’t finished.
As the pilgrims began to pack things away to travel home and the lights had been extinguished, Jesus began teaching again. In the midst of his teaching some scribes and Pharisees brought before him a woman caught in the act of adultery. “The law of Moses says this woman should be stoned to death. What do you say we do with her?”
Jesus bent down and began to write in the dirt. No one knows what was written but I can guess, as long as you understand it’s just a guess. I think He began to write a list of sins that her accusers had committed. And I think they were secret sins known only to the guilty parties. He gave them a chance to read the list and the said “Let anyone of you without sin throw the first stone at her.” Then He started writing again. Perhaps this time some names associated with the sins. They began dropping their stones and walking away until only the woman stood there.
Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
“No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
Immediately He turns to the people and makes this declaration. John 8:12 “Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “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.”
“I Am the light of the world.” He uses the term haya (hay-yaw), the word God used in revealing himself to Moses. He is declaring that his very existence makes him the Light of the World. Again he is declaring that He and God are one. That He is God. To understand this light that He claimed to be, we must first understand darkness. I do not like this time of year. Daylight savings time has ended and now it is getting dark at 5 pm. It adds a sense of dreariness to the day. In fact we turn on our lights to ward off the darkness that encompass us. I even need a night-light in the hall to give me a sense of security when I get up at night. God does not like darkness either.
Genesis 1:1-4 "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.
Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness."
God separated the light from the darkness. God separated that which was good from that which was not good. Those men screaming for the adulteress woman to be stoned was acting from the darkness within their hearts. Jesus shown the light of righteousness into their hearts exposing their own sins and they were convicted. “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.”
Hear the gentleness of that invitation. It’s not condemning. He told the adulteress woman “I do not condemn you.” He wanted to put light into her life.
Jesus would tell them later in “I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark.”
Have you ever gone camping? At night it gets really dark. We went camping at the old Heritage site in South Carolina years ago. The camp site was close to the outdoor stadium where they re-enacted the crucifixion each year. We arrived at dusk and just managed to get the tent set up before nightfall. As we surveyed our surroundings someone noticed a figure standing in the stadium on the upper level looking down upon our camp site. He seemed to be dressed in a Roman soldier garb holding a spear. He never moved. All night he was there, as we seen when we did periodic checks. But when the sun arose the next day we discovered our Roman soldier was actually vines growing around a pole and a guide wire.
This was the darkness of Jesus’ time. There were no electric lights, no street lamps. When the sun went down, people did too. They closed themselves off from the outside world making it dangerous for anyone traveling at night. There world at night was truly dark. Jesus said “I am the light in this world. If you trust in me you will not have to remain in the dark. Whatever frightens you I can handle.”
Exodus 13:21 The Lord went ahead of them. He guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud, and he provided light at night with a pillar of fire. This allowed them to travel by day or by night.
There are times in our lives when darkness will prevail. We will struggle with sin issues. We will struggle with circumstances. We will struggle with our faith. Jesus says “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.”
It’s easy to follow Jesus when its daylight and things are all fluffy like a cloud. But it is in the darkness that He shines the brightest. Often when we are struggling with issues in our lives we do not want to travel with Jesus anymore. Jesus makes it possible to continue to follow him in those dark times. Psalm 119:105 states Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. When you are struggling, read the Book of Psalms and let the word guide you and show you the path to take.
In John 11:9-10 we have a warning. Jesus replied, “There are twelve hours of daylight every day. During the day people can walk safely. They can see because they have the light of this world. But at night there is danger of stumbling because they have no light.”
When you begin to live outside the realm of following Jesus you are in danger of stumbling. Paul spells it out clearly in Ephesians 4:17-19. With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.
When you turn away from the light of the world, you become confused and allow your mind to become darken. You begin to wander far from the life that God has planned for you. You close your mind to sound doctrine and harden your heart toward God and all who try to lead you in truth. You lose all shame and pursue everything that gives you pleasure even if it is impure. You distort the truth to fit your lifestyle. And then wonder why you feel empty. But Jesus said “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.” God is not a God of second chances. God is a God of chances everyday. Lamentations 3:22-23 “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.”
So as followers of Jesus we have the assurance that He will light up the world around us so that we do not have to walk in the darkness of sin. However, we realize that Jesus never gives us power that He does not want us to use. We have the Light of the World living inside of us. What do we do with it? Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
Paul added to this thought when he wrote “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.”
Since we have the Light of the World we are to become the Light of the World. In this dark world of dishonest and immoral people we are to live clean, innocent, caring, joy filled lives. We are to display our lives to all around us.
The question is not “Do we have the light?” but rather “How much light do we shine?” Are you like a city on a hill that cannot be hidden? Perhaps you are more like a flashlight. You give off just enough light to direct someone in the darkness but not willing to release all the light you have. Some may be like a match, giving off just enough light to point someone in the right direction without any commitment on your part. Our lifestyle determines how much light we are willing to release. Lights will light up everything in a room including our own shortcomings.
Let’s look at Matthew 6:22-23 “Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!”
We need to do a spiritual inventory this morning. Jesus proposes a serious question here. Do you really have the Light of the World shining in you? Or have you substituted the truth with you own imaginations of what the truth is? What do your words reflect? What does your lifestyle reflect? What does your attitude reflect? Do they reflect the true Light? Jesus said “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.” Do you have The Guiding Light of Jesus or just a guiding light that the world offers?