Here’s my latest Credo article as published in the ‘Newark Advertiser’ today
The writer of John’s gospel records Jesus saying ’I am…’ seven times: ‘I am the Good Shepherd’; ‘I am the Bread of Life; ‘I am the Vine’ and so on. If you don’t know all seven you might want to look them up. We are exploring all of these sayings in a series of services at our church at the moment.
Of course Jesus isn’t literally a Shepherd, a Vine or Bread. These sayings are all metaphorical: there’s something in each of these examples that helps us understand something about what Jesus is like.
Let’s think about one of them – ‘I am the Light of the World.’
Light is a very interesting metaphor. It can mean so much.
What characteristics does light have? What might Jesus have had in mind when he used this particular metaphor? Here are a few of my thoughts.
Light illuminates of course. It allows you to see things you wouldn’t otherwise have seen. You can be literally enlightened, transformed, by the light.
And it doesn’t take a lot of light to change things. If you strike a single match in a dark room the room is no longer in darkness. The character of things, the very nature of things has changed. However much darkness there is it can’t extinguish the light.
But there might be some things that you’d really like to have remained in darkness. Things you’d rather not have the light shone on. Light can expose you and leave you nowhere to hide.
Light can be a warning – a lighthouse shines its beam to warn ships to keep away from the rocks. But lighthouses also allow you to navigate – to know where you are and to be able to work out the direction you need to go.
I’m sure you could come up with other examples.
Which of these did Jesus want us to think about when he said ‘I am the Light of the World’? Well the marvellous thing about a good metaphor is that the reader has the opportunity to think for themselves and to obtain new layers of understanding. It makes those seven words ‘I am the Light of the World’ so powerful and far reaching, communicating so much so economically. All those examples above can be helpful to us in thinking about Jesus and what he was and is.
In the Sermon on the Mount (in Matthew’s gospel) Jesus uses very similar words:
‘You are like light for the whole world.’
This is a remarkable text in the light of what we’ve been thinking about.
In John’s gospel Jesus says ‘I am the light of the world’. And here in Matthew he uses the same words about us! He says we are like the light of the world. Speaking to the crowds in Israel all those centuries ago but speaking equally to us now.
Jesus is the light of the world. But we are also the light of the world.
What an honour.
What a responsibility.