In Matthew 12 we learn that the Pharisees and those responsible for guiding Israel had become faithless teachers. Their candle was going out.
They were demanding a sign (Luke 11:29) but they should have been looking for the a light switch.
No one after lighting a lamp puts it in the cellar or under a bowl, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body… (Luke 11:33-34)
The purpose of a lamp is to give light. The lamp isn’t the light. It carries the light and enables others to see what they need to see.
If the lamp (which Jesus says is your eye) is working properly your whole body will be filled with light.
Jesus is the Light. He is the light of the world. The light that enlightens every man (John 1:9).
In Luke chapter 11 we learn that the Pharisees were consumed with lesser lights. They saw cups, mint, good seating and handshakes (Luke 11:39-43) but they did not see Jesus or His mercy.
This is the meaning behind the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-15).
Some started work at dawn, others turned up for the last hour of the day. Those who started work early grumbled about the fact that everybody got paid the same, to which Jesus, the owner of the vineyard, replied (literally in the original language of the text),
Is your eye bad because I am good? (Matthew 20:15)
The good eye is the one that sees, focuses on, lights up and magnifies mercy. The Pharisees had their eye on things like money, reputation and hand washing, which Jesus says had made the light in them, darkness.
When your eye is healthy your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness (Luke 11:34)
Like the Pharisees, our temptation is to turn down the light. It’s to put Jesus in the cellar so we can live life on our own terms.
But our eyes were designed to see Jesus. That’s why they exist. And when you see Him as He really is, Jesus says, your whole house (your whole body) is filled with light.
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Life apart from Christ is like a man walking through a crowded room with the lights turned off. Inevitably, he crashes into the furniture.
The purpose of the lamp is to light the path beneath your feet so that you know where you are going. But, wherever there’s a lamp you’re sure to find someone with just the right size bowl to conceal it.
This is what the Pharisees had done. They had thrown a blanket over the light and we’re now crashing, and causing others to crash.
Embedded in Jesus’ rebuke to the Pharisees is a caution for the rest of us. Don’t be the bowl. Don’t be the dimmer switch.
Being the dimmer switch means hiding the truth that leads others to their see their need for Jesus and His mercy.
“Stop your gambling”, says the Light. “Oh well”, says the guy with his hand on the dimmer switch, “At least I don’t kick the dog, or the cat, or the kids”.
“Speak up for the unborn” (Proverbs 31:8), says the Light. “Ah, but if we do that we are going to cause all kinds of problems and get into all kinds of trouble and it might impact our witness and our reputation. It might even leave us financially crippled and with a criminal record.”
Yes, being a light has its consequences. But the consequences of being the dimmer switch, as the Pharisees were about to find out, are even more devastating.
Finally, the need for our whole body to be filled with light is grounded in the fact that the Christian life is not a patchwork quilt. It’s a seamless cloth.
If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light. (Luke 11:36)
Some have their lamp in one corner of life, their work in another corner, and their marriage off in another corner again. But the life and light of Christ are to be woven into our entire being.
To be well lit is to have your eyes fixed on Jesus so that your whole life is filled with the kind of grace and truth that trickles down into everything. And when that light, which is the word of God, is burning bright in all of life, it enables those around you to see Jesus more and more clearly.