Imagine, if you will, that you are on a ski trip to Colorado with your family. You rented a nice cabin in the woods, you spent the day skiing and now you feel the need for a shower. So, you head to the basement alone to shower and as you usually do your singing while your showering, scrubbing and singing, life is good…when suddenly the lights go out; the power goes out. Things just got serious. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a cave where they shut off all the lights and you literally cannot see your hand in front of your face, but that is what this was like. You’re alone. You’re scared. You’re frightened. You need light.
Now, Imagine a world without light. Imagine that you constantly lived in a darkness so thick that you can’t see the hand in front of your face. You wouldn’t be able to function. Plants wouldn’t be able to grow. Everything and everyone would die. It’s pretty morbid. Now take those thoughts and apply them to spiritual darkness, unbelief. Are the results not the same? In spiritual darkness, you would not be able to do anything to please God. All your acts would be like filthy rags. In a spiritual darkness, you would not know of a Savior from sin and would therefore die an eternal death. We need light to live our daily lives and we also need light to live spiritual lives.
Just as God gives us the Sun, moon, and stars as light for our daily lives so he also gives us a light for our spiritual lives and that light is his Son, Jesus. Jesus is like a beacon on a hill or in a lighthouse that leads people and ships to safety. He is like a spotlight at an airport directing planes to where they can land; that is Jesus. And Jesus, this light, physically walked on this earth and that is where we find him tonight in our lesson. On this earth talking to a large crowd of people.
But, Jesus, this light of hope and salvation, doesn’t have nice things to say to the crowd. He tells them that they are part of a wicked generation looking for a sign, a sign that proves Jesus is who he claims to be, the Son of God. The sign, they are demanding, must be something spectacular from heaven itself. Well, where had they been? Jesus had given countless signs that he was who he claimed to be. Only a few verses before he had been driving out demons and before that he had fed 5000 people, raised a woman from the dead, and healed numerous others who were sick and suffering. What more could they want?
So, Jesus tells his doubters that all they will get is the “sign of Jonah.” What was that sign? Jonah, if you remember, had fled from God’s command to preach repentance to the sinful people of Nineveh and ended up in a belly of a great fish for three days before God commanded the fish to vomit him out. Therefore as Matthew records, “as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” The sign of Jonah was a reference to Jesus future resurrection on the third day. death and the grave would not hold him. How much greater is this sign than Jonah’s and how much more apt the message of repentance coming from the Savior’s own mouth!
If that wasn’t enough Jesus goes on to compare himself to wise-Solomon and how the Queen of the South, Queen Sheba, traversed hundreds of miles just to hear him speak, yet here now stands before the world someone far wiser, Jesus, and many ignored his message. Many didn’t see the clear signs staring them in the face; they refused to take Jesus seriously. Even though he had come to share this message directly with them!
How about our generation today? Do we take Jesus seriously? That’s a broad question – let’s narrow it. How about you? Do you take his sign seriously? Do you take his Word seriously? We need to take Jesus’ message of repentance and the sign of his resurrection seriously. But often it is easier to act like a wicked generation and demand that God give us the signs that we want. “God, I called upon you like you said, but you haven’t fixed any of my problems, in fact they are worse!” Often it is easier to get angry with God when his will conflicts with ours and when our desires go against his. “Yes, God I know that what I’m doing is a sin, but right now, I don’t care, this has to be this way. And rather than repent and ask for forgiveness, our thoughts and attitudes toward God become more and more despondent and we drive out the clear sign of Christ’s victory over sin by failing to take God and his Word seriously. But it is serious!
Jesus’ Words, his work, and his life, are still as important as when he first was promised. You see that in the bible as people like Abraham, the Israelites, King David, the prophets, and countless others, took seriously and believed in the promise of a coming Savior. John the Baptist took Jesus seriously as he prepared the way for him. The disciples took Jesus seriously as they followed him and later spread the news about him once he had ascended into heaven. The wise men, the early church, all took seriously, all believed, in the sign of Jesus. The same sign that is for us today.
Signs often point us in directions we need to go or point to directions we need to follow; not so the sign of Jesus. His sign points to a fulfilled promise, a birth which we will celebrate in a few short weeks. His sign points to a perfect life that he lived on our behalf and a cross on which he paid for every sin, asking for nothing in return. His sign points to an empty tomb, assuring us that God accepted his sacrifice for sin and that one day we too will rise again from the dead. Let us take these signs from Jesus seriously. Let us see clearly the light which he shines before us as a guide to life everlasting.
Picture yourself again in that bathroom waiting in darkness for someone to come save you with light. You’re scared, but then someone walks in with a small candle and suddenly, light! You can see.
Jesus is like that light, in fact throughout Scripture he is often referred to as a light and specifically here in our lesson as a lamp. Jesus our lamp is always there. He isn’t buried. He isn’t hidden. He is not hard to find or understand. His light is as clear as day light. Jesus’ light makes clear that he is the promised Savior – we do not expect or look for another. It makes clear that his sacrifice for sin, paid in full and satisfied the payment God demanded for sin. It makes clear that he, Jesus, is the only way to salvation by this gospel you are saved. Finally, Jesus, our lamp, lights the way, pointing our eyes up, to look for his return and the final Day of Judgment when he will come back to take us with him.
In our lesson, the wicked generation Jesus refers to is seeking to hide and cover up this lamp. They want to block out Jesus. He illustrates their stubborn unbelief using human eyes. “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness.” What is Jesus saying? “If your eye is healthy,” your viewpoint is focused on Jesus’ teachings. You see him with your good, faithful point of view and your whole being is illuminated. “If you eye is bad” like that of unbelievers, you are blind to Jesus’ teachings. You stubbornly don’t see him at all, and you continue in the darkness of unbelief.
Perhaps using a glow-in-the-dark ball as an example will help. This ball gives off light, how? By absorbing the light around it. Later, if it finds itself surrounded by darkness, it will still give off light, but, if it never sees light again, it will slowly grow dark, and, if it never sees light at all it will always remain dark.
We, Christians, are like this ball. Jesus is the light all around us. Through the Holy Spirit that light has created faith in us. Lighting a light in us that now “glows” just like this ball. Temptations, doubts, fears, and sin, will at times decrease our light and cause us to get darker. But, if we continually stay in that light, in God’s Word, if we take seriously God’s encouragement to watch our life and doctrine closely, that darkness of sin won’t overwhelm us. We won’t become like an unbeliever, who blocks out the light, thereby remaining dark and later suffers eternal darkness. To avoid that eternal darkness, we get serious.
We get serious about the light that we in faith see every single day by placing ourselves in positions where we can hear God’s Word, so we can absorb the light of the Gospel. You and I do this by making time for daily bible reading, prayer, church, bible class, and devotion reading. We also get serious about avoiding those things which might block out that light. That often means making tough choices, like turning off the TV, closing the web browser, or even avoiding an old friend, but we pray for God’s strength and his Spirit every step of the way.
You know, when someone brought that light into the bathroom, that person didn’t keep it to himself, the light was shared. That finally is what we, who are filled with the light of the gospel do for others – we share it! We let it shine. We let it shine in our words. We encourage others, we compliment, we say thank you. We let it shine in our actions, as we help someone shovel their sidewalk, study for a test, or finish a project at work. We let our light shine, out of love for Jesus whose every word, thought, and action was one of love for a people who needed him as their Savior. We shine, because we know he was serious when he said, “he is going to prepare a place for us and will come back to take us to be with him.” In seriousness, we wait for that day. And our souls in stillness….can‘t wait. Amen.