Bringing Light to the World

Jeff Garrison
Mayberry and Bluemont Churches
June 20, 2022
Luke 8:16-23

Sermon recorded at the Bluemont PIcnic Shelter on Friday, June 24, 2022

At the beginning of worship:

One of the key doctrines of the Protestant Reformation is the “priesthood of all believers.” The concept, defined by John Milton, held that “every person is created by God with the freedom of conscience, reason, and will.”[1]  

This doctrine implies that we all have direct access to God in our prayers and through our study of God’s word. We don’t have to go through a priest, who stands between us and the divine. Jesus destroyed the veil separating us and God.[2] We can cast our burdens upon God, ask for intercession for friends and family, and seek God’s wisdom, all on our own. 

The priesthood of all believers and democracy

The priesthood of all believers is a novel concept which became foundational for a democratic society. If we have standing before God, the holy and almighty one, it goes without saying that we should also have political standing before other creatures like us who happen to be in a position of power.  

Telling what’s great about our local church

Throughout this series, I want to prepare you to be able to articulate why someone should check us out as a church. In this matter, I think the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, is important. As a church, in the eyes of God, we’re all equal. And we should see others in that same way. No one is above anyone else.

Yes, some may be set aside for special functions such as the clergy. Some are set aside as ruling elders, those who make up the Session, the governing board of the church. But even here, no one is given special access to God. Nor is anyone given special treatment. We’re equal in God’s eyes, which we should celebrate! It makes the church a unique place in the world. We come as equals, we come as those brought together in Jesus Christ. 

Before reading scripture

We’re continuing our reading through the middle section of Luke’s gospel. Last week, we looked at Luke’s telling of the Parable of the Sower. This week, Luke follows that story with some mini parables about our responsibility to “let the truth be known.” Then Jesus discusses the meaning of his true family, which also has implications for us. I am reading this passage in The Message translation.

Read Luke 8:16-21

After the reading of Scripture: 

On a dark night from the bridge of a battleship, the lookout sighted a light dead ahead. They were on a collision course. He quickly relayed his sighting to the captain, who signaled to the vessel ahead, “change your course ten degrees east.” The response came back: “Change your course ten degrees west.” 

This infuriated the captain.  He responded: “I am a Navy captain. Change your course.”  

“I am a seaman, second class,” came the replay. “Change your course.”

Steam flowed from the captain’s ears, “I am the captain of a battleship. I’m not changing course.”

The response came back, “Sir, I’m manning a lighthouse. It’s your call.”[3]

Lighthouses as a sign of Jesus’ faithfulness

Christian stores often sell kitschy plaques and paintings of lighthouses with Bible verses about Jesus being the light of the world. And it’s appropriate, for lighthouses have become symbols of Jesus’ faithfulness. I’m not sure when Christians adopted the symbol, but it may have been quite early. By Jesus’ day, there had been a lighthouse for two centuries on the island of Pharos. This lighthouse guided ships into Alexander in Egypt after they’d sailed across the Mediterranean Sea. Alexander had a strong Jewish and latter a Christian presence.[4] While we can’t know for sure, perhaps the lighthouse there became linked to the faith in the late first or the second century. 

 In the days before Loran and GPS, lighthouses were essential to warning ships as to shoals and to the entrance to harbors. Many lives have been saved by those who attended lighthouses. It was a tough job as one had to keep the light going in all kinds of weather, especially during storms. 

Misleading lights

But, you know, other lights were at times used to confuse ships. During the 19th Century, along the Outer Banks, where many of the original residents were distantly related to pirates, during storms, some would build bonfires along the coastline. Seeing these lights in a blowing gale, a captain might adjust his course and then find his ship broken up on a sandbar. The residents would then save the crew and, as it was their maritime right in finding and saving the crew of a broken vessel, they would loot the ship of its goods. 

The message for us: Make sure we only shine the true light. We’re responsible to Christ, to let him shine, not to shine a light for our benefit.  This is especially true as we perform our role as a priest, of which we’re all one. Those who don’t know of our special status as a follower of Jesus, need to see our good deeds. Do we bring our Savior glory? 

Today’s text

Our text today has two parts. We could separate them as it appears they are distinct. The first part, about letting our lights shine, comes on the heels of the parable of the Sower, which we explored last week. Matthew and Mark also have sayings like this one in Luke’s gospel.[5] However, Matthew’s saying, in the Sermon on the Mount, is in a different context. “Letting the light shine,” may have been one of Jesus’ more frequent sayings. It could also be used in different situations,[6] but the sayings in all point to our priestly role of letting others know of Jesus. That’s why we put a lamp on a stand, so that it can give maximum light. 

Lamps in the first century

Hearing Jesus’ teachings about putting a light on a stand may have drawn people’s minds to the light stand in the temple, illuminating the holy room, for mortals to see. Or maybe they thought of their own lamps which provided nominal amount of light and had to be held high to maximize its benefit. We know that small oil lamps were common in Jesus’ day as they are frequently recovered in archeology digs.[7]  

Revealing God

Jesus, in recalling the use of lamps right after having told the story of the parable of the Sower, emphasizes the need to let our light shine. Jesus came to reveal God. And we, who know this truth, are to share it. We’re not to hoard such knowledge by hiding it under a pan or under the bed. I would suggest that hiding a light that was burning under a bed would be quite dangerous. That flame might set the sheets on fire. I’m not sure that’s a metaphor Jesus’ meant when he told this mini parable, but it certainly implies. Jesus shares his grace and love with us, and he expects us to share it with others. When we don’t, we’re not doing what he said. That can lead to dangerous consequences, such as our metaphorical bed fire.  

Two Points

There are two points we should understanding from these three opening sayings made by Jesus in the first half of our reading: Jesus’ purpose is not to conceal, but to reveal.

  1. Jesus didn’t come to share secrets with a few, his ministry is to bring to light what was unknown about God.
  2. However, parables don’t bless everyone equally. Those who hear and understand are blessed. Those who think they already know everything, find themselves lost.[8]
Second part of reading

The second part of our reading seems to be a new topic. Obviously, here, Jesus is no longer outside as it appears he was when he talked about the Sower. Instead, he is inside a building for his mother and brothers are outside. However, the topic, who are the true followers of Jesus, links up with Jesus’ previous teachings. 

Jesus and his family

Luke has already shown that Mary, Jesus’ mother, was committed to doing God’s work. We witness this before Jesus’ birth, as she answers the Angel Gabriel, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to your word?”.[9] At the age of 12, Jesus demonstrates has also shown his true family isn’t his earthly one which, like our families, is transient. Instead, his true family came from his closeness to his Father in heaven.[10] This also has implications for us. Our true family and our true home are not here on earth, but with our Father in heaven. I think that’s what Jesus drives at in this passage.

Mark presents this same story in a different light. He makes it sound more like Jesus’ family tried to discourage his ministry. Luke, however, presents the story in a more neutral way. As Luke has already done, Jesus’ family are portrayed as faithful and obedient.[11]   

Obedience is important to Jesus

So, according to this passage, who does Jesus consider his family? Those who hear his word and do it. It’s not just hearing or just believing; we must act on such beliefs. Obedience to Jesus is important. And, as we’ve just seen in the early part of the reading, part of this obedience is a willingness to share the faith and the hope we have in Jesus with others. 

Recently, somewhere, I saw a meme that hit home. It read: “Bible believing isn’t as important as Bible living.”[12] And I think that is what Jesus drives at in this passage. It’s not enough to know who Jesus is, we must follow him and show his love and offer his grace to the world around us. 

Sharing the Gospel of Grace

Of course, we’re not to share the gospel in an obnoxious manner. Jesus never used God’s word to beat up others. As Hannah Anderson in her book, Humble Roots, writes, “when we use fear to persuade a person to make a decision ‘before it’s too late,’ we make God look like a cosmic bully.”[13]We serve a God of love. As we follow the Son, our Savior, led by the Holy Spirit, we’re to show the lovingkindness to others that God has shown u

[1] John Witte Jr. “Law, Authority, and Liberty in Early Calvinism,” in Calvin and Culture: Exploring a Worldview, David W. Hall and Marvin Padgett, editors. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2010), 36.

[2] Luke 23:45 describes the curtain (veil) in the temple ripping during Jesus’ crucifixion. 

[3] This is an old joke, going back to the 1930s. See:

[4] See James R. Edwards, From Christ to Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the Church in Less than a Century (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academics, 2021), 62-64. 

[5] Matthew 5:14, Mark 4:21. While John doesn’t talk about a lamp, he does speak of Jesus as the light of the world. See John 1:4, 7-8.

[6] James R. Edwards, The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2015), 241-2.

[7] Edwards, 241

[8] Fred B. Craddock, Luke: Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1990), 113. 

[9] Luke 1:38, 46-55. 

[10] Luke 2:49. 

[11] In addition to taking Jesus to the temple at the age of 12, they also presented Jesus on the eight day to be circumcised. See Luke 2:21-24.

[12] I would defend this meme in that we are not to believe the Bible, but in the God revealed in Jesus Christ, that is revealed to us through Scripture.

[13] Hannah Anderson, Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul (Chicago: Moody Press, 2016), 112.

Morning Light, June 26, 2022

10 Replies to “Bringing Light to the World”

  1. Great photo, Jeff. I have heard that lighthouse before but it had been awhile so thanks for sharing because it is a good message to hear especially these days.

  2. Your photo of the morning light is beautiful, Jeff. I enjoy how you work humor into your sermons. I burst out laughing when I read, “Sir, I’m manning a lighthouse. It’s your call.” I didn’t realize that lighthouses were so linked with Christian faith. They were such common, everyday objects in my background. Our world needs a lot more light and lovingkindness. It feels very dark and cruel right now. That said, I’m focusing on gratitude every day. Have a good rest of the week!

    1. Today, lighthouses are often seen in Christian art. It was only speculation that it was seen that way in the early Church, for we know there was a significant church at Alexander, the site of the first lighthouse. Glad you liked the humor. People did laugh, but it is an old joke, going back at least to the 1930s.

    1. When I was in college, I was tempted to take a summer class on archeology and be involved in a dig at a Native American site, but I couldn’t do that and work, so… I would have enjoyed the experience.

  3. With belief in God dropping in the US, I guess it’s time we believers are more vocal about our attitudes. I almost never attributed actions or events to God for most of my life. Now, that happens almost every day.

    1. I’m interested in what changed to make you attribute more of what happens to God’s involvement. Why do you think this happened?

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