Then, scum. Now, the light of the world.

What was Matthew thinking?

The background stories of many of Jesus’ disciples are sketchy. The Gospels say almost nothing about some of the Twelve. But Matthew’s story is told in Mark 2. He was one of the Jews who worked for Rome, collecting taxes from his own people for the despised Roman government. The Jews looked at such men with scorn and hatred.

One day Jesus saw Matthew at his tax collector’s booth and asked Matthew to be his disciple. Matthew walked away from his job immediately.

Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to dinner. He also invited lots of his own friends, tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. Mark’s account tells us that there were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.

You can picture the scandal. Of course, the Pharisees pounced on this (with great delight, I imagine) and started the talk: Why does he eat with such scum?

Chances are, that wasn’t the only time Matthew heard such comments. Maybe even among Jesus’ followers, there was some whispering, some reluctance to forget that this man had worked against his own people. I’m just guessing. But we all know how difficult it is to be willing to wipe clean the slate of a person when he comes to Jesus. Our Father does it, though, and he’s trying to teach us. Sometimes, we’re very slow learners.

Maybe Matthew himself had trouble forgetting what he once was.

So what do you suppose Matthew was thinking when he heard Jesus say to the disciples,

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.

I think it’s interesting that only Matthew records this remark from the Master. Maybe his ears picked it up, his heart skipped a beat, and the words echoed in his spirit for a long time.  He heard Jesus say it:  The tax collector, the scum, is going to be part of the light of the world.

I’m only guessing at that, of course, trying to imagine myself in Matthew’s shoes. And we are in his shoes. Jesus’ words were meant for you, too, child of God.

Whew. Do you feel ready to carry out that assignment? Ready to live up to the job description of “Light of the World” ? Or do you think that sounds a wee bit audacious, to think that YOU are the light of the world?

The one you follow, the one you call Lord, has said that you are.

Jesus said he came as the light of the world, so that mankind does not have to walk in darkness. Now he tells his disciples that they are also part of the lighting plan. This would include us, friends. God’s light shines into us, so that it will also shine out of us.

 So how does the scum turn out to be the light of the world?  More, in the next few days.

But for now, think about Christ lighting the world by lighting his candle within you and placing you where light is needed. And many candles, each lit by the Spirit of Christ within, stand together and become a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 

Scriptures: Mark 2:13-16, Matthew 5:14-15 (both NLT)

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