It was several years later.
In his country house at Arimathaea Joseph was entertaining three guests. Nicodemus was there, and young John and Mark, both now grown to manhood.
It was a warm summer night and after supper Joseph had proposed that they should adjourn to the flat roof top. There was no moon, but the sky was studded with myriads of stars.
Joseph himself was speaking.
“It’s quite astonishing what they’ve accomplished already. True, their hearts are in the work, but they are not in themselves remarkable men in any way.”
“I don’t quite agree with you there,” said Nicodemus; “they are remarkable in one respect, that they have one common object in life and a determination to see it through.”
“Surely the very fact that they were with the Master for those three years,” suggested Mark, “must have given them a steadiness of outlook. They must have unconsciously gained so much from his influence, I mean.”
“Yet on the night he was betrayed,” remarked Nicodemus, “they all deserted him and ran away. Don’t think I’m criticising them; I’ve no doubt we should have done the same thing. But my point is that within a few weeks those same men were standing up in open opposition to the whole powerful body of the priesthood, stoutly declaring that Jesus was the Messiah and had risen from the dead.”
“I suppose the very fact that they had seen him alive was enough to give them courage,” said Joseph; “at least it convinced them that their belief in him was justified. And they were further fortified when at Pentecost the Spirit of God was poured upon them.”
“Do you remember that night, Joseph,” Nicodemus put in, “when Jesus was just beginning his work and I went to warn him of the hostility of the Council? He talked then of the work of the Spirit; he compared it with the wind. You can’t see the wind, but you can see its effect; in the same way you can’t see the Spirit of God, but you can see the result of his influence.”
“We’ve certainly seen it in the Twelve,” said Mark. “Already the wind is becoming a gale which is blowing away much that was rotten in our national life.”
“And Jesus’ example and teaching are influencing other nations besides our own,” added Joseph. “Look at the way it’s spreading through Syria, in Antioch especially. And many foreigners are beginning to accept Jesus as the Messiah.”
“Isn’t the word ‘Messiah’ a little misleading?” suggested Nicodemus. “After all, it means nothing but the Anointed or the King, like the Greek word ‘Christ.’ Our own nation, as we all know, failed to recognise the true Messiah when he came, because they had a preconceived and false idea of what the real function of the Messiah was. They expected a warrior to free them from foreign oppressors. But when the true Messiah came, he was a working carpenter, who preached the doctrine of love and goodwill between all individuals and nations. When you spoke just now, Joseph, of foreigners accepting Jesus as the Messiah, what exactly did you mean by the word?”
“I was using the word in its literal sense of ‘King,’” replied Joseph; “I always think of Jesus as King of men’s lives.”
“I suppose it’s the most amazing story in the whole of history,” said Nicodemus reflectively; “the carpenter who cured disease, raised the dead and brought to mankind a new revelation of man’s relation with God; who was crucified as a criminal and rose again from the dead. I have often asked myself, who and what was Jesus of Nazareth? I wonder if anyone will ever give a satisfactory answer to that question.”
“Human words can never describe God’s Mysteries,” said John, joining in the conversation for the first time. “But don’t you think the answer’s something like this? Before the beginning of time, existed the Divine Principle; the Divine Principle was inseparable from God; one might almost say the Divine Principle was God. Through the Divine Principle all creation came into being. He was the source of life; and by the gift of life he brought light to mankind. But when the light of God was manifested in the darkness of the world, so dense was the darkness that the light was not recognised for what it was. Let me try to put it in a more concrete form. In the course of ages the world had drifted far from the original purpose of God; then there came a herald to proclaim the coming of the Light; that was John the Baptiser. He was not himself the Light of the world; he came to warn men of the coming of the Light. Then came the true Light—the Light which illumines every human soul. He was in the world; he had himself made the world; but the world passed him by. In our Master, Jesus the Messiah, the Divine Principle had appeared in human life—we who knew him could see the revelation of God’s nature in him—the essence of all that is good and helpful and true. It is best summed up, I think, in his own words: ‘I am the Light of the World.’”
For some minutes no one spoke.
At last Nicodemus said: “What do you think Jesus actually meant by calling himself the Light of the World?”
“I take it he was speaking metaphorically,” replied Joseph; “his own life was a beacon shining in the darkness of an evil world. As a lighthouse shows the way to sailors and warns them of hidden dangers, so the example of Jesus will serve to keep men on a straight course.”
“There seems to me to be more in it even than that,” added Mark. “Surely light shows things up clearly; so the coming of the Master showed up the difference between Right and Wrong.”
“Are you so sure that he was speaking metaphorically?” said John a little uncertainly. “The first time I met the Master, he patted me on the back for suggesting that God is Love. But wouldn’t it be equally true to say that God is Light; there can be no darkness in God. Wherever the Light of God shines, there springs up a crop of goodness and beauty and truth, just as corn grows in the sunlight. In the Master’s life the nature of God was perfectly revealed, so he was literally the Light of the World.”
John paused for a moment, reflecting. Then he continued as if he were thinking aloud: “I don’t know why I said, ‘was.’ The Master cannot change; he was, and is, and always will be, the Light of the World.”
Created from a nineteenth or early twentieth century text by Athelstane E-Texts