But we haven't gotten to the heart of this yet. There is immensely more here than even this. The distinctive thing, the characteristic thing in this sight of Christ, is yet to be noticed. All of this can be gotten from other sights of Christ. But notice now keenly where this Man of Fire is. For this is the distinctive thing. He is not up in the heavens, as in Ezekiel. He has not come on a special errand, as in Daniel's experience. [Note: Dan_10:20.] He is walking down on the earth. His whole concern is about affairs on the earth.
But note where He is on earth: not in Jerusalem, the Jew centre; not in Rome, the world's ruling centre, nor in Athens or Corinth, the world's culture centres. He is seen walking among a small group of candlesticks. This is the centre of earth action for Him. This is the significant thing of this new sight of Christ. Let us look at it a moment to get at the simple significance of the scene.
The candlesticks, we are told, are the Churches, the little groups of followers banded together here and there. These small groups of Christ's followers are called candlesticks or lampstands.
There is no suggestion yet of their giving any light. No lighted candles nor oily wicks are burning and shining. They are only candlesticks. They are of gold, the most precious metal, but they can give no light, they can only hold the light some one else supplies. The Man standing amongst them is the light. The whole effect of the sight of Christ here is that He is the light. The presence within the man shines out through head and eyes and limbs, as light, in tense dazzling light, even as the sun in his strength.
Here is the distinctive thing. Christ's whole interest centres in the earth. All heaven is bending over watching the run of events down here. The intensity of His suffering and death tell the intensity of Christ's interest in the movement of things on the earth. He has a plan. He has put His very life into it. It centres wholly in the affairs of us men down here. And it centres in His Church.
This quite upsets our common ideas about the centre of things down here. We class London and New York as the great financial centres; Paris and Berlin as the great fashion and military centres. Rome is the centre of authority of the Catholic Church, and St. Petersburg of the Greek Orthodox. The Man who holds all power in His hands, and on whose word everything depends, quietly brushes all this aside with scarce a move of His hand. The earth-centre of things is the Church. That is, the groups of his followers banded together in various parts of the world.
Sometimes it is seen as a magnificent organization intimately connected with the machinery of government. Sometimes as very small groups of persons with no social standing, despised and reckoned as not worth reckoning with. But this is the thing He is depending on for getting out to His world. All His plans centre here.
He is the light. The light He gave and gives through nature, and within every man's breast, has been awfully darkened through refusal and neglect to use it, through stubborn self-will. It is so darkened that ofttimes it seems to have been quite put out. His coming amongst us as one of ourselves, living our life, dying on our behalf to free us from sin, rising again victorious over death, sending His Holy Spirit to make all this real and living to each of us,—this is the light at its full shining, the flood-light.
He has made a plan for sending this flood-light to every one in every part of the earth. That plan centres in His followers. He is the light. The Church is the light-bearer, the candlestick. It is to hold Him up in such a way that men everywhere can get in direct touch with Him. When He is held up, the darkness goes. The darkness can't stand the light. This is the immensely significant thing here. This is the sight of Christ needed to-day, a sight of Him as He stands waiting on the Church to carry out His plan for the earth.
The faithfulness of the Church is not measured by compact organization, costly houses of worship, impressive services, eloquent scholarly preaching, and a ceaseless round of organized activities. It can be told only by how much of the spirit of the Christ who died is carried, in the daily life of its individual members, into home and social and commercial circles until men are compelled to feel its power in conviction of the sin of their own lives.
Nor yet is it told by transplanting the western type of civilization to far-away lands, with schools and hospitals and innumerable humanizing influences. All this may be blessed. And it will be blessed and blest. But it is the incidental thing. It is sure to follow where the Jesus light is allowed to shine clearly through and out. It is quite possible to have these good things without getting the real Christ. It is quite impossible to have Christ Himself without such influences coming, too.
The emphasis must be not on these things, but on Him, Christ. Men need Him. He answers the heart longing, and only He can. He changes the nature, and nothing else is enough. The Church is to take the loving, healing, personal Christ to men in the fulness of His power, and to all men. This is the measure of its faithfulness.