Monday, January 14, 2013

Mark 4:21–25

Mark 4:21–25 (ESV): A Lamp Under a Basket


I was going to combine a few sections together into one post—Jesus uses a number of metaphors in a row to explain the kingdom of God—but I decided to cover this short one on its own instead. This passage seems to be continuing on the conversation from the previous post, when Jesus was telling the Parable of the Sower.

Here he uses the metaphor of a lamp: a lamp is put on a stand for its light to be shown throughout the house, it isn’t put under a basket or under a bed. After all, what would be the purpose of having a lamp in the first place if you were going to hide its light? Jesus, speaking metaphorically, says that this is because “nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light” (verse 22 (ESV)).

Jesus then brings in a different metaphor, and talks about measurements:

And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (verses 24–25 (ESV))
We’ll see what Jesus means by this potentially paradoxical statement below.


In the metaphor of the lamp, the lamp represents the kingdom of God. When we are saved, we show the world that we are saved through our good works; what would be the point of being saved if we didn’t do any good works? It would be like buying a lamp and then putting a basket over it so that no light got out; what would be the point of buying a lamp and then not letting it shine its light? That lamp would be useless to everyone.

And what is the reason that lamp shines? To make manifest what was hidden, and to bring to light what was secret. In your house, you use a lamp to be able to see things which would otherwise be hidden by the dark; in the world, the kingdom of God brings to light hidden things such as hard hearts and sin. (This is a point I got from the ESV Study Bible, and I think they’re absolutely right.) To personalize it: I should lead such a good life that a non-Christian’s life, by contrast, is shown to be what it is: sinful. This should lead that person to seek to better him/herself, and eventually bring them into the kingdom of God, to shine for others.

Jesus then switches gears, and goes on to talk about how we measure what we hear. Luke 8:18 (ESV) is a parallel passage:

“Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”
If you hear the Word and receive it, God will give to you even more—that is, even better understanding of the Word. Becoming a Christian isn’t just a one-time occurence, there is also an aspect of continual growth and development, led by the Spirit and by the Word of God. Once you have received it, God will continue to give you more and more of it, but if you refuse it, the things that you do have—the things that are not of God—will eventually be taken away from you.

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