Tuesday, August 04, 2009


Mark 4 is a chapter of parables. They are clearly kingdom parables. The kingdom of heaven (kingdom of God) is one of the major themes of Mark’s writing. It is very important for us to keep in mind the context of Mark’s gospel. He is writing in Rome and his readers are both Jews and Gentiles. To this point he has revealed a few of his major themes. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He came to earth bringing the kingdom of heaven with him (as mentioned above). He is the king of that spiritual kingdom. He invites men and women to become citizens of his kingdom through repentance and faith. He demonstrates the awesome nature and power of his kingdom through signs and wonders. The power of his kingdom supersedes the power of demons and sickness and disease.

His reader finds another question developing in his mind. Mark’s readers are residents, if not citizens, of the Roman Empire. Exactly how do this kingdom of God and the Roman Empire relate to one another? Are they in conflict? Can they coexist? Hasn’t the might of the Roman Empire proved to be too great for Christ’s kingdom? Even as this gospel is being published, aren’t Christians being driven underground, into the catacombs beneath Rome? Aren’t Christians being put to death by the hundreds in the Colosseum? The Christians themselves have to be wondering about the condition of Christ’s kingdom. They trust in Christ. They are citizens of his kingdom. But things look rather gloomy and bleak. What is happening with the kingdom of heaven that Christ brought to earth?

Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. (Mark 4:21, 22)

The first parable is not technically a parable but an illustration used to make a point. Jesus presumes the question, “Why does one bring a lamp into a room?” Obviously, a lamp is used to be able to see what is in the room. Therefore, it would be ridiculous to put a lamp in a place which would prevent it from lighting the room. Jesus chooses two common objects for his illustration. One would not put his lamp under a peck measure. Neither would one put his lamp under a couch. These actions would defeat the purpose of the lamp which is to reveal the things that are obscured by darkness.

A literal translation of the Greek gives us an interesting insight into what Jesus is saying. The New International Versions reads, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed?” A literal rendering is, “A lamp does not come in order to be put under a measure or under a couch, does it?” The lamp is personified. In other words, the lamp is portrayed as doing something a person does; it comes into the room. So Jesus is talking about himself as the lamp that comes to shine light into the darkness and reveal whatever is hidden in that darkness. His kingdom, the message of his kingdom, and he himself come into the darkness of the world in order to reveal the truth. Jesus preaches the truth of the kingdom and that truth is light. It is the means of the growth of the kingdom. People hear that truth and repent and believe it and enter the kingdom.

What is hidden in the darkness of the world into which Jesus brings the light of the kingdom? God’s truth. The truth God gave to Israel in centuries past. The way to a genuine relationship with God has been hidden in the darkness of the world. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law have hidden the truth under mountains of their own rules and regulations and traditions. Their false righteousness has served to mislead the people for centuries. No prophet has come to Israel since Malachi, over four hundred years before Christ. Now Christ has come into the world as the light which will reveal the truth and show the way into his kingdom and right relationship with God.

What lesson can we draw from this illustration of the lamp? I know that Jesus did not teach this lesson in order to give us specific directions for New Hope Church. Nevertheless, there are principles which can be drawn out that should give us guidance. Jesus shows the means by which the kingdom will grow. It will grow through the presentation of the light, the word, the truth of the gospel of the kingdom. The simple shining of the light of the kingdom will do the work God wants done in this world of darkness. So what are we as a church and as individuals supposed to do to advance the work of Christ’s kingdom? We should make certain that the truth does not get buried under a couch; that the light does not get set aside in some place where it will fail to show the way to right relationship with God. We need to avoid getting all caught up in human traditions and rules and regulations. We cannot let the light be hidden by phony religious righteousness. Churches try all kinds of things to try to bring more people into their buildings; all kinds of enticements and gimmicks. These things tend to hide the truth of the gospel of Christ’s kingdom! Jesus did not bring the word of the kingdom to earth for us to hide it under junk like that! We as a church and we as individuals must very carefully hold up the truth of the gospel, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, to our society and our culture because this is the means by which the kingdom of heaven grows on earth! Are you holding the light up high so it shines on you and all the people who are in your circle of acquaintance? Is kingdom truth shining from you and revealing a genuine relationship with God? Or has your light become hidden under some dirty laundry in your life?


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