These are my notes from a sermon series I did through the gospel of Mark. It has not been proofed for spelling or grammatical errors. I present it to you as-is.
Charles Spurgeon, a great preacher of his day, once said, “The Bible is not the light of the world, it is the light of the Church. But the world does not read the Bible, the world reads Christians! You are the light of the world.” Today, Jesus tells us a parable about a lamp and what it means for us and the kingdom of God.
To understand this parable, you must understand the parable of the farmer. Jesus said this about the parable of the farmer in Mark 4:13, “If you can’t understand the meaning of this parable, how will you understand all the other parables?” (NLT). The parable of the farmer sheds light on the parable of the lamp.
Let’s see what God has for us from the parable of the lamp. Mark 4:21-25, Then Jesus asked them, “Would anyone light a lamp and then put it under a basket or under a bed? Of course not! A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light will shine. 22 For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light. 23 Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” 24 Then he added, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given—and you will receive even more. 25 To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.” (NLT)
The parable of the farmer and the four different kinds of ground emphasized the importance of being a fruitful hearer by distinguishing the good ground from the bad. In today’s parable (the parable of the lamp), Jesus continues the theme He started with the parable of the farmer. Jesus made it clear that understanding the parable of the farmer was key to understanding these other parables He is about to share (v.13). These parables, then, should not be regarded as disconnected stories. Rather, they are connected illustrations carefully arranged by Jesus to make a divine truth clear. Having identified His disciples as those who are both able to perceive divine truth and equipped to proclaim that truth to others, Jesus tells the parable of the lamp as an illustration of what the disciples are to do with that truth.
Basically, Jesus is saying, “If you have a hunger to learn from Me and follow Me, that shows you are good ground. Since you are good ground and will produce a harvest from your life let me teach you the impact being good ground can have with an illustration of a lamp.
From the parable of the lamp we see several significant truths we need to consider today.
As “a lamp” you want your light to shine
Number one, as “a lamp” you want your light to shine. Verse 21 says, Then Jesus asked them, “Would anyone light a lamp and then put it under a basket or under a bed? Of course not! A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light will shine” (NLT).
Jesus is referring to a basic “lamp” that you could find in any home. It consisted of a small pitcher or saucer with a handle on one end. The pitcher would be filled with oil and a floating wick would be placed on the oil. In order to maximize their light, the lamp was set on a lampstand or a shelf protruding from the wall, where their light could spread throughout the room. For obvious reasons, no one would place a lamp “under a basket” or “under a bed” because it would hide the light and the lamp could not fulfill its purpose.
Jesus’ point is clear: Those who have received the light of the gospel are not to conceal it; rather they are to let it shine through them for others to see. Throughout the Bible, light is used as an object lesson for many things, such as truth, holiness, the spiritual life in Christ, the gospel message, and Jesus Himself. Again, the point is, Jesus does not want you to hide what He has done in your life.
The parable of the lamp tells us we have an obligation. Since we have received the gospel we are to live it openly and share it with others through how we live and what we say. Those who have been transformed by the good news are to present that truth to others. Jesus explained this in Matthew 5 when He said, “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. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:14-16, NLT). Be open about your love for Jesus. Be open about your love for others. Let Jesus on the inside be seen on the outside. Your “good deeds” is the light that God uses that causes others to praise Him. So go ahead, let your light shine. Be patient when others would be rude. Be kind when others would be harsh. Show love where others would show hate. Be calm when others would be filled with panic. Live by faith when others are living by fear. “Let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” As a lamp you want your light to shine.
As “a lamp” you reveal what is hidden
Number two, as “a lamp” you reveal what is hidden. Jesus says in verse 22, “For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light” (NLT). What is “hidden” that will “eventually be brought into the open” and what is “secret” that “will be brought to light”? What is Jesus referring to here? Two things.
- The first secret that is brought to light is God’s kingdom. Jesus mentioned this “secret” back in verse 11 where He referred to “the secret of the Kingdom of God.” We looked at this word “secret” last week, but let’s review it again.
- The word “secret” (musterion) can also be translated mystery. It refers to God’s truth that was previously hidden but now has been revealed. By definition the word “secret” refers to something that is not properly understood. It’s a secret or mystery because it’s not understood. It’s like when we talk about the secrets or mysteries of the universe, we are referring to things that we don’t understand because we don’t have enough information. As we gather more information the secrets of the universe become more and more clear. Before Jesus, the “kingdom of God” was not very clear, we had some information but was very limited by the Old Testament, but when Jesus came He made the “secret of the kingdom of God” more clear and understandable. This is what we are to do. As “a lamp” of God who lives by kingdom truths and shares kingdom truths with others we help God’s kingdom be “brought to light.” We help others understand the gospel, God’s truth, and Jesus. God’s “secret” about salvation will be “brought to light.”
- The word “secret” (musterion) also means “a valid but not commonly known truth.” For example, when someone talks about the secret of a happy marriage, they are talking about a valid but not a well-known truth that makes marriages successful. The same is true about the “secret of the kingdom of God.” Jesus has come to make known a valid truth about salvation and eternal life that is not well-known. This is what we are to do. As “a lamp” of God we are to make known the valid truth about Jesus, about God’s kingdom, about the gospel to those who it is no well-known among.
As God’s “lamp” we bring “every secret” to “light” when it comes to the kingdom of God.
- The second secret that is brought to light are the sins of people. Jesus said verse 22, “Everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open” (NLT). This doesn’t mean that you go looking for people’s sin to put a spot light on it, it simply means as you live for God, share the gospel, give Biblical counsel, and bless people in the name of Jesus your good works and the message you share will naturally expose the sins of those around you. Jesus referred to this in Luke 12 when He said, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees – their hypocrisy. The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be shouted from the housetops for all to hear!” (Luke 12:1-3, NLT). There is something about God’s truth and light that reveals sin. You see this in the parable of the farmer. Within time, as the gospel is being shared the hard ground reveals itself, the shallow rocky ground reveals itself, and the worldly and thorny ground reveal itself. The “hidden” reality of their hearts is made clear for all to see.
A lamp doesn’t try to expose sin. It naturally reveals what’s in the room. It shows what’s in the darkness. As you live for God and as you share His Word you will naturally expose sin. You will reveal what is in the darkness.
As God’s lamp you reveal truth and you reveal sin.
As “a lamp” you must receive in order to give
Number three, as “a lamp” you must receive in order to give. Jesus said in verse 23, Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” 24 Then he added, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given—and you will receive even more” (NLT). Let me give you two observations.
- Jesus is saying pay attention to “what” you hear. Jesus says, “Pay close attention to what you hear.” Jesus was wanting the truths He was explaining to them to be established in their minds. He wanted them to understand some key truths about His Kingdom. Let’s talk about the “what” for a minute. It is important that you listen to those who teach God’s Word clearly and faithfully. It is important that you read books that explain God’s truths accurately. Pay close attention to what you hear. Don’t listen to just anyone, be picky about it. Find a good Bible teaching church, one that helps you understand God’s truth. Get connected in a Life Group or Bible study where you can discuss God’s Word with others. Read good Christian books. Listen to podcasts by others who teach God’s Word. Read the Bible. As you do all those wonderful things “pay close attention to what you hear.” As you listen to God’s Word get detailed oriented. “Pay close attention” to God’s Word.
- Jesus also says to pay attention to “how” you hear. When Luke tells us about the parable of the lamp he adds that Jesus said, “Pay attention to how you hear” (Luke 8:18, NLT). My wife love’s April Fools. One year she baked a bunch of cookies most of them were great, but she also made some with salt. Instead of adding sugar, she added a butch of salt. How you make cookies is important. The difference between salt and sugar, something great or horrible is in how you make it. “How you hear” God’s Word can make a huge difference in the outcome of your life. Listen to the details. Pay attention to what God is actually saying, not what you want it to say.
Then Jesus says, “The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given—and you will receive even more” (NLT). As God’s “lamp” you are going to have to receive some oil so you can keep on burning brightly. Jesus is telling you that you need to listen closely to His Word so you can grow in understanding so you can be the light God wants you to be in a very dark place.
Not only will you be given “more understanding,” but “you will receive even more” than that. As you grow in your understanding you will experience more power in walk with God, more joy that comes from Him even while you walk through difficult times, more peace in the midst of your storms, and more contentment even if you lose everything you have. As God’s “lamp” you are bringing this kind of light into the room.
As “a lamp” you want your light to become brighter
Number four, as “a lamp” you want your light to become brighter. Jesus said in verse 25, “To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them” (NLT). Luke tells this same parable in Luke 8 and when he does he gives us a little more insight into what Jesus is saying. Luke tells us that Jesus said, “But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them” (v. 18, NLT). Remember the parable of the lamp and the parable of the farmer are connected When you connect the two, you realize that Jesus is referring to those who are false believers. The rocky ground and the thorny ground may claim to have spiritual life, but in reality they do not possess it. They may profess to know God, but through their works they deny Him (Titus 1:16). On the day of judgment, with no foundation, their house will come crashing down (Matt. 7:26-27; cf. Phil. 3:8). In other words, “For those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them.” You don’t want to be this person.
You want to be the person who is a lamp for God. You are receiving from Him. You are being used by Him. You are burning bright for Him. Through your God inspired good deeds you are shining bright for Jesus. This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.
As a follower of Jesus you are a lamp for God. He wants to use you today, right now. It may not be how you want to be used or where you want to be used, but God has a plan for your life and the light you bring into the room.