In our last study we saw a major change take place in Jesus' ministry. What was it? Up to this time, He had been teaching openly to His disciples and the crowds. But suddenly, He changes His tactics. Instead of openly declaring the truth in plain language, He begins to teach the masses in parables:
Mark 4:2 (NASB) And He was teaching them many things in parables, and was saying to them in His teaching,
Mark 4:34 (NASB) and He did not speak to them without a parable; but He was explaining everything privately to His own disciples.
This is the first occasion Jesus ever made use of a parable. It was the parable of the soils, and all the gospel writers agree that this was the first one He had ever told. The parable of the soils comes first in each of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke).
We looked at this parable of the soils in our last study. We saw that this parable gives us insight to peoples' responses to the gospel. And in the end, it is a very encouraging text; it assures us that if we are faithful to share the gospel of Jesus Christ that there will be those who receive it and bear much fruit.
Notice what Jesus says to His followers:
Mark 4:11(NASB) And He was saying to them, "To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God; but those who are outside get everything in parables,
Jesus makes reference to the fact that He's unveiling the mystery of the kingdom to them, His followers, but to those on the outside, non-believers, He's speaking in parables. Jesus' language here is very interesting. He's drawing a clear distinction between those on the inside and those on the outside. To those who are "in," He's revealing and unveiling the mystery.
In Mark 4:14-20 Jesus explains to those "inside" the meaning of the parable of the soils. This parable is about the Gospel and how people will respond to it.
Jesus tells us that there are four kinds of soil - four different responses.
1. Wayside Soil - This kind of soil represented those with hardened hearts, such as the scribes and Pharisees. They did not really grasp the message of Jesus, nor did they care to give it any consideration. They don't process it. They don't hear it. They just immediately reject it.
2. Rocky Soil - Although the message is received, it isn't developed - although it's accepted with open arms as being the liberating message of God, that's all it stops at, and a measure of the fullness of the Gospel is not run after.
3. Weedy Soil - Here is the believer who doesn't have his priorities straight. Instead of having a passionate desire for the Word, his life lusts after other things. These are believers who never come to maturity. They don't apostatize, they continue in the faith, but their growth is stunted.
4. Good Soil - This is indicative of the person who hears the word of the Gospel and understands it, who allows it free development in his own life and forsakes those things which would hinder its growth.
Please remember what I said in our last study, these soils can change. It is central to our Christian faith that change is possible. I know of wayside soils that have trusted in Christ. I know of "rocky soils" and "weedy soils" that have become fruitful. These soils are not necessarily permeant conditions.
This morning we want to look at Mark 4:21-25 and the parable of the light. It's important to understand that when Jesus spoke these parables, He didn't just speak one after another. If you read the other Gospels, you see that the parables were spread out. There were other events that happened in between them. But for Mark's purpose, he's putting them all together, because he's making a specific point. In this last parable, there is a reminder that we, too, are stewards of the truth. You remember when Jesus called the disciples to be with Him, as a result of being with Him, they would become proclaimers of the kingdom, and they would be sowers of the seed. And there's a reminder here to the disciples that when you understand these truths of the mystery of the kingdom, you don't take that lamp and put it under the bed. Put it on the lampstand.
No doubt the disciples were feeling pretty smug after hearing Him tell them that He was hiding His truth from the masses while privately helping them to understand it (verse 11). How elite it is to be on the inside group; to have knowledge which is withheld from others. But knowledge brings with it responsibility, and this is what Jesus is dealing with in these verses.
Mark 4:21 (NASB) And He was saying to them, "A lamp is not brought to be put under a peck-measure, is it, or under a bed? Is it not brought to be put on the lampstand?
Who is the "them?"
Mark 4:10-11 (NASB) And as soon as He was alone, His followers, along with the twelve, began asking Him about the parables. 11 And He was saying to them...
Mark 4:13 (NASB) And He said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? And how will you understand all the parables?
Mark 4:21 (NASB) And He was saying to them, "A lamp is not brought to be put under a peck-measure, is it, or under a bed? Is it not brought to be put on the lampstand?
Jesus is talking to His followers. The picture is a straightforward one. Night is falling and the small house is in growing dark, and then the master of the house takes and trims the lamp and brings it in. And what does he do with it? hide it under the bed - which would dim the light? put it under the peck-measure - which would hide the light? or put it on the lampstand - which would display the light for all? He could do any of these, but the real purpose is to lighten the house.
It is very important that we understand what Jesus is saying here. Jesus is the light and His word of the kingdom is light. And because Jesus is the Word, I think we can safely say that the lamp here is the Word of God, just like the seed in the previous parable.
Psalms 119:105 (NASB) Thy word is a lamp to my feet, And a light to my path.
Jesus is saying you don't take a lamp and light it and put it under the bed or put it under a basket. The whole purpose of having the lamp is to put it on the lampstand and let it shine. He is saying that God hasn't revealed to them these magnificent truths about Himself in order for them to hide them.
Just as natural light illumines the darkness and enables one to see visually, so the light of Christ shines in the hearts of believers and enables us to see the heavenly reality of God's kingdom. In fact, our mission is to be light-bearers of Christ so that others may see the truth of the gospel and be freed from the blindness of sin and deception.
Now in Matthew 5:16, which is a parallel account of this parable, Matthew includes the Lord saying to His followers:
Matthew 5:14 (NASB) "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
The "you" is emphatic in the Greek text, so that we might translate it: "You, and you alone are the light of the world." Jesus Christ intentionally singles out this group of followers as so distinctly different from the world and so important for the world that He calls them "the light of the world."
As believers our light is a reflection of Jesus Christ who is the Light:
John 1:4-5 (NASB) In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
Jesus Christ was the light. He revealed God and made Him known. He brought the character and the truth of God to all who believed in Him. Verse 9 adds:
John 1:9 (NASB) There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.
It is through Jesus Christ that the true knowledge of God is made known. He brought the light and revealed the character and person of God. Jesus Himself claimed to be the light of the world.
John 8:12 (NASB) Again therefore Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life."
Revelation 21:23 (NASB) And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.
We know that when Jesus says, "I am the Light of the world." that passage speaks of light in an originative sense. He is the origin of such light so that He can add, "He who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life." Christians are light in a derivative sense in that the light we have comes as a result of relationship to Jesus Christ. We do not produce the light, but like the moon that reflects the light of the sun, we too reflect the light of His indwelling life.
We are those who manifest the character of God. He resides in us, and our lives are a reflection of His character. Peter addressed the believer's purpose for existence in:
1 Peter 2:9 (NASB) But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
Paul uses this same language:
Ephesians 5:8 (NASB) for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light
"For you were formerly darkness-" that's the unregenerate condition, "but now you are Light in the Lord-" that is, in the sphere of relationship to the Lord, through the new birth, you are now light because Christ dwells within you by His Spirit. You have been made a partaker of the divine nature (2 Pet 1:3-4). So what are you to do? "Walk as children of Light."
While Christians are light, the world is darkness. This is the term used to describe the lost condition. John tells us that there is no darkness in God (1 John 1:5), which means that there is no sin, no moral question marks, and no blame in even the slightest degree. He uses the word "darkness" as a synonym for the world and for the unregenerate condition (1 John 2:8-9). Our Lord uses the same word to describe the whole world in rebellion against God:
John 3:19 (NASB) "And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil.
His saving work is the only way to be delivered from this darkness:
John 12:46 (NASB) "I have come as light into the world, that everyone who believes in Me may not remain in darkness.
Darkness impairs vision. In a spiritual sense, the kind of darkness that the Bible speaks of impairs a person morally. He cannot see. He does not understand the effects of sin or even the root of it in the depravity of the human heart. His entire way of thinking is warped by the darkness. His understanding has been switched off when it comes to grasping moral issues related to his own life. And so he joins organizations that go to great lengths to protect some snail or endangered fish or certain species of animals but then supports the abortion of an unborn child. In his mind a snail or a mouse or a whale has as much value as a human being that has been made in the image of God. His thinking is warped by the darkness.
But, believers, we are light, and our purpose is to make God known. If an unbeliever comes in contact with you, he ought to see in your life the reflection of the character of God. He ought to hear from your lips truth and that which is good. We are to be proclaiming the truth of His salvation.
When you read these passages about light, you cannot overlook the fact that we are light, and that we have a responsibility to walk as children of light. This means that goodness, righteousness, and truth ought to characterize the way we live our lives as believers.
Believers, we are to shine the light of God's kingdom to the world in which we live. We benefit our world only when we live as light. If the people of the world fornicate, and we fornicate, what is the difference? If they lie, and we lie, what is the difference? When they have a poor work ethic, and we have a poor work ethic, what is the difference? When they complain and murmur against life's circumstances, and we complain and murmur against life's circumstances, what is the difference? When they don't love their spouses, and we don't love our spouses, what is the difference? When they divorce, and we divorce, what is the difference? When they are lazy, and we are lazy, what is the difference?
We cannot benefit the world when we are like the world. Christians are to reflect the light of Jesus to the world. And what is this light? It is the light of salvation, the light of eternal life, the light of the knowledge of God, the light of the joy of salvation, the light of hope, and the light that shines in darkness. It is the light that opens the eyes of the blind and causes them to see the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Jesus tells us how we are to be living our lives on this earth before men in:
Matthew 5:16 (NASB) "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
In other words, we must intentionally let our lights shine. We must determine to be deliberately evangelistic through good deeds and acts of kindness. When people see that we are people who care because we are people who know Him, they will see more clearly. The light will shine on them.
Jesus has declared that we, His followers, are to put the lamp on the lampstand,
so that in the light of holiness displayed in Christians even an unbeliever begins to see himself as he really is. As we live in moral purity, it catches the eye of the world about us. Someone is watching. Someone sees that we exercise restraint or that we do not have a taste for the impure; that we turn away from the dirty talk; that we refuse to gaze at pornographic material that makes its way into the dorm or the office.
Here is the point that Jesus is making: As "the light of the world" you are to busy yourself with helping others see Jesus Christ. A lamp was not lit and placed under a basket so that no one could profit from its light. Neither have you been lighted by the gospel of Jesus Christ so that you can hide your Christianity. You are to see your occupation as a lamp lighting the way to Christ wherever the Lord has placed you.
Does your life make a difference? What kind of difference do you make? Jesus is clear that we are to make a difference.
Mark 4:21-22 (NASB) And He was saying to them, "A lamp is not brought to be put under a peck-measure, is it, or under a bed? Is it not brought to be put on the lampstand? 22 "For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it should come to light.
Sidebar: I think that we see in Jesus' words here that the kingdom of God can be hidden or revealed. This tells us something about the nature of the kingdom - it must be non-physical or invisible. It is not material. Only those in the inner circle can see the kingdom. We are not to be looking for a material kingdom.
Revelation 21:2 (NASB) And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband:
What is the "new Jerusalem"? Is it a material city that can be seen? NO! According to Scripture it is the New Covenant:
Galatians 4:24-26 (NASB) This is allegorically speaking: for these women are two covenants, one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. 25 Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother.
Paul says, "these women are two covenants." Here, Paul reveals that the two women in that Genesis account actually represent the two covenants of God. So Hagar and Sarah represent the Old and New Covenants.
What exactly is this "Jerusalem above" who is our mother? You must keep in mind that the comparison here is between two covenants. Earthly Jerusalem represents the Old Covenant, so this heavenly Jerusalem represents the New Covenant.
Revelation 21:2 (NASB) And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.
Revelation 21:16 (NASB) And the city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal.
If this was a physical place, you could not hide it. You can't hide a 1500 square mile building. The Holy City, the New Jerusalem is the New Covenant. It is not material, it is spiritual and we are to display it by being light.
Mark 4:22 (NASB) "For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it should come to light.
Many commentators have seen in this the mission of the disciples - who heard the things in secret - if they understand it, they have an obligation to spread this light. We have the answers to life, and we are not to hid them.
Mark 4:23 (NASB) "If any man has ears to hear, let him hear."
"Ears to hear" - is cryptic, we all have ears. Jesus is talking about inner hearing of the heart. Again Jesus stresses the need for men to listen and consider carefully. There are those open to hear. There are, sadly, those who will not hear. The lamp is shining, but men love darkness rather than light (thus they want the lamp to be kept under a peck-measure), because their deeds are evil (John 3.19).
Mark 4:24 (NASB) And He was saying to them, "Take care what you listen to. By your standard of measure it shall be measured to you; and more shall be given you besides.
Jesus was speaking to the inner circle - which includes us, believers! When we hear, we become obligated. Some have seen in this that you reap what you sow - reciprocity.
"Take care what you listen to" - We need to use some simple sense in deciding what we are going to listen to. Is it from the Bible or from a news magazine; is it divine viewpoint or simply some of man's better ideas? Is it giving you doctrine with which to grow in your knowledge of God or is it just entertainment?
"By your standard of measure it shall be measured to you; and more shall be given you besides" - Added knowledge brings added responsibility. Instead of being proud about what we know, we need to be humbled by the responsibility that this knowledge has brought us. God's truth was meant to be practiced and proclaimed. Not only must we proclaim what God has given to us, but we must put it to work in our own lives.
"Measure" here, is a standard. A learned basis for future decisions. The Greek philosophers used this word to describe that which can measure all things. Plato was the first to identify the absolute measure as being God Himself.
Romans 12:3 (NASB) For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.
Here it is a measure from God by which to measure self.
Ephesians 4:13 (NASB) until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
Here it is the measure of the fullness of the stature of Christ. Therefore, the measure we should learn should be the absolute standard of God. You can not successfully apply a false standard or measure. If you have been listening to and learning the wrong information, when it comes to applying it you will not have success. God the Holy Spirit will not use that which is not accurate, correct, and learned from the Word. We have a similar statement in our technological society - garbage in -garbage out.
Mark 4:25 (NASB) "For whoever has, to him shall more be given; and whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him."
The believer who "has" is the one who has done the work of verses 20 through 24. He has welcomed the Word. He has manifested or applied the Word of God. He has heard with his ears. He has learned and is thinking on the right measure, the standard of divine viewpoint. As a result, God will make available to him more doctrine.
The more you learn, think, and apply; the more "understanding" you will have. This divine addition will be out of proportion to what is learned. You may learn a very simple principle of doctrine or promise of the Word that can save your life at a future time. For the believer who has little, his learning of doctrine is a matter of convenience apart from diligence. And without diligence in thinking there is little understanding. Since the doctrine he has is not a consistent part of his thinking or applying, the little he has is soon lost.
If they measure the words of Jesus genuinely and sincerely, receiving them, understanding them, and fully responding to them; God will respond equally genuinely and sincerely. Indeed they will receive more than full measure. God will respond abundantly. To him who has will more be given. But if they do not receive and understand and fully respond, they will lose even what they have, for it will be taken away from them. God is not satisfied with half measures and half response. The principle behind this parable is this: "The truth you fail to use, you lose."
Jesus said. You cannot get it apart from seeking. If you do not want to search the Word of God, and seek the truth, and think about it - forget it! It will not mean a thing to you. Your Bible will be as dull and confusing as any book could possibly be.
And so it is for many, many people. But if you are willing to look, if you want to search and ask and pray and seek, then God will give you what you are looking for. In searching, you will find - and more than you expected to find. I know that is true. I have seen it happen hundreds and hundreds of times as people have begun to seek out the truth.
If you do not use what you have, you lose it. It is true on all levels: If you bind up your arm so that you cannot move it for as little as two weeks, when you remove the binding you find you have temporarily lost the use of your arm. You have to work on it for a time before you are able to use it again. If you do not use your brain to reason and to think things through, you lose the ability.
There is absolutely no limit to what you can know about God and the mysteries of His kingdom if you really want to know. There's an old saying that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Theologically, that is true. There are those who really want to know God's truth and sit at the feet of Jesus wanting to know the mysteries of the kingdom. They are not just hearers with intellectual information, but they want to know it, understand it, obey it, and walk in it. They want to embrace it. For those people, the more they have, the more Jesus wants to give them. It's unlimited. He wants them to know, so the theologically rich get richer.
But for those who really don't want to know God's truth--they don't listen, they don't embrace it, they really don't care-Jesus says, "I'm going to take what little you have.
There has to be some way to explain why some Christians, after two and three years, know far more theology than some who have been Christians for 40 years. The answer is they just want to know more. They want to know more. They long to sit at the feet of Jesus and hear the Word of God. They long to hear the mysteries of the kingdom so that they might understand, obey, live, and accomplish the purpose of Jesus. What does it take to really know the truth of God? It doesn't take a seminary education. You don't have to learn Greek or Hebrew. What it takes is a heart in which the "soil" wants to receive the Word. If you're passionate about knowing the truth and living the truth, God longs to pour it into your mind. God longs to pour it into your heart. He wants you to know the mysteries of His kingdom. The only question is: How much do you want to know? That's the only thing that will limit the truth in your life.
What implications this text has for those of us who are Christians! Those who may be so fortunate to be well-taught are obliged to practice what they know and also to proclaim it to others. To fail to do so is to nullify any benefit of biblical teaching and to restrict additional biblical insight. That's a sobering thought!
Is the light of Christ shining through you? are you allowing His light to be made visible in your life? or has the light gone out? Has the passion for God become religious ritual and routine? Don't hide the light. Take it out and hold it high. We were not created to be secret disciples or to have quiet discussions on religious topics. We were created in the new creation to be firebrands for God - torches which are held high to burn for Him.
There is an incredible thought in book of Titus about our Godly conduct:
Titus 2:10 (NASB) not pilfering, but showing all good faith that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.
We can enhance the teaching of God in the world by our Godly behavior.
President Woodrow Wilson told the story of an encounter he had. He said:
I was in a very common place, I was sitting in a barber chair, when I became aware that a powerful personality had entered the room. A man had come quietly in upon the same errand as myself to have his hair cut and sat in the chair next to me. Every word the man uttered, though it was not in the least didactic, showed a personal interest in the man who was serving him. And before I got through with what was being done to me, I was aware that I had attended an evangelistic service, because Mr. D.L. Moody was in that chair. I purposely lingered in the room after he had left and noted the singular effect that his visit had brought upon the barber shop. They talked in undertones. They didn't know his name, but they knew something had elevated their thoughts, and I felt that I left that place as I should have left a place of worship.
Our lives should be lives that reflect something more than the world has, because we have more than they have, we have Jesus. He has saved us, forgiven us, changed our hearts, given us hope, put His love in us, given us joy, set our feet on the rock which cannot be shaken. If He does not make a difference in your life, then you either need to be born again or you need to repent of sin and allow Him to rekindle the fire of your first love.
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