Monday, October 28, 2013

The Parable of the Hidden Lamp (Mark 4:21-25)

And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” 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.”

In this second of the Kingdom parables, Mark highlights a different use of the hidden lamp imagery that Jesus apparently employed often. (See Mathew 5:15) Here, Jesus is using the ironic image of a hidden lamp to clarify the hidden nature of the Kingdom of God. Whereas in Matthew, Jesus is telling His hearers to be a light and to shine the message of truth into the world, here He is assuring them that the Kingdom will be revealed. At the time Jesus spoke this parable—and even today—the Kingdom of God is come but not universally visible. People at large simply do not see the truth.

This hidden aspect of the Kingdom is seen in the way Jesus taught about it. He spoke in parables so that most people would “see but not perceive, hear but not understand.” In the parable of the soils we see repeatedly that most of those who “hear” the message don’t get it. It is snatched away before they can respond or persecution and worldly concerns keep people from fully accepting it. Only those who hear and believe are changed.

That is a key aspect of the Kingdom of God. It is accepted through faith. And faith is all about trusting a truth that cannot be seen.

Jesus doesn’t stop there. It is not enough to hear. We need to discern. Jesus warns His hearers to be careful about what they listen to. We need to distinguish between God’s voice and the imitators, deceivers and enemies posing as friends. A constant struggle throughout the history of the church right from the times of the New Testament has been the struggle to sift the true teaching from the false.

A final aspect of this parable of the hidden Kingdom is mere speculation on my part. However, there is a clear relation between hearing and obedience. My dad used to tell me I was hearing him without listening. The kind of hearing Jesus was calling for was closer to that old English word harken. We are not merely to hear God’s voice like background music—merely a fringe part of our world. We are to harken to His voice, to listen and follow what He is asking of us. Accepting involves obeying.

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