Mark 4: 21 – 25 A lamp on a stand

Mark 4: 21 – 25 A lamp on a stand

He said to them, ‘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. If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.’

‘Consider carefully what you hear,’ he continued. ‘With the measure you use, it will be measured to you – and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.’

*       *       *

Both these tiny stories are parables.

No parable has a cut-and-dried meaning. They are intended to prompt the heart.

A useful approach to reading scripture is to consider the context of your reading. Today’s reading is set immediately after Jesus has explained the parable of the sower to the Twelve and other close disciples. The primary context of this paragraph is, therefore, teaching about the nature of parables.

‘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…’

What does the lamp represent in this parable? To be consistent with its context it probably means the word of God as preached by Jesus. The parable might mean that, if a disciple has listened to the word of God, they should allow it to illuminate their inner life. To do otherwise would be futile, because ‘whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.’ It would be like placing the lamp that should give light to the home under a bowl – plain daft!

Jesus then tells a second parable.

‘Consider carefully what you hear,’ he continued. ‘With the measure you use, it will be measured to you – and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.’

One possible interpretation of this is that you have to be receptive to Jesus’ parables. The more you are prepared to study and think and – above all – pray, the more you will benefit from them. But if you can’t be bothered, you’ll find you gradually lose the wish to study them. Even what you have will be taken away. That is desolation.

I feel prompted here, to consider the story of Ananias and Sapphira, as recorded by Luke in Acts.

“Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Then Peter said, ‘Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.’

When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, ‘Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?’

‘Yes,’ she said, ‘that is the price.’

Peter said to her, ‘How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.’

At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.” (Acts 5: 1 – 11)

If we read this story as a parable, it makes sense, and reinforces the message of today’s teaching. Ananias and Sapphira had received and accepted the light of God’s word. There was the lamp, on a stand, illuminating their inner life. But instead of an honest response, they moved the lamp a little. They didn’t deal with their greed, they hid the light that exposed it. They covered the lamp with a basin.

When God gives us his word, it is for a purpose; it is to help us become more as he wants us to be. We must treat it with the utmost seriousness. If we find we are called to a task that challenges us, we need to turn to God in earnest prayer, because to treat his word lightly is bad; and to respond to it dishonestly is potentially spiritually fatal.

Prayer

Heavenly Father

Thank you for your word, especially as brought to us by Jesus. Please help me to be completely honest in my response to it. Help me to trust in your mercy and love. You never want me to fail. I confess, though, that I often do. Please forgive me and strengthen me to do your will.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Click here for more on Ananias and Sapphira

Published by pennygadd51

I write. I've written many pieces of flash fiction, dozens of short stories and two novels, with a third in progress.

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