Summary: Jesus is saying, “I, the lamp, have come with the light of the gospel. Don’t cover me and my message over as many of you are doing. Let the lamp shine openly. The reason that you hide my light is that you really prefer something else which is less than
We are back to the parables this morning. In contrast to our extended metaphor of the sower and his soil conditions, we now come to a collection of short images and sayings.
Remember how I said that usually it is the context that makes the parable’s meaning clear? The peculiar challenge of these sayings is that they appear independently elsewhere in the gospels in other contexts and combinations with other sayings, causing their meaning to change. Let me show you how.
What does verse 21 remind you of? “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? The Sermon on the Mount!
14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).
Jesus is clearly exhorting his disciples not to let the light of the gospel that is in them be hidden. They are to show the light through their good deeds. The light or lamp is what is within them. But that is not what Jesus means by the lamp in this parable, nor does hiding the light refer to hiding our good deeds.
Look at verse 22. 22 For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If you feel uneasy when hearing this verse, it’s probably because you have the context in mind as recorded by Luke: 2 There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 3 What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs (Luke 12:2,3). In this case the hidden things that will be disclosed are our secret words.
Those of you more evangelistically minded may have been thinking of the application in Matthew when Jesus sends out his disciples on a missions trip. 26 “So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs (Matthew 10:26-7). There, Jesus is exhorting his disciples to boldly proclaim the gospel. But neither of these applications fits in our passage.
Consider verse 24: “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. This also is a familiar saying used elsewhere. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Matthew 7:1,2). By the measure we judge, we will be judged. But that is not the meaning in our text.
Finally, we have the statement in verse 25: 25 Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. That is the same conclusion to the well-known parable of the talents. Luke uses the term minas instead of talents. His version expresses well Jesus’ intent. Jesus has the nobleman give a mina (three months’ wages) to ten servants. We are only told of the results of three. The first earns an additional ten minas; the second an additional five, and the third simply returns the one his was given. Here is the response of the nobleman.
24 “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’
25 ”‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’
26 “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away.
The application is that we are to use the gifts and abilities God has given us for productive service in his kingdom. But that is not the meaning in our context.
What a fine situation we have – four sayings that appear independently of one another in Jesus’ teachings, each of which presents us with different meanings than how they are used in our present text. Oh, these parables that are supposed to make Jesus’ teachings easier to understand! I feel like Steve Martin in The Three Amigos when he receives a message through a bartender who mistakes him for someone else. The bartender leans over and whispers the message. Martin receives the word thoughtfully and yet clueless to what it means. Let’s see if we can find the clues that will make us thoughtful and wiser.