And he said to them, x“Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? 22 yFor nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. 23 zIf anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” 24 And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: awith the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. 25 bFor to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
The parable of the ‘lamp’ is also found in Luke 11,33 18:16 and Matthew 5:15. It is also, and I particularly like it when this happens is found in the Gospel of Thomas.
Gospel of Thomas
33. Jesus said, “What you will hear in your ear, in the other ear proclaim from your rooftops.
After all, no one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, nor does one put it in a hidden place. Rather, one puts it on a lampstand so that all who come and go will see its light.”
The variation between the texts on this saying can be explained through translation or by recognizing that Jesus no doubt taught his parables again and again has he went around preaching. But what is this parable about?
I remember the old gospel song ‘This little light of mine I’m gonna let it shine’. This song indicates an individualistic reading of this parable. Jesus has had an affect on my life, and I need to shine for him, witness for him in words and praxis. This is simply good theology.
Yet we need to understand this individualistic reading in its larger historical context. What is the symbolism of light.
“Lamp” serves as a metaphor in a number of ways in the OT and Judaism (for God—2 Sam 22:29; David—2 Sam 21:17; Messiah—Zech 4:2; Torah—Ps 119:105; Israel, Jerusalem, Temple—cf. Wis 18:4)
Guelich, Robert A.: Word Biblical Commentary : Mark 1-8:26. Dallas : Word, Incorporated, 2002 (Word Biblical Commentary 34A), S. 229
I suggest, and I do this tentatively, that Jesus is making reference to the task of Israel as being a light to the nations. Israel were called to be a witness to the nations, they did not exist for themselves and a 1:1 relationship with God. They were a missional community whose task was to be a blessing and a light to the world.
I am the Lord; oI have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you pas a covenant for the people,
qa light for the nations,
7 rto open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
sfrom the prison those who sit in darkness.
8 I am the Lord; that is my name;
tmy glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to carved idols.
9 Behold, the former things have come to pass,
uand new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
I tell you of them.”
See also Matt 15:14, 23:16,24 and also Romans 2:19
Israel had fallen short of its calling, it was pursuing lines which would lead to a violent confrontation with Rome. Jesus ministry is one of reconstituting Israel around himself (choosing 12 disciples hows this), and this community would be a light tot he nations, a casue of blessing to others. Yes Jesus and his followers are being secret at the moment in that the message is coded in parables, but the manifestation will come. The ‘new Israel’ will succeed where others have failed.
The church today needs to take up this call, it is to be a light to the nations. We can’t hide the church in liturgy, culture or in theology. Instead as an institution, and as members of the covenant family, we need to let this light shine in all of life, everu sqare inch, in our families, in art, culture, sports, sciences, schools, hospitals…… I think you catch my drift