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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:The Parabolic Kingdom 3: The Parable of the Lamp
Text:Mark 4:21-23 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2022-11-18
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Romans 1:1-25

Text: Mark 4:21-23

 

THE PARABOLIC KINGDOM: THE PARABLE OF THE LAMP

  1. The Consequences of Concealing

  2. The Resulting Revealing

 

  1. Psalm 9: 1, 4, 5, 6

  2. Psalm 119: 37, 39, 40

  3. Psalm 119: 16-18

  4. Hymn 84:1-4

  5. Hymn 81: 1, 2, 6, 7

 

Words to Listen For: puzzle, teapot, laboratory, seal, missiles

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. What are other ways to think about our salvation?  Why is it useful to think of these?

  2. What is the darkness in Mark?  Why is it so important?

  3. Where is the humor in this parable?

  4. How does the message of this parable fit with Jesus’ use of parables?

  5. What is the promise?  How does it bring hope?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ our Lord,

Imagine with me, if you will, that you are on trial.  You have been accused of something the state has deemed illegal.  And they are preparing a case against you.

They will ransack your house, looking underneath the bed, in the basement, in the attic.  They will look at your internet search history, see what books are on your bookshelf.  They will ask your friends and your family.  They will ask your coworkers and the cashier at the grocery store.  They will pick apart your life with a fine-toothed comb, looking for evidence of your crime.

And what is your crime in this fictional story?

You have been accused...of being a Christian.

How do you think the trial will go?

Because you’ve been accused of being a CHRISTIAN...not of just attending church.

You have been accused of having a living faith in Jesus Christ, not just having a baptismal certificate, or a picture of you at profession of faith.

What would they find?

  • Do you have a well-read Bible on your nightstand?

  • A worn patch of carpet where you kneel in prayer?

  • Would the cashier know that you believe...or would she have seen you cutting in line, calling for a manager, and complaining bitterly?

Your faith, though unquestionably PERSONAL is not private.  It isn’t meant to be private.  It isn’t meant to be hidden.  To keep your Christianity a secret, to keep it private...though it is understandable in this day and age...is not excusable.

Just as we read that the Apostle Paul had been set apart for the Gospel of God...so too all of us.  We have been set apart for it...to DECLARE IT!  Not to keep it a secret, but to share it!

If we can have jokes like this:

     How do you know if someone is a vegetarian or not?

     Don’t worry...they’ll tell you as soon as they can!

If we can have jokes like this about vegetarians, or people doing crossfit or being pilots...why not about being a Christian?

If we truly understand the joys and benefits of being in Christ’s Kingdom...and we know the consequences of not knowing Him...why would we keep the gospel a secret?  HOW COULD WE KEEP IT A SECRET??

Our Saviour explains this truth.  This truth of

THE PARABOLIC KINGDOM: [in] THE PARABLE OF THE LAMP

  1. The Consequences of Concealing

  2. The Resulting Revealing

 

In this next parable in our series, we get some more insight into the Kingdom of our Lord.

Because that’s what parables are, aren’t they?  They are pieces of insight from the King Himself.  Little stories and teachings about the reality of the Kingdom of God.  And who better than God Himself to tell us about His kingdom?

In the Parable of the 4 soils, we learned about different reactions to the gospel.  We learned that the soils are not static and unchanging realities, but rather warnings to us about not hearing.  About hearing and not listening.  About listening and not applying.

In the parable of the Old and New, we learned that this Kingdom isn’t a REFORM.

It doesn’t come in and reform the Old Covenant that the Pharisees and Sadducees had warped and twisted.  But rather it was a total TRANSFORMATION.  The New has SHATTERED the Old.  Jesus filled and filled and filled and fulfilled to the Old Covenant to overflowing.

And now we get another piece of the puzzle.  What is OUR RESPONSIBILITY in the growth of the Kingdom?  How do we work with our salvation?  It is similar to the parable of the 4 Soils, but more outward-focussed.

We have been saved...NOW WHAT?

We have been given this amazing gift.  And it can be so easy to become bored with this.  We are saved.  The gospel is the power of God for SALVATION.  Yes, we know this.  This is old news.

But look at how Scripture describes this gift

  • We have gone from SLAVERY to REDEMPTION

    • We were enslaved to sin.  We were chained up, our feet and hands put in the stocks.  And Christ broke us out!

  • We have gone from ALIENATION to RECONCILIATION

    • We are like the Prodigal Son, gone off, spitting in the face of our Father, and then, years later, the Father runs down the dusty road and throws His arms around us, calling us His child once more.

  • We have gone from DARKNESS to LIGHT

 

Darkness to light.  That is what Jesus’ parable here is about, though the word darkness is not used in our text.  The word is not used, but the concept is assumed here.

Darkness is forever in the background of Mark’s gospel.  Because what it the main question in Mark?  What is the theme throughout?

WHO IS JESUS?

Who is Jesus?  The disciples are always asking and wondering, though there are moments of clarity.  The people don’t know.  The reader is left to put the pieces together and respond that Jesus is the Son of God.  That Jesus is the Saviour and the King, bringing His Kingdom into fullness.

WHO IS JESUS?

The question mark at the end of that sentence is Mark’s Darkness.

And into this darkness comes the light!  Into the darkness of the question comes this parable.

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.

Jesus tells this short parable of a lamp.  Now, a lamp is designed for a certain purpose, is it not?  A lamp is designed to BRING LIGHT.

And while today, we have cheap electricity so that we can turn lights on to give EXTRA light during the day, in 1st century Israel, the lamps were little more than bowls filled with expensive oil.

They would be a mostly closed clay bowl, with a hole in the top to pour oil and then a spout in the other end where a wick was put.  You can think of it like a teapot.  There’s a hole in the top for the water to come in, and a spout for it to be poured out.

But the oil was expensive, and so they would only light the lamps at night.

Lamps would be fairly small, only giving off a little bit of light, so they would be placed on a lampstand so as to give light to everyone in the house.

And what a wonderful picture of the gospel message of Jesus Christ.  We can learn so much from this, though we need to be careful not to ascribe each one of our thoughts to Jesus’ original meaning.

Firstly, the oil was expensive.  It cost A LOT to light up the darkness. So too was Jesus’ death of infinite value.  And yet God was not stingy.  God sent His ONLY SON, His BELOVED SON to us to light up our darkness.

Secondly, the light was small.  The Kingdom of Christ started off on this earth with only 12 followers.  And one of them betrayed Him.

Thirdly, when used PROPERLY, and displayed publicly, the light spreads to all in the house.  The darkness flees away.

This is if the lamp is used properly.  But if it’s not…

You see, a lamp is meant to give light.  If it doesn’t do this, it isn’t really a lamp.  In the same way, a Christian is meant to share the gospel.  You have received the gospel in order to spread it.  You have received in order to give.

Let’s take a look at what happens when the lamp is used improperly

Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket or under a bed?

At first glance, the answer is a simple no, and we move on.  But let’s examine this a little closer.

A lamp would have an exposed flame on it, coming out of the spout, right?

What would happen if it was put under a basket?  Under a basket made of wicker, an open flame would not simply be snuffed out...but it would light the basket on fire!

What would happen if it was placed under a bed?  Beds were typically made of thin cloth stuffed with straw.  Placing a lamp under a bed would not only obscure its light, but it would set your bed ablaze!

There is real humor here to what Jesus is saying, as well as a serious application.

First the humor.  You can imagine a scene like out of the 3 stooges, as a lamp is lit, and they try to figure out where to put it.  First they try under a basket, but it is quickly set on fire.  One of them tries to put out that fire while the other two try under the bed.  This quickly goes up in flames too.  The second brother tries to put out that fire, while the final brother finds the lampstand and puts it up for all to see.  Looking at it proudly, he turns around to see that the entire house is on fire.

But though the imagery is humorous, the meaning is serious.

The gospel has been given to you…

     The MESSAGE of the Gospel of salvation has been given to you...

     The RESULTS of the Gospel of salvation have been given to you...

FOR A REASON!

 

The gospel is in you TO GIVE!

You have this wonderful gift...don’t misuse it.  Don’t squander it.

You have been given the opportunity to give light to the entire house...you are a LIGHT-BEARER of Christ, who is the light of the World.  Light is in you to give!

Our duty is to share this gift, and there are harsh consequences for those who neglect their God-given duty.

It is like having the cure for the coronavirus but telling no-one.

A doctor in a laboratory comes up with the cure for cancer and sends you, the lab assistant to all the hospitals with the news.

But if you keep it to yourself and go home, watch some TV, read a book, and go about your life as though you never were told the cure...BE SURE that the doctor will come looking for you.

Beloved, the gospel message of salvation…

  • Going from SLAVERY to REDEMPTION

  • From ALIENATION to RECONCILIATION

  • From DARKNESS to LIGHT

This is a gift, far better than even a cure for cancer.

This is a cure for the deadliest disease of all time.  A cure for the disease that infects each and every human being on the planet.  Not just the millions and millions that cancer has infected.  But each one of the 7.8 billion people.  And for each one of those cases, the prognosis is DEATH.  Symptoms of delusions of freedom from God’s control followed by DEATH.

But we know the cure!  We HAVE the cure!

It is a cure that came at a very high cost.  The highest cost in fact.

This is a cure that wasn’t just made in a lab with hard work and ingenuity of scientists.  But rather this was a cure that took the humiliation of the Son of God.  Humiliation to the point of a shameful death on the cross.  The Son of God DIED to bring about this cure.

I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL!  For it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes!  So why would we hide it?  Why would we hide it and not give EVERYONE and opportunity to believe?

  • It is foolish to hide it...like burning down your house because you don’t know how to use a lamp.

  • It is irresponsible to hide it

  • It is disobedient to hide it

  • And it is fundamentally unloving and even HATEFUL to hide it.

 

Do not conceal the truth from those who desperately need to hear it.  Do not hide the light of the gospel from this world darkened by sin, but reveal it to ALL that SOME might be saved.  Our second point.

The truth is meant to be seen, just as a lamp is meant to give light to the house.

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.

Nothing is meant to be hidden.

But...if we look back just a few verses in the same chapter, we see Jesus talk about the purpose of parables.  Parables weren’t just meant as wonderful stories to tell about the Kingdom (though they were that too), but parables also designed for another purpose.  The parables were designed to reveal AND to conceal.  They were designed to bring about blessing AND judgement.

But how does this fit?  How should we understand that the parables were told to conceal the truth from some, but then Jesus says here that NOTHING is hidden!  NOTHING is secret!  What are we to make of this?

The apparent contradiction is resolved by looking at the TIMING.  The parables were temporary, but their truths are eternal.

The concealment is only for a time, but the revealing is forever.

For those who were living in darkness, unapologetically, not fighting that darkness, the parables exposed their hearts.  If you don’t truly listen, if you want nothing to do with Jesus Christ, there here a symbol of that.  A symbol and a seal that you aren’t interested in salvation.  You don’t believe

But let’s look once again at our text:

 

For nothing is hidden…

EXCEPT TO BE MADE MANIFEST

 

Nor is anything secret…

    EXCEPT TO COME TO LIGHT

 

The Kingdom is on a timeline:

  • First the parables, meant to reveal and conceal

  • Then the return of Christ, where nothing is concealed anymore.  Everything is revealed to the whole wide world.

And we are between these two points on the timeline.  Now is the time to respond to the teachings of Christ.  Now is the time to examine your heart and see if you truly see...or see if you are blind.

One writer says that parables were like missiles from the Kingdom of Light, launched into the Kingdom of darkness that was a work in the hearts of the people.

The parables are ultimately meant to change hearts.

Because that’s what the gospel does, doesn’t it?

  • Transforming us from SLAVERY to REDEMPTION

  • From ALIENATION to RECONCILIATION

  • From DARKNESS to LIGHT

And this parable in particular contains within it a promise and a warning.

The promise: The gospel WILL spread.  There WILL be a day when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.  The great commission will be fulfilled by the church, and there will be disciples made of all nations.

The gospel will go out to the ends of the earth, and everything will be light.  The Kingdom of Darkness will flee.  Every last stronghold of Satan will be turned into a stronghold of Christ, or it will be destroyed.  This is the coming reality.

And this is a promise that we should hold dear.

Because it’s not all light right now.  It feels like a lot of darkness.  There is fear all throughout the world.  There is racism, there is abuse of various kinds, abuse of police officers, abuse of women, abuse of men.  It feels so dark.

And the ends of the world?  The far-flung corners where the gospel should be preached and take root?  There is persecution.  Christians are being killed left right and center.  Their jobs taken away, put in prison, and murdered.

There are days when this world can feel like it’s nothing more than a whole lot of darkness.

But there is hope.  There is this promise of light.  Darkness can’t snuff out the light.  If you put a lamp on the lampstand, however much the darkness fights against it and hates it, the only choice it has is to flee.  Children, try this in your room at home.  When it’s dark, flip on the lightswitch.  How quickly does the darkness go away?  How quickly is is replaced with light?

And we see evidence of this, even in what seem to be the darkest corners.  The number of Chinese Christians has grown by an average of 10 percent EACH YEAR since 1979.  And some estimate that by 2030, in less than 10 years, China will have the largest population of Christians worldwide. China is on track to have the world’s largest population of Christians by 2030.

In Iran, a country with one of the harshest treatments of Christians, believers have been growing at a rate of 5% a year.

There is darkness, TO BE SURE.

But the light is approaching.  The light is advancing.  The light is winning!

And here comes the warning.

The Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of light is marching on.  Forwards.  Advancing each and every day.  It CAN do it without you...BUT DON’T LET IT!

Don’t be left behind in the dust and the darkness.

But instead, share the light that you have been given.

You are a LIGHT-BEARER of the Light of the World.  You have the message of the gospel.  So share it!  Don’t be ashamed of the gospel.  Don’t apologize for it, but let it speak out!

Does it say hard things?  Hard truths that are difficult for people to accept?  YES!  But it’s not YOUR IDEA.  YOU didn’t come up with it.  Show others that it is worth the struggle to remain in the light.

Don’t hide your lamp under a bushel.  Don’t reap the consequences of misusing your gift, but instead, reap the rewards of being part of bringing about the Kingdom of Light.  The Kingdom that is glorious and rules over all.                        

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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