The parable of the lamp is found in 3 of the Gospels, Matthew 5:13-16; Mark 4:21-25; Luke 8:16-18. Mark and Luke are quite similar, so we will examine only Mark along with Matthew’s version.
Read these 2 versions several times.
- Observe the sociopolitical context and the pairing used by Matthew, who presents Jesus as the teacher of the church, which although initially Jewish, was expanding to all nations.
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.
14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
- Observe the sociopolitical context and the pairing used by Mark, who presents Jesus as the Son of Man, on the way to the cross, “an unidentified stranger and unfathomable mystery”*.
21 Then Jesus asked them, “Would anyone light a lamp and then put it under a basket or under a bed? Of course not! A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light will shine. 22 For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light. 23 Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
24 Then he added, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given—and you will receive even more. 25 To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.”
Continue to re-read and contemplate the parable…
- What might be the problem, question or attitude that promoted Jesus to use this parable of the lamp?
- Follow the storyline from the initial problem to the resolution.
- Find the central point, viewing all other details in relation to this.
- Does each author’s version focus on a different central point? Why?
- What title might you give this parable?
- What experiences do you know of having a limited source of light in a very dark place? Or have you seen a city on a hill in the night? Can you create a modern-day parable to share from your context and experience?
- Pay attention to the action that is required by you, the hearer.
- Do your conclusions of main idea and action meet the cautions to…
- Avoid allegorizing (finding a spiritual meaning for every element in the parable).
- Be careful that your interpretation fits the whole of Jesus’ person, teaching and the Kingdom.
Spend several minutes in silence, holding together in God’s presence, our awareness of light and of our lives’ actions.
|* John Timmer, Four-Dimensional Jesus: Seeing Jesus Through the Eyes of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Faith Alive, Grand Rapids, MI, 1973.Image from Wikimedia Commons|