Revealed (Mark 4:21-25)

“Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand?

Mark 4:21

This is perhaps one of the best known sayings of Jesus. It’s often described as a parable but had a more proverbial feel. Also, it seems to have been used in different contexts.  During the sermon on the Mount, Jesus applied it to his followers saying:

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[b] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

His point there was that we as God’s people are not to hide away, we are to be out there sharing the good news.  We cannot keep the Gospel a secret.  Here in Mark 4, he uses it to make a slightly different point.  In the previous parable, he has been describing the work of the Gospel as God’s Word takes root in people’s lives.  The imagery is also picked up in three short parables that follow. Seed is sown, it lies buried in the ground and for a long time, no one knows what is happening. Even once the seed begins to grow, it may take time for the farmer to know whether or not it will flourish and bear fruit or whether it will be scorched by the sun or choked by thorns.

In the same way, there may at times be an uncertainty to what is happening with the work of the Gospel where you are.  Perhaps you’ve prayed for a long time and you’ve persevered with inviting your neighbours to church.  Maybe the church have tried lots of different approaches to evangelism: special events, kids clubs, carol services, door knocking, open air etc and you wonder if it has had any impact.  What we don’t know and cannot see is what God’s word is doing behind closed doors as people stop to think about what they’ve heard or begin reading that Gospel you gave them.

However, a day will come when things will be brought into the light. This is the light of Christ that shines on all things and reveals the truth. He will do his work. There is of course the ultimate day to come when he returns and everything will be revealed and brought into the open. However, I think that we often see in the hear and now how God works to bring things into the light. Pray for the encouragement of seeing the fruit of your witness.

But, this also serves as a warning because if good things will be revealed, so too will the not so good.  It may seem for a long time as though someone is engaging with the good news but in due course we will see whether their faith is deep rooted or the seed landed on rocky or thorny ground. This is important because yes there are people who appear to be following Jesus who even gain positions of prominence but are actually deceiving the church and perhaps even themselves. They cannot avoid the truth coming out. It may not be until judgement day or it may be that when a crisis hits in this life that it will become clear that they had built on sand.  So, don’t think that you can get away with a double life, don’t entertain the idea that deception is possible within the church. In fact, not only can you not do this but why would you want to. The real offer of the Gospel is far better than the pretense of belonging.

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