Sunday, March 19, 2006

Light and Darkness (Part Three)

In Part One of this three part study, I discussed Matthew’s Gospel and the context within which the light under a bushel metaphor is presented. In Part Two, I likewise explored the context within which Light and Bushel imagery is presented in the Gospel of Mark. In this the final and third part, I look at the context within which Luke presents the light under the bushel.

Luke’s Gospel

As Mark, Luke recounts the Parable of the Revealed Light immediately following his rendering of the Parable of the Sower.

The Parable of the Sower Explained

11 “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. 13 But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe
for a while and in time of temptation fall away. 14 Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. 15 But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience. (Luke 8:11-15)

More so than Mark, Luke’s account of the Parable of the Sower emphasizes that this parable is a metaphor that speaks of the condition of the heart. The seed of the gospel is sown in the listener’s heart, and the degree to which that seed takes root in the heart dictates what will result.

For some, the seed misses the mark altogether, it hits the wayside, in much the way a salvation message is dismissed and pushed aside. Whether by distraction, or resistance, enmity, or simple carelessness, for these, the Good News is no news of note at all. It is as if a telegraph of gladness is set aside and forgotten, it’s joyful message of no account.

For others, there is an existing hardness of the heart. They receive the message of God’s salvation through His Son with initial joy and excitement. The seed is received, but without a place to find root and grow, when temptation comes, the message is forgotten and the seed falls away.

Some allow competing interests and distractions steal away nourishment for the seed. The emphasis here is that which allows us to bring forth fruit. These cares and distractions may involve sin, and certainly result in temptation, but they may not in themselves be bad things. But by allowing them a greater prominence and attention in our lives, we don’t prepare our hearts to allow the Gospel to bring fruit into our lives. And while that fruit may bless us, the fruit that’s referred to here is a fruit intended to bless others.

Luke’s rendering of the parable describes the “good ground” as those who can hear the word with a “noble and good heart.” The nobility of heart in this context is surely not a gift of birth, but of attention, concentration, and commitment. Noble in the same sense as those noble of heart who love others as God loves them. This leads to a life and witness that is able to “bear fruit with patience.”

There aren’t many fruits that come from the discipled life that don’t require patience. Fruit itself requires time, good husbandry, nurturing care and feeding, and no small amount of pruning (as the previous example of the thorny and weedy ground well illustrates).

Thus Luke prepares the context for the next Parable.

The Parable of the Revealed Light

16 “No one, when he has lit a lamp, covers it with a
vessel or puts it under a bed, but sets it on a lampstand, that those who enter
may see the light. 17 For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor
anything hidden that will not be known and come to light. 18 Therefore take heed
how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not
have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him.” (Luke
Consistent with Matthew and Mark, Luke uses the image of the central communal lamp, in this case, so that “those who enter may see the light.” Here too, Luke also compares this light to revelation, to the way in which all secrets will be revealed, all darkness will be chased away.

What starts as common sense – who puts a light under a bed – ends with a warning about things of greater consequence. The Gospel cannot be passively received and not acted upon. How will we respond to the imperatives of revelation? How prepared are we to react? How ready are our hearts for the weights that will be placed upon them?

Just as Mark, Luke relays Jesus’s promise that, as we respond to His call into our lives, we grow in God and understanding of His purposes. Those who don’t prepare their hearts, or neglect His call, what little understanding they have will be lost.
The Gospel carries an obligation for believers. It isn’t just that we acknowledge the need for a savior, or that we turn from sin. There is a work of the heart to be accomplished, that working out of our faith that is all about sanctification and sharing that light with others. We are not our own, we are that vessel of light that God will use, if we are prepared.

Unity in Text, Diversity in Emphasis

In Matthew’s account, Jesus clearly charges His followers to share our faith with our family and friends, “giving light to all who are in the house.” Believers are compared with that communal light that extends our lives beyond the natural limits of daylight. Light here is the source of closeness and connection, and the believer is described as the light by which the connection is established.

Matthew describes the urging of Jesus that we would so shine, that those around them could see their good works. Those who would see those works will glorify the God who is the Author and originator and inspiration for those works. Our good works should give the glory to God, and be merely a reflection of the Light He brought into the world.

In Mark, there is a subtle transformation of the light that Matthew introduced as the light of believers, into a description of light as the revelation of God to all humankind. This light cannot be hidden, and by which the secrets and mystery of faith from the beginning of the world will be revealed.

Mark’s account includes a warning not to hide the Gospel, or constrain it into our preconceptions of what we want it to mean. If we hide it under such a bushel, we will limit what God can do with us. As we respond to His call into our lives, we grow in God, we grow in Jesus.

Luke faithfully presents a Gospel which cannot be passively received and must be acted upon. As we respond to His call into our lives, we grow in God and understanding of His purposes. Those who don’t prepare their hearts, or neglect His call will lose what little understanding they have.

Luke’s account of the Parable of Revealed Light speaks of an obligation for believers. There is a work of the heart to be accomplished. As our hearts receive and nourish the Gospel, we turn and share that light with others. We are not our own, we are that vessel of light that God seeks to use.

Each of the disciples seemed to receive this parable in slightly different ways. The different contexts within which they present the parable, and their differing emphases, reveal a richness of the message that Jesus intended to convey. Each is Gospel, all are divinely intended. Taken together, they point us towards a state of mind and heart that we are well advised to nurture as we walk the disciple’s path.

Much has been revealed. The light is bright. The more we prepare our hearts, the more we are willing to be redeemed as His vessels, the greater we can shine that light that He brought into the world.


Anonymous Laurie said...

Thanks for an excellent post.

8:17 PM  

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