Parable of the Lamp


  1. Talk about a time the power was out because of a storm or ice.  Scared of the dark?  Did you have a flashlight?  Candles?  How frustrating is it to flip a light switch and nothing happens!
  2. Cover up the end of a flashlight or camera lens and try to use it.  Ridiculous, right?  And pointless.  Then remove the immediate cover but keep it where it’s only facing you and not the group.  Good for you maybe, but not for them.  (Could even do a photo shoot or scavenger hunt and “accidentally” never get a picture with people in it.)
  3. Make s’mores at a bonfire or in a fireplace.  Fires are light and heat and protection… but only when used for those specific purposes.


Main Points (Choose ONE)

  1. The gospel—“the good news”—and God’s desire for relationship with us is not something that can be hidden away, hoarded, watered down or contained.
  2. The gospel—“the good news”—brings about change, of course, but the change is not the end.  The change is meant to have purpose and is specifically directed at divine goals.


The story:  two parts, found in Mark 4:21-25 and in Luke 4:16-18


A.  In Mark, Jesus has recently appointed the 12 apostles and is widely popular, being followed by huge crowds of people wanting healing and teaching everywhere he goes.  (Must be some good teaching, too, to be so popular because he hasn’t even fed the 5,000 yet and we know people will show up for a free meal.)

During one teaching he asked if a lamp went under a bowl or a bed.  Obviously, not. It goes on a stand where it’s good light is most useful. The point?  Jesus said, “For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.  If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Then, “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more.  Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.”

[Okay…. A little vague, right? What is it that’s hidden?  And what is it that’s supposed to  be used to get more of it?  Well, let’s go back to Jesus’s first sermon in the temple after   he had been fasting for 40 days.]

B.  In Luke, he reads to everyone in the temple something out of Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

So, the spiritual metaphor in Mark makes more sense when it looks like this:

Lamp            =  good news, freedom, sight, favor

Bowl or bed  =  keeping quiet about the great stuff the “lamp” has to offer

Stand             =  preaching, proclaiming

So the good things Jesus brought and God intends for our lives were once “hidden” or  “concealed.”  But they were meant to be “disclosed” and “brought out into the open.”         

          And this “lamp,” this light from God should be used—we can be freed, un-blinded,  victorious and living in the Lord’s favor.

Point #1:  Have you ever seen the darkness refuse to leave the room when the light was turned on?  Of course, not.  When the light, the lamp is turned on and not hidden, the darkness has to leave.

And it’s the same with the good news… God has changed us, made us a lamp to the darkness.  The work done is obvious and trying to hide it is counter productive.

Jesus said if we use what we’ve got, we’ll be given more—if we let the good news be obvious in every part of our lives, (like a lamp on a stand is obvious in the darkness) we won’t use up its benefits, but will have even more blessings.  But, at the same time, if we try to contain the good news or keep it protectively to ourselves, we’re in danger of losing even the little benefit that we’ve had.

Point #2:  Jesus wasn’t sent to gather up the 12 disciples and teach them about God so they could hang out together and really enjoy one another’s righteous, better-than-those-other-sinners company.  Jesus said he was “anointed” by the Lord to preach and proclaim—a very specific purpose.  All the time, he was surrounded by crowds of people wanting some of what he had to offer.  And he gave it to them because it was his Father’s will.

With the Great Commission, Jesus also told us what out specific purpose, our destiny, is.  We were made for God’s glory and forgiven so that we might have relationship with him and make more disciples who would also realize the purpose of their lives.

Like it says in I Corinthians 10:31, “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  The first step to that, is recognizing that fuzzy feelings during worship aren’t the only thing God has planned for us and asking for him to open our eyes to how he would use us in all situations.  Of course worship is important and something the Bible promotes, but why stay a hidden lamp basking alone in the light, when God would put us on a stand for many to see the light?

Human Struggles

  1. When it comes to publically recognizing the message of the gospel we sometimes:
    1. Try to maintain political correctness by waiting for permission to be honest about our beliefs.
    2. Openly agree to the parts of the Bible that are easily tolerated by most people—like “murder is wrong”—but find it difficult to so openly agree with more controversial facts, e.g.  trying to be a “good person” isn’t good enough.
    3. Leave the strength, encouragement, learning, and worship we experience corporately on Sundays and Wednesdays at home, failing to realize that these components can be with us all the time, making the “good news” not something to protect from attackers but a weapon against darkness itself.
  1. When it comes to the miraculous work that God is doing in our lives, we sometimes:
    1. Only enjoy it for the personal benefits, forgetting that those benefits or blessings are given so we can give to other people, too.
    2. Begin to feel that we have “arrived” at the place God meant to bring us, that the goal is accomplished and now we are just maintaining salvation until we get to go heaven.
    3. Struggle to see how our current situation accomplishes any divine purpose in our lives, thinking that at church or on a foreign mission field is really where God’s goals are supposed to get done, when really God wants to use us where we are.

Application Helps  (Discussion guides that lead to the points)

  1. Questions leading up to the “keeping good things to yourself” point
  • Have you ever known someone who never wanted to share, but wanted whatever they had all to themselves, even if it was more than they could use?

(Little kids with toys/candy, Scrooge and other money hoarders, dragons and their gold)

  • Do they enjoy it?  Are they ever satisfied?
  • What would it look like if they used those things to benefit the world around them, not just themselves?
  • Any examples of people who try to do that?  (e.g., Toms shoes… you get a pair, so does somebody else.  It’s good for more than one person)
  • What about non-material good things that we have?  How can those things be “put on a stand” so that others benefit?
  • Have you ever seen someone who was so happy/relieved/joyful that they couldn’t hold it back, even in public?  (sports fans, reunited families, lottery winners)
    • They’re happiness, the good that happened to them just comes out.  How does that affect the people around them?
    • When something good happens to you—promotion, good grade, found some money, saw a great movie, had a great date—do you ever try to make it sound less good than it felt?   Can you keep from telling it?
      • To whom or for what reason would you water down the goodness?
      • Do you want people to hide their happiness/joy from you?
  1. Questions leading up to the “blessed for a purpose” point
  • Why did you come to school?  Why do you work?  Why do you want that job?
  • Is there a certain goal that once you’ve accomplished it, you’ll be completely “done?”
    • Do you know people who do things without a specific purpose or goal?
    • Are there large-scale things that make you think, “What does that even accomplish?”
    • Have you ever felt like what you’re doing doesn’t matter?
      • How do you cope with required things that seem useless?

Is there a way to turn them into something beneficial?