June 7, 2005

The Lamp on the Lampstand

Category: Bible - NT - Mark :: Permalink

In Mark 4:21, Jesus tells the parable of the lamp: “The lamp does not come to be put under a basket or under a bed, does it? Is it not to be set on a lampstand? Because something is not hidden which will not be revealed nor does anything become hidden except that it might be manifest.”

Jesus appears to be talking about His own ministry: His coming is the coming of “the lamp,” which reveals the things that have been hidden and kept secret. Some things are hidden and secret now, Jesus is saying, and I take Him to be using what is sometimes called the divine passive: God hid these things and kept them secret. But they are hidden and secret for a time only so that later on they might be revealed. And Jesus is the light through whom these things are brought to light.

But when Jesus identifies Himself as “the lamp,” I wonder if He isn’t alluding to the menorah, the lampstand in the Holy Place, which is spoken of as “the lamp” frequently (cf. the LXX of Ex. 25:37 [2x]; 27:20; 30:8 [2x]; 37:19, 23; 39:37; 40:4, 25; Lev. 24:2, 4; Num. 4:9; 8:2 [2x], 3; 1 Sam. 3:3; 1 K 7:49; 1 Chr. 28:15; 2 Chr. 20, 21; 13:11; 2 Chr. 29:7; Zech. 4:2 [2x]).

In the Old Covenant, as Peter Leithart points out, the lamp was under a basket, namely, the tabernacle or the Temple itself. The light shone only on the Holy Place; it didn’t shine out into Israel and the rest of the world. God had hidden that light, but Jesus comes as the light. In and through Him, the light which once was hidden will shine out to the world, revealing what God had always purposed the mystery that was hidden and kept secret in the Old Covenant.

Jesus is also, I think, speaking about His own ministry. Jesus is the light, but He’s keeping His light under a basket for a while. He isn’t allowing demons to speak about Him. He is using parables instead of teaching in an open and straightforward way. For now, He’s David hiding from Saul and that necessitates some degree of secrecy. But He assures His disciples that one day all that was kept secret will be made plain. And so for now, they’re going to have to pay careful attention to what He says.

Posted by John Barach @ 4:46 pm | Discuss (0)

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