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A LAMP ON A STAND

Luke 8:16-8:21
Key Verse: 8:16

Thank God for blessing our 2014 SBC so abundantly, especially with the words of God. The words of God are indeed the words of life refreshing our souls and giving us joy and hope in Christ Jesus. Now we resume our Luke’s gospel study, after the study of the parable of the sower. In the parable of the sower, Luke particularly emphasized that the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. In today’s passage we can continue to think of the nature of God’s word and our attitude toward the word of God.

Part I, a lamp on a stand (16-18).

Look at verse 16. “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.” Here Jesus talked about people’s general practice with a lamp. A lamp is to be put on a stand. This is a self-evident truth. This parable is written in all three synoptic gospels (Mt 5:15; Mk 4:21; Lk 11:33), and in Luke, its purpose is clearly written. It is so that those who come in can see the light. Without light, people grope in darkness. Certainly, Jesus was not just talking about a lamp used in people’s ordinary life. Then what does a lamp refer to? Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” According to this Psalmist’s confession a lamp is the word of God. Also, in the flow of Luke’s gospel where this parable is written right after the parable of the sower, a lamp may well refer to the word of God. The word of God must be put on a stand, a right place to shine so that people may see the light and walk in the light.

At that time, it was unthinkable for anyone to hide a lamp in a jar or put it under a bed. But spiritually speaking, such things happened. Jesus once said to the Pharisees and teachers of the law, who were very sensitive to keep the ceremony of hand-washing, holding to the tradition of the elders, “These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men…you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down” (Mk 7:6-13). At that time the Rabbis were hiding the lamp of God’s word under an elaborate load of human traditions and hypocritical actions. We can also think about this in light of the history of Israel. When God established the nation Israel, his hope was that his word might spread to all nations through her. But they themselves abandoned the word of the Lord, following the customs of other ungodly nations. God’s heart was so pained. He said in Hosea 4:5-6, “…my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children.” God’s broken heart was also written in Isaiah 5:24, “Therefore, as tongues of fire lick up straw and as dry grass sinks down in the flames, so their roots will decay and their flowers blow away like dust; for they have rejected the law of the Lord Almighty and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel.” God’s chosen nation would finally be captives in Babylon. Yet, the prophet wanted to share God’s hope for them: “In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.’ The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” At God’s time, Jesus came to teach the word of God to humankind. From the outset of his earthly messianic ministry, he said, “The time has come; the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mk 1:15). In his hometown of Nazareth Jesus read the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor” (Lk 4:18). And he clearly said of his coming purpose in Luke 4:43, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” And at the beginning of this chapter it is written, “After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him” (8:1). Luke described well Jesus’ life of teaching the word of God. Even in the last days of his life, “Every day he was teaching at the temple…” (19:47) and “Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple…” (21:37). In this way he let the word of God shine so that people might see the light. When Jesus called the twelve disciples, he hoped that they might be the light of the world through their teaching the word of God and their life lived by the word (Mt 5:14-16). The light of God’s word must shine so that people might not walk in darkness but in the light of God’s word.

A lamp on a stand is very precious. Before Jesus’ coming the whole world was dark. Particularly under Herod's rule, Israel was in the darkest time of her history . But there was a lamp of God. Luke described it this way, “In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah…his wife Elizabeth, Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly” (Lk 1:5-6). This old couple were a lamp of God burning in that generation, and thus preparing for the coming of the Messiah. When Paul was in a small prison cell in Rome, it would have been a very dark and sorrowful time of his life in his old age, and also a time of darkness in Christianity which had just blossomed. However, as we studied at the conference, what he did in the Roman prison cell was very inspiring. Luke wrote, “For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” When Paul became a lamp of God in this way, God used it to change all of Rome by the light of the gospel, after only several centuries. And Paul said to the believers (saints) in Philippians, “You may become…children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…” (Ph 2:15-16).

We thank God for enabling us to have 2014 SBC. This conference could be not that great in the eyes of the people of this world, but I believe this was precious, because the word of God could shine. At that time World Cup soccer was going on and still is going on as a global event. We know, however, that such activity cannot shine in the hearts of people, even in the victors. I thank God for raising up the servants of God’s word, messengers and GBS leaders especially among young people at this conference. In our times many things can obscure and hide the words of God, particularly in the prevalence of humanism and pleasure-seeking atmosphere. Yet, we can also pray like Apostle Paul that in this generation, children of God may shine like stars in the universe as they hold out the word of life, and each become a lamp on a stand.

Look at verse 17. “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” Generally speaking, everything will be disclosed in the light. So a lamp had to be lit and put on a stand. In the light of God’s word all the falsity and evilness of men would be disclosed and brought in the open.

Also we can understand this verse in relation to the word of God according to the context. The ultimate purpose of God’s word is to be disclosed and made known. In 8:10 Jesus said to his disciples, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, though seeing they may not see, though hearing, they may not understand.” However, Jesus’ purpose of speaking in parables is not hiding but disclosing. In regard to God’s word, hiding is a process for disclosing; concealing increases the effect of disclosing. As the light of God’s word shines, his word will be disclosed and be made known more and more. We need to know that some words of God are revealed to others, but not to me and vice versa. The revelation of God’s word can come directly to me from God. Also, it can come through other believers. When the revelation of God’s word comes to me, I must share it with others in a most effective way. Also, I must be open and attentive to listen to others’ revelation of God’s word in God’s community so as to gain new understanding or correct my understanding and my view of certain words of God. For the purpose of God’s word is to be disclosed and be correctly known to all.

For the illumination of God’s word the Holy Spirit works together with human efforts of observing and studying and searching. In this people’s attitude toward the word of God is critical. So Jesus said in verse 18, “Therefore consider carefully how you listen…” How we listen matters, because input through what we hear is so important. In the parable of the sower, there were four kinds of the people who heard. The people with a noble and good heart would retain the word and by persevering produce a crop. Jesus had said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (8:8). In Luke 10:21 Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” We all need to be careful how we listen.

And then Jesus said, “Whoever has will given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.” This is an encouragement to those who have, but a warning to those who do not have. This is written also in the parable of ten minas in Luke 19:11, “I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away.” Here the meaning is that those who use God’s given talents positively will see that their talents increase, but those who do not, thinking that they have nothing will see that everything is gone. In the same way one can go into the abundance of God’s word or lose even what is given according to each one’s attitude. This is a spiritual principle applicable to all.

May God help us to have a right attitude in studying the word of God so that his words may be revealed to us continually and we receive his words in increasing abundance, so each of us may become a lamp on a stand.

Part II, Jesus’ family (19-21).

Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside wanting to see you.” At this Jesus replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” This event is written in all three synoptic gospels and Matthew and Mark put it before the parable of the sower, but Luke, after the parable, abbreviating the story. Jesus’ remark on this event in Matthew’s gospel is, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother,” (12:50) and is also similar in Mark, “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (3:35). Yet, Jesus’ reply in Luke is, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” We believe that Jesus spoke both, and we can see Luke’s point here. In sequence, Jesus emphasizes the importance of hearing God’s word and putting it in practice, that is, obeying God’s word.

In this world the family tie is the strongest among all human ties. God established a family and family member are special. When Jesus said, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice,” he was not ignoring the family bond. Rather, he was expressing the importance and preciousness of those who hear God’s word and practice it. Family members are very close among them.

And we should know that Jesus’ family is exclusive and also inclusive. The family of Jesus is not bound by nationality, race, gender or any other human condition such as social status, human family background, physical condition, wealth, etc. In this world what can be a greater blessing than belonging to Jesus’ family? May we value the blessedness of becoming Jesus’ family member and live accordingly, and pray for and make effort for the inclusion of people to this precious family of Jesus in this world. Jesus’ family members are indeed God’s kingdom members.

May each of us be a lamp on a stand, keeping the blessedness of being Jesus’ family members.

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