21 And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? 22 For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” 24 And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. 25 For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” – Mark 4:21-25 ESV
It’s easy to assume that because Jesus was the Son of God, every time He spoke, the words that came out of His mouth were totally new and unique. In other words, He never said the same thing twice. He never repeated Himself. But the Old Testament is filled with evidence that even God the Father was in the habit of repeating Himself.
Just look at how many times God warned His people about making and worshiping false gods.
“You are not to make any gods alongside Me; you are not to make for yourselves gods of silver or gold.” – Exodus 20:23 BSB
“You shall not make for yourself any gods of cast metal.” – Exodus 34:17 ESV
“Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves any gods of cast metal: I am the LORD your God.” – Leviticus 19:4 ESV
“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind, or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea.” – Deuteronomy 5:8 NLT
God constantly repeated Himself because His audience was constantly disregarding His commands. So, He made a habit out of reminding them of His expectation of faithfulness by repeating His prohibition against idolatry.
But what does this have to do with today’s passage? As the Son of God, Jesus was also in the habit of repeating Himself. He often said the same thing numerous times and on different occasions because His audience was constantly changing. But ultimately, His tendency to repeat Himself was for the benefit of His disciples. There were some messages that He wanted them to hear over and over again so that they might fully grasp His intended meaning and the lesson He was trying to convey.
In these five verses, Jesus conveys a series of short lessons that appear elsewhere in the gospels, but in different venues and at different times. But rather than view these as possible discrepancies or contradictions in the gospel accounts, it makes much more sense to understand them as examples of Jesus’ use of reiteration for the sake of emphasis and clarity.
For example, in his record of Jesus’ sermon on the mount, Matthew has Jesus stating something very similar to what Mark records in verse 21.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 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.” – Matthew 5:14-15 ESV
In the same way, Luke includes yet another example of Jesus utilizing this imagery of the hidden light or lamp.
“No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.” – Luke 11:33-36 ESV
Jesus utilized the same basic imagery, but in this case, He had a different lesson He was trying to convey. Now, consider verse 22.
“For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light.” – Mark 4:22 ESV
Here, Jesus communicates another short, parable-like message that appears elsewhere in the gospels. Take a look at Matthew 10:26-27.
“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.”
Luke records yet another instance of Jesus using this very same message, but in a completely different context and, in this case, Jesus ties it a warning concerning the Pharisees.
“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.” – Luke 12:1-3 ESV
This pattern continues throughout this passage. In verse 24, Jesus states, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you”(Mark 4:24 ESV).
Once again, Jesus used the same basic language in His sermon on the mount, but with a different point in mind.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” – Matthew 7:1-2 ESV
Luke has Jesus saying the same message but at another time and place.
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” – Luke 6:37-38 ESV
Finally, in verse 25, Mark reports that Jesus said, “For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
Matthew has Jesus saying the same thing on two different occasions.
“To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” – Matthew 13:11-12 ESV
Towards the end of his gospel, Matthew includes yet another instance when Jesus used the same language, but in His parable of the talents. And, in this case, Jesus put the words in the mouth of one of the characters in His story.
“So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” – Matthew 25:28-29 ESV
And Luke includes a similar parable that Jesus told, which also contained the same basic language.
“And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” – Luke 19:24-26 ESV
So, what’s the point? It seems that Jesus understood and fully utilized the power of repetition as a teaching tool. And don’t miss His emphasis on hearing.
“If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear… ” – vs 23
“Pay attention to what you hear…” – vs 24
It’s as if Jesus is saying, “Don’t miss this!” He is going to continue to repeat these truths until His disciples begin to grasp what it is He is trying to convey to them. These men were struggling to understand what was going on around them. They were becoming increasingly more convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, but so much of what He said had made no sense to them. His actions and cryptic-sounding messages were not in keeping with their expectations of the Messiah.
But in using the imagery of the lamp, Jesus was letting them know that they were being enlightened by the “true light” (John 1:9) and the “light of the world” (John 8:12). They were being exposed to the truth of God as revealed in the life of His Son. And that message, while still unclear to them at this point, was to be declared to all those around them. The day was coming when they would be expected to carry the light of the gospel to the ends of the earth. It was not to be hidden or secreted away like some precious jewel, but it was to be revealed to all those living in the darkness of sin.
In an encounter that Jesus had with Nicodemus, a member of the Pharisees, He told this learned religious leader, “God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants” (John 3:19-21 ESV).
Jesus was that light, and He wanted His disciples to understand the illuminating nature of His ministry and mission. Light not only exposes darkness, but it also expels it. Darkness cannot remain where light exists. Paul put it this way:
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. – Ephesians 5:11-14 ESV
Jesus was preparing His disciples for the inevitable. He had come to do the will of His Father and that was going to include His death on the cross. But that reality remained hidden from the disciples at this point. And even when Jesus began to divulge the truth concerning His pending death and burial, they would have difficulty understanding and accepting it.
But Jesus was going to keep telling them the truth. Slowly but surely, He would make them aware of the true nature of His mission. And, in time, they would grow to understand that the Light had come to expel the darkness by sacrificing His life for the sins of mankind. But God the Father would restore His Son to life, rekindling the Light of life and exalting Him to glory by restoring Him to His rightful place at His side.
And the apostle John reveals another point in time when Jesus will return to earth again and shine as the Light of the world once more. In the vision given to him by Jesus Himself, John saw the future, when Jesus will become the literal and eternal Light of the world, having dispelled all darkness and having eliminated the last vestige of night.
And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. – Revelation 21:22-25 ESV
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