SERMON: Parables on Hearing and Delivering the Word | Mark 4:21–25
Parables on Hearing and Delivering the Word | Mark 4:21–25
Shaun Marksbury | Quacco Baptist Church
Sunday Evening Service | 18 June, 2017
These parables emphasize the need for the His disciples to hear the Word and deliver it to others faithfully. So, we have two points this evening: those hearing God’s Word must shine it out faithfully, and those hearing God’s Word must measure it out faithfully.
Shaun Marksbury | Quacco Baptist Church
Sunday Evening Service | 18 June, 2017
Last time we saw the parable of the soils. Historically, it’s called the parable of the sower, but we saw that Jesus’s emphasis was on the kinds of hearts that react to His Word.
· There are those who will never allow the Word to penetrate. The seed is either consumed by the birds or trampled down underfoot, but the heart is impermeable (v. 15). That was the condition of the Pharisees as they committed the unpardonable sin, and they felt no twinge of doubt or shame in their hardened position against Christ.
· There are those who, by contrast, seem to receive the Word immediately and with great joy. However, theirs is only a superficial faith that withers at the first sign of trouble or opposition (vv. 16–17).
· Similarly, there are those in whom the Word takes some root. However, there are also the weeds of worldly desires, which choke any life that was there (vv. 18–19).
· Finally, there is success. The Word takes root, and it goes deep. The ground is clear of thistles and brambles. As such, the Word bears fruit, “thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold” (v. 20). We’ll see that Jesus wants His Word revealed to the world for the sake of these.
These are the four, basic responses to the preaching of the Word. If you share the gospel with a neighbor, or you teach a Sunday School class, or you preach to a full sanctuary, you will see one of these four responses. That might seem like a lot to take in at first if you’re not familiar with this parable, but look again to v. 20 for simplification. Those in whom the Word of God bears fruit are “the ones who hear the word and accept it.”
That’s the key: hearing and receiving Scripture. Back in v. 9, after delivering this parable, Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Again, in v. 23, He says, “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” Moreover, in v. 24, He says, “Pay attention to what you hear.” Hearing means that we bow our hearts to His Word.
Now, Mark jumped ahead to give the explanation of the parable, but now he returns to the other parables Jesus taught that day on the boat. Even so, skip down to v. 33—“With many such parables He was speaking the word to them, so far as they were able to hear it; and He did not speak to them without a parable; but He was explaining everything privately to His own disciples.” Notice that He explained everything to His disciples because they needed to then teach others. They needed to receive the Word so they could deliver it.
Two of those parables this morning are among those: The Parable of the Lamp and The Parable of the Measure. These parables emphasize the need for the His disciples to hear the Word and deliver it to others faithfully. So, we have two points this evening: those hearing God’s Word must shine it out faithfully, and those hearing God’s Word must measure it out faithfully.
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.”
In this parable, Jesus names four objects that were common to any household. For the first of these items, the KJV has “candle,” but “lamp” is more accurate. This would be a clay bowl, perhaps terracotta, shaped with a spout and a handle. The lamp would contain some olive oil and a wick would extend down the spout.
The next item is a basket, about a peck in size, holding roughly two gallons. The bed isn’t exactly what you’re thinking; it would have been a low couch that you would recline on while eating. Finally, these houses typically had a high shelf protruding from the inner wall upon which you could place a lamp.
These four items are very simple: a lamp, a basket, a bed, and a lampstand. We could almost play a game like on Sesame Street—which two things go together? A lamp would go out under a basket, or at least won’t be able to shine its light. A bed would put it out, if the lamp doesn’t catch it on fire first. Obviously, the lamp should be elevated on a stand.
So, v. 21 gives us the picture. The question is, who is the lamp? Some resources I’ve studied said that Jesus is the lamp. Indeed, one of the Old Testament references to the Messiah is a lamp (2 Kgs 8:19; Ps 132:17). David also refers to God as his lamp (2 Sam 22:29). This beautiful image of the Lord manifests in full color in Jesus Christ, the light of the world (Jn 1:5; 8:12).
Even so, Scripture is also referred to as a lamp (Ps 119:105), and so is truth (Ps 36:9; 119:130; Pv 6:23). Jesus says that He is the light of the world (Jn 8:12), and He gives that light to men (John 1:4, 9). Jesus proclaimed “light” to the Jews and the Gentiles (Acts 26:23). He has given us light as armor that we can put on as we cast away the unholy works of darkness (Rm 13:12). Elsewhere, God tells us that we are in the light of the Lord, so we should walk “as children of light,” because the fruit of the light is us (Eph 5:8–9; cf. 1 Th 5:5). In other words, there are lots of “lamps” and “lights” in Scripture.
Within context, however, Jesus is talking about the work of His Word (the word is the seed sown [vv. 1–20] and what’s heard and measured [vv. 24–25]). It seems here that Jesus is calling His true disciples lamps, holding the light of His Word. Christians are clay jars with the glorious treasure of the gospel inside. Consider 2 Corinthians 4 for a moment.
“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (vv. 1–6). Notice how God must speak “light” into our darkness. Lest we get too mystical, notice that the light is the gospel (and, by extension, our awakening to it caused by God). Notice now what Paul says next: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (v. 7).
The image is slightly different than the one Jesus shared, but only slightly. Clay jars and lamps are both crafted of clay and are both breakable. We hold the glorious gospel within us.
What will these living lamps do? Reveal. V. 22 is fascinating in this regard—The N/KJV has this as something simply being revealed, but that doesn’t quite capture it. We see here that something is hidden in order that it might be revealed. As Job 12:22 says, “He uncovers the deeps out of darkness and brings deep darkness to light.”
God’s pattern is to reveal, even what we don’t want known. At the right time, He shines His light on the secrets and intents of the heart (1 Cor 4:5). While the “sins of some people are conspicuous,” God reveals other sins later (1 Tm 5:24). Jesus says in Matthew 10:26–27 that “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” (see also Lk 12:2–3). Rm 2:16—“on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.” His glory will be known to all when He reveals the deeds of men.
Even before that great day, His Word is revealing the truth about us. That brings us to the next point:
Jesus’s disciples will reveal His secret. Indeed, they do just that in the writing of Scripture. This passage resembles Matthew 5:14–16, where Jesus explains, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (v. 16). The context here is that, while the parables remain hidden to some, the good work of the disciples will be to tell the world of these words.
This is the task of the evangelist—open the Scriptures to the unregenerate. This is the task of the parent—to open up the Scripture to the child so they can see how God’s Word speaks to their situations. This is the task of the preacher—open the Scriptures and make connections that they may have missed.
Disciples today and their local churches must continue to share what the world can’t discover through its own wisdom (cf. 1 Cor 1:21). We have the lamp of God’s Word in our churches, which is why Revelation 1:20 identifies churches as lampstands. However, heed His warning that He’ll remove the lampstand of those who are not faithful to His Word (cf. Rv 2:5)! Whether gathered corporately in church or dispersed into the world, may His Holy Word remain on our lips to guide the lost through the dark.
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.”
He commands, “Pay attention to what you hear.” As the children’s song says, “Be careful little ears what you hear;” we must both hear and receive the Word. This means that we need to ensure that we are receiving the Word of God in good measure, and it also means that we should be giving it out in good measure. Let’s look at the first of these.
A. First, we must be receiving the Word of God in good measure.
As Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” Within our own souls, we must strive to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor 10:5).
What must not allow ourselves to be filled with vain traditions or our sinful inclinations, but instead with the Word of God. Too often, though, we only half-listen to God’s Word. We’re not to be listening simply for someone else, as in, “Boy, I really wish Bill was here to hear this message, because the preacher is talking about him!” We need to be hearing the Word of God for ourselves.
I was talking with one of you this morning and a perfect example of this was mentioned. When David hears the Nathan’s story of the stolen sheep, David was ready to bring wrath upon the fictional thief. He had no clue that he was the man. In times like this, our sinful heart is exposed to the light of God’s Word.
Coming to church on Sunday mornings isn’t enough to accomplish this, nor is sitting in a pew every time the doors are open. You must have the Bible beside you often, and its message can never be far from your mind. If it helps, get the Bible on CD or download, hear it, and give it consideration within your heart. Read good books and turn on some faithful preachers who you know will explain Scripture.
On that latter point, let me add a caveat. Sometimes, we think we’re getting more good than we are out of listening to pastors and ministries. For instance, if you only listen to polemical ministries or teachers, you might rightly be able to identify bad teachers and heretics. However, you may also find yourself becoming more negative in general and nitpicky of what everyone says. That’s because you are hearing only a small portion of God’s Word applied to situations, and sometimes it’s applied poorly.
On the other hand, some of you may listen to teachers that seem to avoid all conflict. For instance, one otherwise solid pastor every year shares the stage with false teachers and false prophets. He’s given cover to many that led the church astray. The only time I saw him publicly rebuke a false teacher, he walked back his comments after criticism. You can learn some great truths from this teacher, so I won’t call him out by name, but he’s definitely a feelings-driven individual, and he seems to make pastoral judgments based on those feelings. (That’s my feeling on the matter!) That kind of attitude will not only lead you to paper over real doctrinal issues for the sake of unity and grace, it will lead you into error.
Later in Mark, Jesus will tell the disciples to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod” (Mk 8:15). He also said, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice” (Mt 23:2–3). What we need to do is recognize that all Bible teachers can do wrong, including myself, because we can’t just blindly emulate what we think we see (pun intended). We need to instead make certain that we are coming back to Scripture, allowing it to direct our lives.
What does Scripture say? Let’s look back at the most misquoted Bible verse in Scripture, Matthew 7:1. It reads:
Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
6 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
Notice that Jesus doesn’t stop at, “Judge not.” Jesus certainly doesn’t say, “Don’t remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Moreover, we need to know who the dogs and pigs are so that we don’t waste our time with them. Even so, if we are going to engage in measuring out the Word of God in someone else’s life, we better be sure that we are following it as closely as possible in our own.
There’s another way to look at this. Sometimes we wait on our own impressions to confirm an issue. We’ll say things like “That doesn’t feel right.” I’m not saying that you should never trust your gut, but God never promised to communicate to us through our emotions, our thoughts, or our dreams. I know that God can and has done so, but He never promised us this.
Did you know this? I’ve heard Christians say, “Well, I know this is true because I have a peace about it.” I’ve heard brothers and sisters say, “I’m just waiting on that still, small voice.” Some Christians await dreams and visions for receiving divine information. I love you, but the Greek term for this is “poppycock.” None of this is receiving the Word of God, and this kind of teaching has led some to even justify sin because they think God now allows it.
As Justin Peters says, if you want to hear the voice of God, read your Bible. If you want to hear the voice of God audibly, read the Bible out loud. We need to make certain that we are faithfully hearing the actual Word of God and allowing it to have its work on us. Jesus says, “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.” We need to make certain that we are hearing and receiving the Word of God in good measure.
B. Second, we must be giving it out in good measure
This was His command to the apostles primarily and to us secondarily. They were to measure out a great offering, and the Holy Spirit carried them along as they penned Holy Writ (2 Pt 1:20–21). We understand the parables and have the rest of Scripture today because they were faithful; their faithfulness gave rise to every conversion in the history of the Christian church.
Similarly, our personal efforts in the power of the Spirit will result in reaping a bountiful harvest. Those who have the truth will find the strength to obey it in areas such as personal holiness, evangelism, etc., and receive so much more. For instance, Pv 9:9, “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” The parable of the talents (Mt 25:14–30) indicates that those investing in kingdom work will bear fruit (some fourfold, some tenfold). God allows the hand of the diligent to reap reward (Pv 10:4), for the one who has will receive more.
In the parable of the ten minas (Lk 19:11–27), there’s a correlation between earthly work and heavenly rewards—and we will reap what we sow (Gal 6:7). This doesn’t seem fair on the surface, but this is, in fact, an issue of grace and justice. If you have a personal faith in Jesus Christ, then more will be added to you. If you reject Him, then God will begin removing some of those common graces you take for granted. A good example of this is what happened to Jerusalem in AD 70—the Jewish leadership rejected the Messiah, and they lost their temple.
Understand that those who do not care not for what they have will not teach others about Christ because they don’t have Christ. Theirs is a false profession, merely an objective faith. If you are in this category, then you must also receive the Word.
IV. Final Thoughts
This evening, we’ve seen two parables that speak about receiving and disseminating the Word of God. The lost world may not know the Word, but we must shine its light into darkness. We must feed the spiritually hungry with it, but first, we must fill ourselves with it.
Whereas God might use us to expose works of darkness through the light of His Word, we better be sure that we will be judged according to the same standards. If we call others to be searched by the Word, we also better allow ourselves to be first searched by Scripture. “This is an old Jewish proverb that occurs in a variety of forms, one of which ran, ‘In the pot in which you cook for others, you’ll be cooked.’ ”