As we work our way through Mark this year, we are skipping the first twenty verses of Mark 4. The Parable of the Sower and its explanation is probably already familiar to us and appears in fuller form in Matthew. But as we come to Mark 4:21-25 we find thoughts from Jesus that, while familiar in different contexts in Matthew and Luke, appear in unique arrangement and form in Mark.
My first response on reading verse 22 is to understand it in the context a similar thought has in Luke 12:2, where Jesus warns against hypocrisy and seemingly against the revelation of all our darkest thoughts. However, a little time with this context and the related ones in Matthew 10:26 and Luke 8:17 shows that here Jesus is talking more about the light of the Gospel penetrating and being revealed despite attempts to cover or obscure it. This fits well Mark’s context of these sayings occuring in the midst of Jesus speaking in parables. In other words, despite the “hidden” messages of the parables, what Jesus means to say will be revealed to those willing to listen.
So the further injunctions in verses 24 and 25, to pay attention to what we hear and that the one who has will receive more, while the one with little will have even that taken away, begin to make sense. The who is already receiving the Word will enjoy even more understanding. The one not paying attention and obscuring what the Lord says will have even what little understanding there is removed.
There’s a nice grammatical point in verse 21 which gets swept under the bed by most modern translations. The lamp is the subject of the sentence, not the object. So it’s not that the lamp is “brought in.” It’s that the lamp “comes in.” The light is Jesus Himself and His teaching. The whole point of the text is that when the light of the Lord’s Word arrives and begins to illumine our lives, we ought not try to hide it or cover it over, but pay attention and let it change us.