Pithy Parables – Thursday, 3rd Week in ordinary time – Mark 4:21-25

Pithy Parables – Thursday, 3rd Week in ordinary time – Mark 4:21-25

In Mark 4:21-25 we have two short parables of Jesus, one which is a matter of plain common sense and the other a bit obscure in its meaning. When the word parable is used, we normally think of long stories spanning several verses, like the parable of the sower (Mark 4:1-9) or the famous parable of the prodigal son (Luke15). But as we know, a parable is literally “something thrown beside something else”; it’s a comparison of something earthly with something spiritual. So, they can be long narratives or short, pithy comparisons of a verse or two. Today’s text illustrates how Jesus could use the shortest of little comparisons to illustrate deep spiritual truths. Both the parables are two verses long, separated by a warning in the middle.

In the Old Testament, a lamp is a metaphor for three things: God, Messiah, and the Torah. The original Greek text does not read as ‘a lamp’ but THE LAMP. In short, Jesus is revealing his identity and mission in this text, indicating that the lamp refers to himself as the Messiah. Putting all this together, Jesus is saying, “Does THE lamp come to be put under a measuring bowl or under a bed? Is it not to be set on a lamp stand?”

Jesus wants his followers to let his light, his teaching shine out. Jesus the light, is not a searchlight to expose, shame or embarrass others. Some have mistakenly interpreted verse22 as referring to the sins of humans and that on judgment day; everything we have ever done will come to light. While this may be true it is not the correct interpretation within this context. So, if sins being exposed is not what Jesus was talking about here, what was he talking about? Verse 22 begins with the word ‘for’ indicating that verse 22 is a continuation or an elaboration of verse 21 concerning the eventual revelation of Christ’s divinity.

We have seen in Mark’s Gospel, as in the case of the leper in chapter one, that Jesus concealed his identity as God for a time. Rather than immediately boldly declare he was God and get himself killed before he had hardly begun his ministry, he first established his uniqueness through his healings, his immediate and absolute command of demons and his amazing teachings. So, when Jesus says, “For there is nothing hidden except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light,” he is speaking of himself. That which was hidden about him, even from his most ardent disciples up to this point—that is, his divinity and his mission to go to the cross and pay the penalty for sin—would eventually be revealed so that it should all come to light.

When Jesus, the light of truth shines, all is understood and forgiven. One has no need to hide nor does one need to choose to stay in the dark, be indifferent or hostile. The Gospel reading also tells us that Good News is to be shared; Jesus must be spoken about. Pope Francis, speaking to people who were concerned about the shortage of priests spoke about people who lived authentically Christian lives as being preachers of the Good News in today’s world.

Then there is a warning in verse 23, “Listen!” “Pay attention!” Jesus knows that it is easy for people to become inattentive even to the very things that bring them life. In listening, hearing and following Jesus, we grow in familiarity with his voice and hear more

We now read the second parable and the second part of this parable (verse 25) is obscure. When we read it, it seems like a paradoxical world where the wealthy keep accumulating riches and the poor are consistently deprived for no fault of theirs. Verse 24 which is part of the parable with verse 25 was not an original saying of Jesus. It was an old Hebrew proverb translated into the Greek and then translated into English, so something gets lost in the translation. The literal translation is, “In whatever measure you measure, it will be measured to you and will be added to you.” Basically, this verse means that what you put in, you get out, plus more.

But remember that in today’s text, Jesus is talking about Himself. He was saying that the measure you put into seeking Jesus, Jesus will seek you in return and reward you more in return. Understanding this concept makes verse 25 clear – “For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”

What Jesus means is that the person who seeks to gain spiritual insight into what he is saying will have that insight increased by exposure to his parables, whereas whoever does not listen to Jesus will end up in spiritual ignorance. What one gets out of Jesus’ teachings would depend on the degree of their commitment to hear it and listen with open hearts and minds. As with Jesus’ warning to the scribes in 4:11, the statement not only concerns ADDITION to those who hear but is a warning of SUBTRACTION to those who will not hear. Whoever listens, to him shall more be given; to whoever does not listen, from him shall be taken away.

Let us pray
Lord, help me to see how much you give me. Let me see you as a lavish God who never holds back anything that might help me. Jesus, help me to be as generous as you are. I want to serve you beyond comfort and an easy life. I want to continue to give beyond moments of laziness and discouragement.

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