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Mark 047 - Burning Publicity

He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand?

Mark 4:21

After the story about the farmer who sows, Jesus tells another simple yet powerful story for his closest friends. He uses only simple, daily things in his examples. And in a world without electricity, batteries, lightbulbs, or LEDs, a lamp is a great place to start.

Light is a good thing. But light doesn’t happen by itself, it needs a few things, and that’s where the lamp comes in. In this story, Jesus talks about a lamp and its purpose: to give light. Everyone needs light. But the lamp can’t live out its purpose without four things.

1. Burning fuel. The lamp has no meaning or purpose till it has something to burn. The lamp itself is just a container to hold fuel till it’s lit. Once lit, the lamp gives the flame a safe place to burn. Someone needs to bring fuel to the lamp, watching it to keep it full.

2. Being lit. The lamp and fuel just sit there, lifeless, and lightless, until a spark touches them. The fuel has potential but does nothing till that initial flame ignites it. And once lit, the fuel burns and burns. It doesn’t need another spark to keep burning, to keep giving light.

3. Brought out. The lamp might have fuel, and it might even be lit. But a lonely lamp is useless and meaningless. Lamps were meant to give light to people, not to light up a closet or corner. No, lamps are public things, to be around people.

4. Be visible. But the lamp’s purpose is not just to be out with people, it’s to be where it can do the most good for the most number of people. A lit lamp completes its purpose when it gives light to the most people. When the fuel burns, light is given off, helping the most people possible by being put on a stand.

A lamp is just another thing till it’s lit. A lamp just sits there, gathering dust until it’s filled with fuel. And a fueled lamp is dark till a flame is brought to it. Once the lamp is giving off light, the story’s only half over.

The lamp must be moved, placed where its light can be seen and enjoyed by everyone. Light is not meant to be shut up in a closet, but to be seen by everybody who’s around.

Light can’t be stored up. You can’t make some light and put it in a plastic container for later. You can’t wrap it up and put it in the refrigerator for another day. You can’t put it in a heavy-duty plastic bag and pop it in the freezer for later in the year.

You need to use light as it’s made, or the light is lost. You can’t reuse or recover light. It’s here right now, and then it’s gone.

This makes light precious. Even though we can instantly light a room with the flip of a switch, or light our way with headlights, once that light is gone, it’s gone forever.

When God gives us his light, it’s to be shared and used. It’s not to be stored or hidden away. It’s not to be used for or on ourselves. It’s to be shared with the people around us.

And how do you do that? According to Jesus, you put the burning lamp on a stand. And where do you put that stand? In the middle of the room where people are. That’s how the light from a lamp does the most good.

You don’t hide it under a bowl or bed. You don’t put it on a wall either. No, you put it on a stand in the middle of a room occupied by people. A light in the middle of an empty room does no one any good. For a lamp to fulfil its purpose, it needs people who need light.

Jesus tells His disciples that since they have more light, more insight than the crowd, they have the God-given responsibility to actively use it for the common good. Jesus has invested his light, his truth into his disciples. It is their job, their responsibility to share it with the people around them.

Rick Warren is known for many things. He founded Saddleback Church in southern California that has grown to 14 locations with more than 30,000 in weekly attendance and more than 7,000 small groups. His book, The Purpose Driven Life, has sold more than 50 million copies in more than 85 languages. And while these are all major accomplishments, they are not why I admire Rick.

When Rick’s son, Matthew, committed suicide “in a momentary wave of despair” at the age of 27, Rick let his light shine. Instead of crawling into a cave, or faking that everything was ok, Rick and his wife Kay did an incredibly brave thing. They grieved in public through social media. Even though they had complete assurance that Matthew was in heaven, Rick shared about his crying every day.

Rick took the darkness of this great despair and turned it into light. And he let that light shine for others to see. If God can use Rick, he can use you and me.

If Jesus has awakened you with his light, you have the opportunity and privilege to let his light shine, dissolving the darkness of the whole world around you. To do anything less is to waste the great gift that has been given to you.


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