Ears to Hear, Mark 4:21-25

Proclaiming God’s Word to the world is fundamental to the Great Commission.

Much of chapter four really seems to emphasize the way in which people respond to God’s revelation.  The four soils show us the four heart-conditions of people who hear God’s word and the way they each respond.  If we keep in mind the theme of God’s Revelation and Man’s Response, I think it will help put our passage today into perspective.  


Shining the Light (v21-22)

Jesus transitions from the agricultural to the domestic.  He moves us from the field to the living room. He gives us the image of a lamp inside the house.  His point is that you put the lamp in a place where it can shine for everyone to see. Let it shine to give light to the room so you can see in the room.  Pretty simple, right? He’s not really challenging us here. But, notice how He highlights this common sense point by mentioning something rather silly. He asks, “Do you put the lamp under the bed?  Do you put the lamp under the table?” This is a teaching tactic, I don’t know what the tactic is officially called, but, I call it “An Appeal to the Absurd”.   


If you want to make a point, you simply point to the absurdity of the opposite.  This helps make the point you’re trying to make stand out more and stay with them.  It drives home more powerfully the importance of the point you’re trying to make.  


  • I actually use the tactic with my kids a lot.  “Oh, I’m sure you don’t want ice cream do you?  We don’t like ice cream.” Which is absurd. To get them focused and excited about ice cream I appeal to the absurd.  It helps enhance the obvious more.  
  • Or, I’ve used it when teaching God’s word.  Say I’m reading a passage like, John 3:16 and I read it with a questioning tone and say, “For God so HATED the world”?  Absurd right? But we’re so familiar with the verse perhaps the verse loses its impact on us. So, to make it really stand out I appeal to the absurd…which usually is its opposite.  


Now what is Jesus getting at?  His point is not about lamps. His point is something similar to lamps and what we do with them.  Lamps give light and if you’re intention is to illuminate a room you don’t hide the lamp and its light.  Jesus is speaking about Himself as the light. He is the lamp and the world is the living room. God has sent His light into the world in the person of Jesus Christ.  If the world is in the dark and it needs light, then the lamp that gives light should not be hidden. It should be put in the world so that it can give light to the world.  Three Quick Points:


First, Jesus is the light.  He Himself is the light.  He is God’s revelation to the world.  


Second, the word of God is to be proclaimed.  That is, the word about Jesus Christ.  It was hidden in the past, but, now it is to resound throughout the world.  Colossians 1:25-27, “…..” Proclaiming God’s Word to the world is fundamental to the Great Commission.  We spread that revelation to the world through preaching, evangelism, missions and so forth.


Third, the word of God is to be practiced.  Christians are to practice God’s word.  Show the word of God to the world in how you live as a Christian.  Your faith is not private, it’s public. Live in the light, show what true holiness, righteousness and godliness is.  Live consistent with the identity of Jesus. We show that revelation by allowing it to transform us. Responsibility to shine more brightly the more light you have.

    • Matthew 5:14-16
    • Luke 11:33-36


Measure Your Measure (v24)

This verse seems puzzling, yet plain to me.  “With the measure you use it will be measured to you – and even more.”  What is Jesus talking about here? Well clearly in some sense Jesus is saying that in whatever way you treat others – that’s how you will be treated.  If you treat others well you will be treated well in the same way. If you mistreat others you will be mistreated in the same way.  


This idea of equal treatment is the basis of the OT Law.  Remember the phrase: Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth”Lev. 24:17-22?  But we saw it played out in so many historical scenes too

  • King Adoni-Bezek’s big toes and thumbs cut off because he did that to others, Jdg 1:6-7; 
  • Haman hanged in the gallows he made for the Jews, Esther 7:10
  • Agag killed because he killed, 1 Sam 15:33;


When we move into the NT this idea is everywhere present too.  In so many familiar teachings the underlying principle is there – that what you do to others it will be done to you.


  • Lord’s Prayer and Jesus’ instruction makes God’s forgiveness of our sins contingent upon our forgiveness of others Mt. 6:12, 14-15; Forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors…or, forgive us our sins as we’ve forgiven the sins of others.
  • Tied to the Golden Rule:  “Do to others what you would have them do to you Lk. 6:31; Mt. 7:12
  • Sowing and reaping, “WHoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly; whoever sows generously will reap generously”  2 Cor. 9:6


Jesus seems to be issuing a warning and an exhortation.  A warning to be careful how you measure others, and, an encouragement to measure others generously.  To see this it helps to read the same verse in the other Gospels because they add a little more to it.  Turn with me to Luke 6:36-38.


The assumption is that we have an inner-knowledge of good and right behavior, (“as you would have them do to you”).  If we don’t know how to act towards others we merely have to consider the way in which we’d prefer to be treated. That is instinctive for each of us.  That is an unbroken function in all of us. It’s put there by God, since we’re made in His image. All of us have a definite understanding of how we would want others to act towards us.  


  • Motivation for mercy.  Careful in your condemnations.  Be humble in your assessments of others, be keen of your own faults and weaknesses.    
    • “The Skin Seat” illustration, MacArthur, Matthew p 435


God’s Return, Our Reward (v25)

The final point relates, in my understanding, to God’s Return and our Reward.  What is God getting out of us after what He’s given us? And, if we faithfully use what He’s given us then we will be rewarded.  That’s the summary of this verse.


Our thoughts may turn first to money and we may be thinking “What do I do with my money that God has blessed me with?  How can I use it to bless Him?” But, I think that is not Jesus’ first meaning in this verse. Rather than money and possessions, I think it has to do with the knowledge God has given you.  Matthew 13:11-17 bring this out and really is the key that unlocks this verse. Let’s turn there and read it. The point is that God is revealing Himself to people and the question is What are people doing with that revelation?  He is presenting them with true knowledge, through Jesus Christ, and it makes people respond. What is their response? How they respond is how God will respond to them. If they reject God He will reject them. If they accept what they’re hearing and seeing then He will accept them.  


Of course, not everyone has the same degree of knowledge.  Not everyone has the same exposure to truth. Some people have been given much, others have been given little.  Justice demands that those who’ve been given much will have more required of them. Conversely, those who’ve been given little will be responsible for the little they’ve received.  They won’t be judged by what they’ve never been given.  


In a nation where there is so much freedom, and so much abundance, and so much access, are we not part of those who’ve been given much?  Think of all we have in terms of information regarding the Bible: podcasts, Bible apps, Christian book catalogs in the mail, freedom to go to church, churches are everywhere so it’s no sacrifice to get there, most homes have multiple Bibles, Bible’s in dozens of different styles with different wording to make it easy for anyone to read, in every language.  We cannot turn anywhere in this nation and not encounter access to Biblical knowledge. Yet, how is it that there is so much ignorance of God’s word? So much laziness in engaging it? Indifference to seeking to know it.  


What has God given you?  He will hold us responsible for what we’ve been handed.  Turn with me to Matthew 25 and lets read the parable of talents.  What has God given you? Time, talents, money, possessions, influence, skills, health, strength, revelation, forgiveness and grace(!)….what else? 


Will He get a return from you on His investment?  If so, then you will be rewarded. 


If not, perhaps what would have been your reward you will see given to someone else at judgment.  



Leave a Reply