A Radiant Life

Parables of Jesus for the Modern Pilgrim

When I was little, I’d always want an audience for my impromptu performances. I guess it’s a youngest child thing. Even though I was shy, when my mom or dad were around, I would hound them to “watch me!”

But then I grew up. I began to let the shy part of me take over. Suddenly, the thought of being the center of attention produced fear and anxiety. There began the inner struggle – I want to share who I am but please only watch from the distance. Can you relate?

Jesus has something to say about this. In the parable about the lamp, he very clearly shows where he thinks we should be – on a stand for all to see.

The parable of the lamp is told in each gospel. They may appear at different times during Jesus’ ministry. But it seems sure that this was a metaphor Jesus would return to again and again.

Matthew 5:14-15

Mark 4:21-22

Luke 8:16; 11:33

All the tellings begin basically the same way; “No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket.” Jesus begins with the known and moves to the unknown.

Why do we light a lamp? Because it’s dark. Not too difficult to understand. If you put a lit candle under a basket you will either start a fire or put out the fame. Those choices aren’t going to do anyone any good.

Putting the lamp on the stand lets the light shine out for the benefit of everyone in the area. People in Jesus’ time did this every single day. Many parts of our modern world still rely on lamplight. But even in the industrialized world of 2018, we know that to turn on a lamp brings light to the room. We place the lamp in very intentional places to do the most good; the doorway, the hall, over the kitchen counter, above the bathroom mirror, and at our reading chair.

In the Matthew account, Jesus explains that the lamp represents the good deeds of the follower and the light brings attention and praise to God. He begins the parable by saying, “You are the light of the world.” This is no small compliment. Jesus calls himself the Light of the world in the gospel of John. What an honor to share that description.

Hidden light is the same as darkness.

In Mark, we see the addition of another phrase, “For everything that is hidden will be brought to light.” This is also found in the Luke 8 telling.

Light is useful for finding things in the dark, but did you notice the word “hidden?” It seems like someone is trying to keep a secret. But light makes that attempt useless.

When I was just out of high school, I had a brief but thorough rebellion against my faith. I couldn’t handle my new-found freedom in my first year of college. I got with the wrong crowd and did many things I’m not proud of. My saving grace was praying parents. My mom later told me that she would pray this scripture over me at night – and God heard and answered her prayers. It seemed I couldn’t get away with anything. All my schemes backfired and I was continually found out. It was the grace of God in my life but at the time I hated it!

Light makes it impossible to hide.

Now let’s look at the Luke 11 telling of this parable. The new thought here is that the eye is the lamp of the body. Jesus makes this parable more personal for each one listening. He teaches us that what we take in with our eyes can affect our whole being.

“Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. But when it is unhealthy, your body is filled with darkness.” (v. 34)

What and how we look at things, either with light or darkness, determines the health of our life.

Different translations vary greatly in the adjectives they use for the word “healthy.” The Greek word can mean simple, sound, perfect, clear, undivided, “without double agenda which prevents an over-complicated life.” It is in contrast with “unhealthy” which translates to evil, bad, wicked, malicious, slothful, pain-ridden, “emphasizing the inevitable agonies that always go with evil.”

And Jesus gives this with a warning: “Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness.”

What? That’s a bit terrifying. Does Jesus mean to say that I could be deceived that I am in the light but actually be in the dark? It seems so.

So how can we know the difference between the light and the dark?

Radiant light transforms your life into a beacon.

You won’t be able to contain the light when the source is Jesus. Your life will be turned into a floodlight of God’s goodness. The Light is so bright, the single-minded, whole-hearted lamp will have no hidden darkness. There will be no pet sins to try to hide. All will be revealed and purified by Jesus’ amazing light.

Lessons for the Modern Pilgrim

  • Let the light of God’s love transform you.

You won’t be able to contain the brilliance. The light will shine on the hidden things that the Holy Spirit wants to illuminate in your life. Once touched by Jesus’ light and love, you won’t need them anymore.

  • Let Jesus put you where he wants you.

You will be used by the Lord to bring light and love into a dark place. Don’t worry about being the center of attention. It’s the Light people want and need, not merely a lamp.

I think children are born with a need to be seen. God placed in us a need to share the joy that is overflowing in our hearts. It’s not about ego, it’s about shining the pure Light that lives within. It’s about partnering with God in lighting a dark world.

So, let’s sing it out!  Shine, Little Light, shine!