Mark 4:21-23 (NIV): 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? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”
The key to understanding this somewhat obscure saying is to realize that Mark tended to group Jesus’ teachings by topic rather than chronologically. This saying re-emphasizes the teaching about the good soil in the preceding parable. The good soil multiplied the seed that was sown into it 30, 60, or even 100 times.
Jesus’ next point is that disciples cannot reproduce themselves by staying quite, keeping the eternal life in them a secret. A secret disciple is as incongruous as a lamp that was lit and then hidden under a bowl, or under a bed. Everyone knows that for a lamp to do its job, it must stay out in the open, visible, pushing its light out into the surrounding darkness and dispelling it.
It is the same way with the “secret” of eternal life. It is meant to be shared. Jesus was presenting this “secret” openly to everyone in the crowds that surrounded Him. He knew that only those with “ears to hear,” whose hearts were prepared, would receive His words, but He spoke them openly anyway, because His words not only planted the seeds, it tested the soil of the heart, showing clearly who was really hungering to know God.
This was the pattern that Jesus put forward: share the gospel always, and don’t worry about the response of the people. Some will turn away, others may even be hostile, but if you keep the gospel to yourself, the seed will never get planted in the good soil, either, and your own plants will remain sterile and unproductive. Paul emphasized the same thing to Timothy in his charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season. (2 Timothy 4:2a) And it is the same charge that all of God’s people have been given today: We must never be secret Christians. We must never hide our testimony or the good news under a bowl or under a bed because we fear the reaction of some people to our message. How will the good soil people ever hear and respond to our message if we don’t speak it, clearly, loudly, and often?
Father, You are absolutely right. Forgive us for keeping such good news to ourselves far too often. Open our lips as well as our lives to those around us who need to hear, so that all of the good soil in our area can be planted.