In the last devotional, we learned about a farmer who sowed seed into the ground (Mark 4:1-20). Keep that in mind as you read and think about today’s Scripture passage, Mark 4:21-25. Take the first two verses together:
And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand?” For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light.” (Mark 4:21-22)
In order to understand the meaning of this passage, go straight to the word “for.” “For nothing is hidden…” The word “for” gives us the powerful and important underlying principle. If you want to understand more about God, then you have to know this principle. It’s that hidden things will be revealed and secrets will be uncovered. You see, for ages and ages there has been a “hidden” God. Humanity knew a little about God, but not much. Religion, philosophy, science, law, art, and human wisdom helped us some, but each of these fell short.
Although God kept himself hidden from us, he still gave us promises along the way. These promises pointed forward to the day when the hidden God would reveal himself. His secrets would be uncovered and light would pour in for us to see what he was like.
A seed is hidden in the ground and the farmer waits. Promises are buried in history and the One who promised waits. Neither is benign, but each throbs with potential, for, when it comes to the mysteries and promises of God, “nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light.” It was only a matter of time until the promises came to light.
After starting with the “for” in verse 22, we can then consider the application found in verse 21, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand?” In other words, things that shine light are put where they can be most effective. Lamps go on stands, not hidden under baskets or beds. God’s revelatory word, in the last parable known as the seed, will be placed where it will shine the brightest, because the hidden secret of God will come to light.
The hidden God reveals both himself and his plan for the world. The light will shine from the right places for us to see what God wants us to see. What is it that God wants us to see? What is God’s secret? God’s secret, which has been both promised and hidden from the foundation of the world, is that he would become a human being, suffer for our sins, and offer us free salvation in Jesus Christ. The mystery of God, which is now being uncovered, is the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. The hidden God is now revealing himself as the God who loves us, is for us, and has the perfect plan to redeem us.
This gospel is the incredible secret of the cosmos, which even angels have longed to peer into (1 Peter 1:12).
Then Jesus adds in verse 23, “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” Jesus isn’t referring to physical ears, but to a special kind of hearing. If you can “hear” the secret mystery of the gospel of Jesus, then you will be able to know and understand even more of the hidden secrets of God. By knowing this mystery of God, then you have a kind of decoder ring, which will help you understand other mysteries of life. Knowing the love of God opens up the universe to you.
So Jesus goes on to say, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you” (Mark 4:24). If you put on your special decoder ring and listen to God through the gospel message, then even more mysteries will open up for you. The “measure” refers to the way you calculate what you see in life. Think of it like the Metric system or the US Standard system; but instead, it’s the “Gospel system.” You use the Gospel system, the good news of the love of God, by which to measure all life.
It’s popular today to measure life with nihilism, which measures life with cynicism and the rejection of morality and divine transcendence. If the measure you measure life with is nihilism, then you have to make up your own rules, life becomes meaningless, and human politics becomes the highest form of “salvation.” We’re just a bunch of animals fighting it out to the finish, seeing which group has the most power to come out on top. There are no guiding principles, no stars to look up to in the sky.
But, as Jesus warns, if the measure you measure with is nihilism, then nihilism will be measured to you. You become meaningless. You become rejected. As Psalm 115 similarly warns, we become what we put on top (Psalm 115:8).
If the measure you measure life with is the love of God, on the other hand, then the love of God will be measured to you! “…and still more will be added to you.” Now we’re ready to understand Jesus’s conclusion to this section, “For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (Mark 4:25). The more light you have, the more of God and his promises you will be able to see. Picture the scene at the end of the movie National Treasure. Nicholas Cage held a single torch, which revealed a small amount of treasure in the treasure room; but, then he lit another light and the flames began to spread around the room, illuminating more and more, revealing greater and greater treasure. The room looked endless and the view of the treasure seemed never to end. In the same way, once the light of the gospel shines on the love of God, then more light will begin to shine and the love of God will seem to go on forever. You truly will never be able to see the end of it.
However, if you don’t have the light of the gospel, then the opposite happens. Since you don’t know God is for you, as the gospel proclaims, then you think God is against you. And if you believe God is against you, then darkness and despair will swallow you completely, until, “even what he has will be taken away.” In other words, even the small amount of love and hope you cling to will be absorbed by this darkness and despair if you don’t know God loves you.
Experientially, we know that life works this way, for if we believe there is no God and no purpose for life, if we believe everything is meaningless, if we believe we are a mistake or rejected matter of the cosmos, then not even the simple pleasures of life can bring us calm, so we might as well give up.
It’s not up to me to define who God is; God is who he has revealed himself to be. Much to our joy, God has revealed himself to be the Savior, Jesus Christ. This is what he most wants you to know about him; this is the secret he whispers to you every day in his word. As we continue to read the book of Mark together, his whispers will get louder and louder, until they culminate with a shout on the cross. From the cross, Jesus shouts to us the love of God.
“If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”
- What is the mystery of the hidden God?
- Be honest, what “system” do you normally use to measure life? How do you measure happiness? Sadness?
- What would it look like to measure your life with the “Gospel” system?