Over the past thirty or so years, as our deep sea technology has advanced, we’ve discovered at the extreme depths of the oceans an amazing array of life never before known to exist. These fish are fascinating to behold; some of them are highly illuminated and colorful; others are somewhat monstrous looking. What is additionally fascinating is that almost all of them appear to have non-functioning eyes. The theory is that since light is all but non-existent at depths of several miles undersea, eyes would serve no purpose. Thus in some cases what were once eyes on these fish are now merely glowing circular vestiges of visual organs.
Eyes are for seeing, and ears for hearing. Messiah Yeshua warned us again and again, “Let him who has ears hear…” the implication being that some people are receptive to the truth, while other people are in danger of so hardening their hearts as to be incapable any longer of receiving the truth. They will not allow God’s light in, or give the Gospel a fair hearing. Spiritually speaking, their ears and eyes have become like useless organs.
This morning let’s have a look at the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 8, beginning at verse 16. In the six verse we will read this morning are a series of serious warnings. “Now no one after lighting a lamp covers it over with a container, or puts it under a bed; but he puts it on a lampstand, so that those who come in may see the light.
Why did Yeshua feel it was necessary to state the obvious? Of course no one lights a lamp and then hides it. To do so would be purposeless; more than that, it would be inane. The whole point of lighting a lamp is because there is a lack of available natural light. Maybe you’re in a dark place, such as a cave or a very long tunnel, or perhaps it’s night time; either way, you’ve got to have light if you want to avoid tripping over things or banging into things. Eventually your eyes will adjust in darkness, and you can see where you’re going. But you light a lamp because you need light right now. Imagine then how foolish it would be to light a lamp and then put it under a table or hide it in a pot! If that’s the case, why bother? It’s useless there. Light is for people to see. Light hidden is the equivalent of no light at all.
I believe we are to understand the light emanating from the lamp in this proverbial statement as being Yeshua’s teaching – the Gospel – in the same way that in the preceding parable the seed being sown is the Gospel. The light is good just as the seed is good; that is indisputable. The question arising from the parable of the seed and the soils is which of the four types of people are you when it comes to hearing and receiving and acting on the Gospel?
- Are you the hard-hearted person who refuses to acknowledge Yeshua at all?
- Or are you the shallow person who hears and believes but whose faith never goes deeper and as soon as trouble comes jettisons any allegiance to Yeshua in order to “get along”?
- Or perhaps you are the conflicted person, having heard and believed the Gospel, but having since become so distracted with mundane, worldly concerns as to be utterly ineffective in reaching others for Yeshua.
- Or are you one of those (sadly the few) who hear and believe and sink those roots down deep so that you are not shaken from your faith, and refuse to get bogged down in the comparatively trite concerns of the world, but stay focused on His Kingdom, so that others see and hear through your life and testimony and also come to believe in Yeshua?
The issue with the light is the same as that of the seed. There is no question as to the purity of the seed or the clarity of the light. It is about you and me, and our willingness or unwillingness to believe and act on Yeshua’s teaching. Unlike some of the more esoteric religions, fraternal orders and secret societies who withhold their teaching from all but the initiated, I believe Yeshua would have us understand that His teaching was out in the open. Perhaps we can understand these words in light of His statement to the High Priest at His “trial”, Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world; I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together; and I spoke nothing in secret” (John 18:20). Yeshua proclaimed the Good News openly and zealously.
In light of that, I believe we would do well to see Yeshua’s use of a similar analogy in Matthew 5. Let’s look together at Matthew 5:14-16 for a moment: You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.
When we boldly proclaim the Good News, we are acting in obedience to Yeshua’s directive, and we are following the pattern He Himself set. Rabbi Paul declared, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). He would later admonish his protégé, Timothy, saying, “Do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me, His prisoner” (2 Tim. 1:8).
Light is a very common symbol in Jewish teaching. Light reveals how things really are, and so it is a symbol of truth, and of God and His instruction. Yeshua frequently employed light as a symbol and several times used the analogy of lighting a lamp with reference to Himself, His mission and His message. He did not teach secretly, but openly. Yeshua has opened the way of salvation for mankind, but each human being must make a decision individually as to what they will do with that light. Will you ignore it, ridicule it, or receive it? One outstanding biblical commentator wrote, “Seeing the light means being open and responsive to God’s Word. If the light is hidden, it is because of the soil on which it falls, not because revelation is unavailable.”1
Let’s continue at verse 17. For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light. Light is beneficial. Without it there would be no photosynthesis and the world would be a very bland, colorless place, devoid of plant life and the lovely array of flora we take for granted. Without light we could not live. From the light of the sun we derive vitamin D, which is essential to good health. Light is usually appreciated. It has become so evident that people are generally more upbeat in the Spring and Summer that we have a name for the depression that sets in when the days become shorter and it gets dark earlier: Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.). I delight in the long summer days here in Michigan, at the westernmost edge of the Eastern Standard Time Zone. There’s just something magical about June, when at 9 o’clock in the evening it’s still light out.
But there is a sense in which light causes us great discomfort. You see, light not only illumines the world, but exposes our hearts. There is a quality about Messiah Yeshua’s teaching that goes right to the deepest part of us, revealing things we would much rather have kept hidden. Some of that brilliant light of Messiah makes us uncomfortable; teachings such as, “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). I don’t know about you, but I laugh when I hear certain people say they think the Sermon on the Mount is beautiful. You know who says things like that – politicians and phonies who are put on the spot to name a Bible passage they like after claiming to be “deeply religious”. The Sermon on the Mount, rightly understood, has to be one of the most difficult, challenging, unsettling messages ever spoken!
Messiah’s teaching is light, and that light not only shows us the way to the Father, but it shows us things about ourselves that are not pleasant to behold. More than that, He will eventually bring every thought, every careless word and every hidden action into blinding, clarifying light for everyone to see. How quickly and how frequently we forget that nothing we do, nothing we say or even anything we think is hidden from the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. We need to consider carefully and soberly how we will respond to the light of Messiah’s teaching. It explains the warning of verse 18: So take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him.”
God’s truth is proclaimed publicly, but it is in the hidden arena of the human heart that the light of judgment will have its most direct application. What is the condition of your heart? That was the question of the parable of the soils, and it is the question here. “Take care how you listen” What did Yeshua mean by that? The grammar here is interesting. The word that is translated “take care” has reference to seeing, whereas the word “listen” from which we get acoustic) refers to hearing. It’s like saying, “You’d better watch how you hear”. But often the meaning conveys the idea of paying close attention, obeying, heeding.
What this means is that we are warned not to treat the Son of God’s teaching lightly. You can disregard Rabbi Glenn, and it isn’t a big deal. I’m small potatoes. But what will be the outcome of the person who so cavalierly dismisses Yeshua’s words? It is scary even to think of the judgment they will face. I believe Rabbi Loren is absolutely right in the idea that Yeshua spoke in parables, in part, because we will be accountable before God for acting on what we know, and those who were not prepared to obey Him were being given His teaching in a veiled way.
We shouldn’t kid ourselves, or those to whom we preach, that there will be consequences good or bad based on how we listen. “…for whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him.”
Those who hear and obey the light they are given will be given yet more light by God. They are entrusted with more because they proved themselves faithful with what they already had. But the one who ignores or refuses God’s teaching will lose whatever little insight he had; or as Yeshua put it, thinks he has – having apparently deceived himself.
You know, that same divine light that reveals will have the effect of vindicating God’s children. The world may hate us for following Yeshua, and all the more for preaching Yeshua, but on that Day we will be seen as those who were faithful. Don’t you want to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant”? Besides, sooner or later what you believe will become public knowledge. It is inevitable that our true beliefs will come to light; so it is pointless to be incognito about your allegiance to Yeshua. In fact, keeping it secret is sin, precisely because Messiah instructed us to preach the Good News.
And now let’s look at verses 19-21. And His mother and brothers came to Him, and they were unable to get to Him because of the crowd. And it was reported to Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wishing to see You.” But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” We’re not told why Miriam and Yeshua’s brothers wanted to see Him; only that because of the huge crowd they couldn’t get anywhere near Him. Were they there to ask Him what He was doing? Were they looking for some kind of clarity on who He was and how He was presenting Himself? Were they perhaps concerned for His safety? After all, anyone gathering a following that large would not fly under Caesar’s radar for very long; and even the appearance of starting a rebellion might prove fatal. Were the brothers annoyed at His absence at home, or resentful of His growing popularity? Perhaps, but this is speculative – we are simply not given the reason.
What is noticeable is the absence of the mention of Joseph. Yeshua’s mother and brothers had followed Him for a short time, and apparently were at this point not following Him. But there is no mention of Joseph, either early on in His ministry or here. Most scholars believe that Joseph had died many years earlier – perhaps during Yeshua’s teen years. But when it was reported to Yeshua that his mother and brothers were outside the house waiting to speak with Him, He didn’t drop everything He was doing and go out to them. He said to those gathered, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it”.
I recall many years ago reading the book entitled, “You Take Jesus, I’ll Take God”. It was a book written (I believe, hastily and foolishly) by a Jewish man named Samuel Levine, seeking to dissuade Jews from following Yeshua. And he cites this passage, claiming that Yeshua could not be the Messiah because He did not even obey the Ten Commandments. Levine suggested that Yeshua dishonored His mother by not going to her, and by suggesting a redefinition of what constitutes family. You almost get the sense that Levine was grasping at straws to find anything he could to discredit Yeshua.
In context it is clear that Yeshua was not dishonoring His mother. Yeshua loved His family very much, but nothing could be allowed to deter Him from His purposes. He had a crucial message to impart to mankind, a group of unlikely men to mold into disciples, and an appointment not very much later with a Roman cross. Time and again we find in the Gospels that various individuals and groups of people tried to either slow Him down (as I believe may be the case here), or to hurry Him up to announce His kingship (as his brothers would later challenge Him to do). But Yeshua was steadfast in His determination to accomplish the Father’s will, and in the Father’s time.
But we can also see a truth emerging here. When we follow Yeshua, of necessity there will be changes in our earthly relationships. When I came to faith in Yeshua and announced it, first to my parents and soon after to my siblings, it caused tension in our family – a lot of tension. It was certainly not my aim to trouble the family, but the fact is that following Yeshua as a Jew means breaking with 2,000 years of a negative tradition. It suggests that our rabbis have been wrong – dreadfully wrong, about the Messiah. To follow Yeshua of Nazareth as a Jew is to be misunderstood by many and even to be hated by some. By definition, relationships change. It is never our intent to break friendships or family relationships, but to the extent that we are determined to follow Yeshua, and to the extent that others have resolutely set themselves against Him, changes in relationships are inevitable. Our spiritual family becomes closer to us often than our earthly family. It is sad when we begin to observe that we have less and less in common with our family members, who are still very much part of this world. It is part of the cost of following Messiah. That is why we are to count the cost of following Him. The Kingdom of God: the half-hearted need not apply. If you are still wrestling with whether or not to follow Jesus, I tell you now that it will not be easy. Some of those closest to you will not understand. Some will give you an ultimatum. You’d better decide now that you’re ready to be misunderstood and forsaken by other people.
The good news is that if you determine to follow the Messiah, you are in good company. You will have 100 times more family; brothers and sisters who love and appreciate you, and who will stand with you and support you, even when no one else does. And you know what? You’ll need your spiritual family, because the calling is a difficult calling, and time is winding down; things are going to get harder, not easier.
Yeshua said, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.”. That means more than passive hearing. It means active obedience. I want to be His disciple. I want to be His brother and friend. It means I need to do what He says. Do you want that relationship with Messiah? Are you prepared to do what He says? If not, honestly, you’d have been better off not hearing this sermon. Remember Yeshua’s warning: “Take care how you listen”.
1 Darrell Bock, The Gospel According to Luke, pg. 745