The Kingdom of God is a great and powerful entity with the ability to both give life and take it away, and it accomplishes this through a singular and in many ways paradoxical device, namely a beacon of light. In Mark 4:21–25, Jesus uses a metaphorical story about a lamp and a basket to illuminate this reality within His Kingdom.
The crux of this parable is found in the opening verse (verse 21), in which Jesus poses the following question, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand?” This rhetorical device serves to illuminate the purpose of a lamp, namely that you do not hide its light under coverings (like a basket or a bed), rather the purpose of a lamp’s light is to be propped up in a room (like on a stand) to illuminate its surroundings. This is a simple enough concept, but Jesus’ meaning is far from simplistic. In this parable, Jesus associates himself with such a lamp. In doing so, he not only embodies the Kingdom of God itself, but now also the kingdom’s light, its beacon, as it were, which spreads throughout the world and points back to the reality that Jesus is King!
This meaning is then further explained in the following verse (verse 22). Jesus continues, “For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light.” In the first part of this statement, Jesus makes clear that no one (i.e., no metaphorical basket or bed) – be it people who hate him or even the devil himself – will be able to limit the exposure of His light, ergo the kingdom’s light. Rather his light will shine everywhere because of his power and authority. He is indeed king, is he not? In other words, the light of the Kingdom of God, which is the truth about Jesus as King, cannot be stopped. It will pervade the world. This is good news!
In the second part of his statement, Jesus indicates that He knows the righteous from the unrighteous, He knows about the devastations of sin and the pervasiveness of injustices, and all of these “hidden” things and “secrets” will come to be revealed through Him. Here is the judgment aspect of Jesus as light. He has not just come to spread the good news of salvation that He as the true King brings, but He has also come to expose sin in order to punish and eradicate it.
This is why this parable actually ends with a warning in verses 24 and 25. For as Jesus has already mentioned before, His light will not be received by all people. In fact, some people will reject the light, but it is to their own peril. Because Jesus is still coming with His light and they will be exposed either way. But in rejecting Jesus as King, they miss out on entering into His Kingdom; and, as Jesus promises, “from the one who has not” (verse 25), namely the one who does not have Jesus as King or a place in His Kingdom, “even what he has will be taken away” (verse 25), namely his or her own life. While the one who does receive Jesus as King (“For to the one who has”; verse 25), he or she will receive more (“more will be given”; verse 25), namely the Kingdom itself and with it eternal life.
Do you know what your fate will be when Jesus’ light is shed on you?