Last time we finished up our study of the magnificent Parable of the Sower and the associated explanation of the parable that Jesus gave to His inner circle. We also looked at Jesus’ somewhat disturbing statement that understanding had been given to the disciples, but that everyone else received His teaching by parables so that.
‘Seeing they may not see,
And hearing they may not understand.’ [Isaiah 6:9]
…and the implications of that statement for the ongoing debate over pre-determination versus free will.
Continuing now in our study of Luke 8…
Luke 8:16-18 (Mark 4:21-25)
16“No one, when he has lit a lamp, covers it with a vessel or puts it under a bed, but sets it on a lampstand, that those who enter may see the light. 17For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light. 18Therefore take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him.”
It is difficult to discern from Luke’s account (or the parallel account in Mark 4:21-25) the context of this teaching. They both place it immediately after the Parable of the Sower – more specifically after Jesus’ explanation of that parable to His inner circle of disciples. But is not altogether clear from Luke or Mark whether this teaching about the lamp was given at the same time as the Parable of the Sower or not.
In Matthew, Jesus gives a similar teaching in the context of the Sermon on the Mount.
14“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Matthew’s account also drives home Jesus’ intended application a little more clearly, I think – that having heard the Gospel, we are not to keep it to ourselves, but we are to spread the Word at every opportunity we are given. Only in that way can the lamp give “light to all who are in the house.” Furthermore, notice that Jesus ties our testimony of the Light, not just to our words, but also to the good works that we do in His holy Name.
Of course, it is also possible that Jesus used the illustration of a lamp which, having been lit, is not to be hidden, on more than one occasion, and with more than one application. Here in Luke, Jesus is proclaiming that the works of all mankind are visible to our omniscient God, and that those works will also be revealed for all to see in the coming Day of the Lord.
For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light.
The Word of God is clear – the works of all mankind will be judged. The works of those who have called on the Name of Jesus for salvation will be judged by Jesus at the so-called βῆμα bēma judgment, for the allocation of heavenly rewards…
2 Corinthians 5:10
For we must all appear before the judgment seat [βῆμα bēma] of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
Note that this judgment is not a matter of salvation based on works. The work of salvation is finished and complete in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
1 Corinthians 3:11-15
11For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
The works of all people will also be judged at the Great White throne of God, and regardless of their works, those whose names are not written in the Lamb’s book of Life, will be condemned to eternity in torment in a lake of fire.
11Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
Furthermore, although the “good” works of both believers and the lost will indeed be judged, they will have no bearing whatsoever on an individual’s salvation. Recall Jesus’ admonition to the disciples whom He had sent out, and who were rejoicing, upon their return, at the mighty works they had performed in His Name. Jesus reminded them (and us) that any ability to perform good works is a gift from God.
19Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. 20Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
In emphasizing this point I don’t intend by any means to belittle the value of good works, just to give a reminder that good works are the result, not the cause, of our salvation.
But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
Therefore take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him.”
Mark’s account clarifies this somewhat incongruous saying.
24Then He said to them, “Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. 25For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”
The point that Jesus is making here pertains once again to judgment. Having just proclaimed that all works – good and bad – of all people – believers and non-believers – will be revealed and judged by God Almighty, Jesus now gives insight into the foundation of His righteous justice. Recall what He said about judging others in the Sermon on the Mount.
1“Judge not, that you be not judged. 2For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.
As believers, Jesus will base His judgment of us, not so much on our actions themselves, as upon our attitude and our heart toward others – that is, upon how well we carried out His commandment in the so-called Golden Rule.
And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.
31“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
37“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
41“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’
44“Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Before we move on, at the risk of straying too far down a rabbit trail, take note of a tiny difference between the accounts of Luke and Mark.
…take heed how [πῶς pōs] you hear…
…”Take heed what[τίς tis] you hear…
In Luke 8:18, the Greek wordπῶς pōs is translated “how” as it is 98 other times in the KJV. But it is also translated as “by what means,” “after what manner,” and “that.”
The Greek word τίς tis we find in Mark 4:24 is translated variously in the KJV as “what,” “who,” “why,” “whom,” “which,” and 67 other various ways!
Is there anything of importance to be gleaned from this miniscule dissimilarity in the two texts? Probably not. But it does very subtly emphasize an aspect of the point that Jesus is making. Recall that the context is clearly the subject of judgment. The emphasis in our study of the passage has been upon God’s judgment of us. But Jesus is also calling us to judge the things we hear righteously. We must be active and astute listeners, not mere hearers.
We must certainly exercise Biblical discernment in the things we are taught, just as the Bereans did (Acts 17:10-12). But we must also exercise wise judgment of the things we hear in day-to-day life. Frequently in our conversation, the words being said do not accurately reflect the thoughts in the heart of the speaker. We must make a commitment to actively listen to our Bible teachers, and to those with whom we converse throughout the day, to make a concerted effort to get to the heart of what’s being said.
Furthermore, we must take care in deciding what we allow ourselves to hear in the first place. The Bible clearly condemns the spreading of gossip. We must be vigilant in not paying any attention to “talebearers” as the Word refers to them. Of course it goes without saying that we must not be talebearers ourselves!
Finally, we must be diligent against purposeless chatter.
2 Timothy 2:15-17
15Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. 17And their message will spread like cancer.
1Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
3But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7Therefore do not be partakers with them.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
Now we come to a teaching in which Jesus seems at first to act unlovingly and callously toward His earthly family.
Luke 8:19-21 (Matt. 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35)
19Then His mother and brothers came to Him, and could not approach Him because of the crowd. 20And it was told Him by some, who said, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see You.”
21But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.”
The Word of God includes little information about Jesus’ family life. Everything we know about Jesus’ childhood is found in Luke 2 as we have already studied. There is no mention of Mary’s husband, Joseph, after the incident when the family mistakenly left Jesus behind in Jerusalem following the Passover when Jesus was 12 years old (Luke 2:41-52), except that Jesus is called “the carpenter’s son” by the townsfolk of Nazareth in Matthew 13:55. Therefore it is assumed that Joseph had died by the time Jesus began His ministry. We know from Mark 6:3 that Jesus had at least four half-brothers, and two half-sisters – the children of Mary and Joseph.
In Luke 1, we learned that Mary had heard the Gospel proclaimed to her by the angel, Gabriel, even before Jesus was conceived in her womb.
30Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
Furthermore, Mary and possibly some of Jesus’ half-brothers had observed Jesus’ power to perform miracles. We know this from the story of the wedding at Cana.
1On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 3And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”
4Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”
5His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”
6Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. 7Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it. 9When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. 10And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!”
11This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.
12After this He went down to Capernaum, He, His mother, His brothers, and His disciples; and they did not stay there many days.
Nevertheless, although Mary clearly believed the words of the angel, had heard the testimony of Simeon and the prophecy of Anna in the temple on the occasion of Jesus’ circumcision (Luke 2:25-38), and had seen Jesus miraculous power, it is unlikely that she fully understood the true nature of her Son’s deity until after His resurrection. In much the same way, some of His inner circle of 12 apostles, clearly believed His Word has the power to grant eternal life.
67Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”
68But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Yet it wasn’t until after Jesus’ resurrection that any of them truly understood the Gospel He proclaimed to them while He walked on Earth as the Son of Man.
We don’t know whether any of Jesus’ half-sisters were believers, but John makes it clear that His half-brothers did not believe in Him until after His resurrection.
2Now the Jews’ Feast of Tabernacles was at hand. 3His brothers therefore said to Him, “Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing. 4For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” 5For even His brothers did not believe in Him.
We have no way to know whether Jesus invited His visiting family to join Him after making this rather harsh-sounding declaration about them that we find here in Luke 8:19-21, but it is clear from all three accounts that Jesus considered the point He was making about the nature of our spiritual family important enough to continue His teaching rather than going immediately to join Mary and His fleshly siblings when they came to visit. Nor do we know what the motivation for the family’s visit was. Some have suggested that they had come to carry out some sort of intervention, believing along with some of the Jewish leaders that Jesus was possessed by a demon. That idea, though, is purely speculation with no real foundation in the Biblical text.
In their accounts, both Matthew and Mark report an aspect of this teaching that is important for us to note.
46While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. 47Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.”
48But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 50For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”
Jesus clearly declares that His followers are His true family, just as our own brothers and sisters in Christ are our true family. Those who have been born again in the Spirit of God share a bond of fellowship through adoption into the family of God by the blood of Christ that is deeper and stronger than the blood tie which joins us to our earthly family through our original birth in the flesh. If events ever require us to choose between these two families, we must certainly favor our brothers and sisters in our spiritual family over those in our fleshly families. This is the hard truth which Jesus declares here in Luke 8:21 and even more adamantly in…
34“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ 37He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.
Almost all Christians have witnessed the truth of this harsh teaching in our own families, particularly those who have come to salvation in Christ out of Islam. Many of these have been murdered by their own earthly family members for professing Christ as Lord.
This harsh reality shouldn’t surprise us. Jesus declares it plainly, as did the prophets and apostles.
13The LORD of hosts, Him you shall hallow;
Let Him be your fear,
And let Him be your dread.
14He will be as a sanctuary,
But a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense
To both the houses of Israel,
As a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
15And many among them shall stumble;
They shall fall and be broken,
Be snared and taken.”
9“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. 10And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.
1 Corinthians 1:18
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
16You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake.
“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.