Subscribe in a reader or enter your address to get posts via email: 
Like this blog on Facebook!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Light of the Lamp

'Oil lamp' photo (c) 2009, Ralph Unden - license:
This little light of mine,
I'm gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine,
I'm gonna let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!
A few nights ago I was intrigued when I read this passage to my son at bedtime:
When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

“No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.”
Luke 11:29-36 (ESV)
What intrigued me was that I suddenly realized that I had no idea what verse 33 ("No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket...") had to do with verses 34-36 ("Your eye is the lamp of your body..."). I always thought that the "light" on the "lamp" was my testimony or my witness or something, and I was to "put it on a lampstand" by sharing the Gospel with others... but I certainly haven't put my eye into my body! So I started to think about it...
  1. The lamp is my eye
  2. The lampstand is my body
  3. God put my eye in my body
  4. Therefore, God lights the lamp
  5. ...And I do not
But how can my "eye" be "healthy" (or "good" or "single", as other translations express it), or in contrast how can my eye be "bad" (or "evil", as expressed in other translations)? One clue came to me in reference to the "red letters." I noticed that the red letters actually start in verse 29, and when I looked up "evil" in that verse I noticed that it was the same Greek word as "bad" in verse 34. So I expanded the scope of my verses, which started out as verses 33-36, to include the entire text quoted above. So this explains one way your "eye" can be "evil": you spend your time running around looking for miraculous manifestations instead of... what? And what exactly is the "sign of Jonah"? I found out from a parallel passage in Matthew:
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.
The "sign of Jonah" was when Jesus died, was buried for three days, and rose again. So that must mean that for our "eye" to be "good" we have to keep our eyes on the death and resurrection of Jesus (the Gospel). (By the way... other passages parallel to parts of Luke 11:29-36 are Luke 8:16-18 and Matthew 6:19-24.)

Apparently this light is meant to shine out through our eyes, but how does it get into our eyes? We can't very well go back in time and look at Jesus on the Cross. How can we "look" with our eyes and see the Gospel?
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
We can actually "look" at things that we cannot see! And the thing we are to "look at" is the Gospel of God's Glory:
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
...and that Glory shines first into our hearts, and then out of our hearts, just like in  Exodus 34:29-35  when Moses saw God's glory and his face shone with it afterward:
Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
Jesus is actually the embodiment of "light":
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.

And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”
(note: the word "enlightens" everyone in that passage is the same as the phrase "gives you light" in Luke 11:36) ...and we can actually become that light also:
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,
       and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
So we can choose to "take part in the unfruitful works of darkness" (this passage is talking specifically about sexual immorality), but we are exhorted not to do that. In the original passage, I looked up the Greek words for "healthy" and "bad" in verse 34. The word translated "healthy" can mean things like simple, single, whole, or sound. The root words apparently mean something like tightly woven together... everything fits just right. The word translated "bad" means things like in bad condition, full of hardships and hard labor, diseased, wicked, or blind. The "god of this world" has "blinded" unbelievers, but if we as believers are blinded, Satan didn't do it... we have let our own eyes go bad by sinful actions.

It is interesting to know that it's not an on or off thing; verse 36 in the original passage implies that you can be partially bright and partially dark. That encourages me to keep working at the corners of my life that are still in shadow, so that I can "be wholly bright", lit up with rays of God's light!

So, to sum things up: the light on the lamp is not specifically your spoken witness, although that is part of it, and you cannot light the lamp yourself. God lights the lamp, and you keep it lit by keeping your eyes focused on the Gospel of Christ. Others can see God's Glory shining out when they look into your eyes, unless you blind yourself and block them from seeing it by sin; when sin is present, no light goes out and none comes in. The light also "lights" your whole body; although others may not see the Glory of God shining out through your fingers or your torso (your eye is the lamp, after all), what your body does is illuminated by the Gospel as well if you keep your eyes "healthy". As we continue to eliminate sin from our lives, our eyes can become brighter and our bodies can become more "illuminated" with God's Glory all the time!

This is an old post that's been up at for some time... a discussion about this passage last night at church led me to post it here!

1 comment:

Shannon said...

Very good. Along the same lines with a book I'm reading right now--Be Ye Transformed by Nancy Missler. Here is an excerpt that mentions the lamp/eye verses from Luke -