A Lamp Under a Jar
16 “No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 17 For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. 18 Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”
Observations and Reflections
When considering parables it is important that the objects or the people in the parables make sense. In Jesus’ parable it might be hard to picture what first century homes might have looked like. Beds and other furniture in the Roman culture would be quite elaborate depending on one’s financial situation. The beds, like the one below could be very robust which is much different than one might have thought for a 1st century setting.
The modern bed was not all that different than an ancient one. In both scenarios, putting an oil lamp under the bed could result in two different things: 1-a warmer bed and 1-a potential fire hazard. However, placing a light under a jar was just as absurd as it would snuff the light and flame out.
Jesus’ analogy is not meant to be taken seriously, as someone would normally place a lamp under a bed or jar, but to be understood that such a thing would be silly and a waste. This then is how we should understand Jesus’ comparison between the light of a lamp and the light of the gospel. What silly and wasteful thing to snuff it out by misuse.
[Featured image of a 1st century terracotta Roman “jar”, very similar to the type in Jesus’ parable. Currently housed at the Walters Art Museum, in Baltimore, Maryland.]