Luke 8:16-25           “Lamp Undercover”


            The start of our scripture today seems like a bit of a “no-brainer.” Why would anybody light an oil lamp and then put it under a heavy ceramic jar? If you do that, then of course the flame will be smothered and the light will go out.

            Then, I started wondering if I was taking something allegorically that might actually be literal. In the time when Luke is writing this, the persecutions against the Christians have already started. Some Christians are literally worshipping underground. They are in the catacombs. They are in hiding. The catacombs of ancient Rome are lined with brick—that is with ceramic. I cannot help but wonder if this reference is in fact to the early Christians worshipping in hiding so as not to be discovered by the Roman authorities.

            I have been into the ancient catacombs of Rome. It is really spooky down there. You are surrounded be crypts. You are worshipping with dead all around you. One end there would be a little alter, again just a protrusion of brick coming up from the ground. Lamp stands would be on either side. If you could imagine that the Roman guard had followed you down into the catacombs in order to capture you, and you know the catacombs, but they do not. Would you not put the lamps out quickly? Try to make an escape in the dark? Put the lamp under a ceramic jar!

            And, about the lamp under a bed? Yes, Christians were being burned alive in Luke’s time. I think the original audience of Luke’s writing might have heard these admonitions differently than we are hearing them today. These things are so horrific to even contemplate today, but they were the reality of the early Christian community.  


            Today we are so blessed to be able to worship publicly in a beautiful bright church; when Luke was writing his gospel, already many Christians were worshiping in the dark by lamp light. 

            Excuse me while I throw some Greek from the original text at you. I have to do this because Luke himself chooses words that can be read one way or another. They are very revealing and enlightening words. The first of these is the word “cover” as in “No one covers a light inside a vessel once it is lit.”  The word to cover is καλυπτει which I am sure has no meaning to you all except if I use it in the reverse meaning and say that to uncover in Greek is “apocalypse.” Yes, Luke is talking about that time when not only will the Christians who are worshipping underground be discovered, they will be dis-covered, meaning everyone will hit the light of Christ coming again in the time of the Revelation. Super, no?! We will not be discovered by the Roman guards that would destroy us, but we will be dis-covered by Jesus who has come to save us!

            The other bit of Greek that needs to be looked at is in verse 17. The word in the Greek for “secret,” as in “nothing shall be made secret that will not be made manifest,” is κρυπτον or “crypt.” Everything that is in the crypt, will come out. We will not have to worship God in secret anymore! In that time!

            The translation again is a little shaky when translated as “made manifest” as the Greek here literally can be translated as “born again of light.” Imagine again that you are literally worshiping Jesus underground in the catacombs surrounded by crypts with the Christians that have gone before you when you read this scroll from Luke telling you that all these bodies around you will be born again to the light.

            The only way we can interpret this is to say that the world outside of the worship of Jesus lies in darkness. But, the Truth will out. The light of Christ has come. The deception of this world will be awash in the light of the glory of the Revelation of Christ which is to come. There will be “Sunshine in My Soul.”


            In verse 18 we have this admonition: “Pay attention to how you listen. . . .” Luke himself seems to be telling us that there is more to his writing than what he seems to be writing! One last bit of Greek: “Pay attention” is the word in Greek βλεπετε. This word is the verb “to see” in a command plural form. Therefore, we should read this as “See how you listen.”

            Wait a minute, we hear with our ears and see with our eyes. How do we then “see” what we are supposed to be listening to if not simply by seeing Christ already as the light of our lives!

            All of our lives we have been worshipping here in the church and hearing about the wonders and glory of Christ. But, we are being told by Luke to “SEE” what it is that we are hearing. Have you heard about miracles from Jesus happening? Great! Now see those miracles happening, too.

            Too often I see folks walking around or even driving with ear buds and a computer device screen in their face. I have seen people not even react when police with their sirens are driving by. I have been run off the road already once by a driver who was looking at his screen rather than the road—that is until I leaned on the horn and he finally looked up to see he had crossed into oncoming traffic. He finally saw because he heard! That saved both our lives!


            After Jesus is done talking that day, he gets into a ship with his disciples. Obviously he is tired. He takes a nap as the fisherman disciples bring the boat across the lake. Just then the sea becomes violent. The disciples fear that they will perish in the storm. Somehow Jesus is just sleeping undisturbed in the ship. He must have been exhausted from all of the talking he has done already.

            I have said this before, and others who have preached here in the church can attest to this, preaching the Word of God can really tire you out. I am more exhausted after preaching twenty minutes than swimming for forty minutes. They say that swimming burns the most calories, but actually preaching does! I am sure of it. So, Jesus is exhausted from all of his preaching. He is resting in the boat.  A storm comes up, and the disciples think they are going to die. Time to awaken Jesus.

            The disciples finally see what they have only heard before. Jesus is able to make even the storms and sea obey his word. I do not think that the disciples really fully understood what Jesus was to their lives until that very moment. They all feel as if they are about to die. The bible says that they awaken Jesus because they are afraid that they will perish.

            Yes, it was not too long ago that the disciples saw Jesus raise a man from the dead in the town of Nain. It is different this time. Now death is hunting them down, and they have the sense to turn to Jesus. The experience is different when it is YOU that is facing the tragedy! It is different because we realize how quickly our little world, our lives, can be taken from us.


            However, there is something else going on here that I need to lift out that goes back to the original audience that was hearing this. Luke is writing to gentiles, to Romans. These Romans have an interesting worldview that is informed by the Greco-Roman mythologies. You see, the first god of creation in their understanding was “Chaos.” That was her name. And, as the name implies, it was not a good understanding of how things came to be. Out of Chaos came all the other lesser gods right on down to Jupiter.

            So, the ancient Romans had a real hard time with the basic concept that there was one God, the God of heaven and earth, who created the world, looked down upon it, and said that it was good. Even a harder thing to grasp is the idea that that same God is still active today and that one can have a personal relationship with that God. In the Roman mythologies, all the old gods like Chaos and the Titans that came thereafter were deposed by the gods of Olympus.

            So, when Jesus calms the wind and the waves, now see the true God of creation in human form and with whom we can have a personal relationship. Jesus was not an incarnation of Neptune or Poseidon. Here was the very God of Creation itself. And, here he is just sleeping in the boat! The God of all eternity, the God of our salvation, the God that will not let us perish—asleep in the boat.

            One day the world will wake up to Jesus and be saved. For the God of Creation is about to Create again. Jesus will calm the winds of this world.


            Like the early Christians huddled in darkness underground, never knowing if the Roman guards would be coming to take them to martyrdom in the next moments, we rely on that Truth of Jesus Christ that he has all power to save! We have the faith that informs us that all we have heard about hear, we will see for ourselves in that day and time. We will see what we have heard.

            The Truth of the Kingdom of God will out! It is the light that has been covered by this world that cannot be contained. It will out! I just want to close today with familiar words that we usually only hear around Christmas time. Listen to John 1:1-6, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being through him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

            This is the Truth that will come to the light! The Kingdom of God is at hand for those who accept it. Jesus will calm our storms. He will bring us to safety. The light of the world will be uncovered and revealed to all.