16 No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light.
17 For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad.
18 Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.
1901 ASV Translation:
16 And no man, when he hath lighted a lamp, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but putteth it on a stand, that they that enter in may see the light.
17 For nothing is hid, that shall not be made manifest; nor anything secret, that shall not be known and come to light.
18 Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he thinketh he hath.
I. The Details of the Parable.
A. In the first place, there is no "man" in the text beneath the translation. This is only significant because the principle is larger than mere humanity: even God does not "light a candle" and then cover it so that the light cannot be seen. This needs to be understood in the light of what Jesus is doing with the parables. He claimed that He was revealing the "mysteries" of the Kingdom of God (8:10). Included in that claim are enlightening indicators of how God works. This means that the "kingdom" participants actually get their own direction for action from the Ultimate Actor Himself. So, He does not put a light within His people and then cover it so that it cannot be seen, nor does He allow them to smother it with excuses for not letting it shine.
B. The "when he hath lighted a candle/lamp" is an attendant precursor to the actual action of covering it with something. No one, Jesus says, covers a light. The "point" of light is to enable sight and there is no "point" in going to the trouble of producing light if it is going to be kept from its "point".
II. The Major Questions of the Relationship of This "No One Does This" Thing to the Flow of Thought Within the Parables.
A. What is the relationship of this "no one does this" to the preceding issue of sowing the seed?
1. The relationship may be more connected to the fruitfulness of the good soil than to the sowing of the seed. The large point of the parable of the sower is that those who sow should understand what will happen when they sow. Under that larger point, however, is the explanation of why "what happens", happens. And under that explanation is the implied insistence that the "disciples" avoid all of those "whys" that keep the seed from accomplishing its intent. Thus, the declaration by Jesus regarding why men light candles is addressing all of these levels of "points". He, apparently, saw a direct link between His preparation of those whom He had chosen to preach the Kingdom, and the kinds of things that might block the effectiveness of His preparatory labors. In order to head these obstacles off at the pass, He simply took another extremely common daily activity by men to use as an illustration of what He wanted the disciples to "buy into". And that is? This: neither man, nor God, deliberately seeks to make his/His labor vain.
a. The focus in this general principle (not deliberately undercutting one's own objectives) in this text is the specific effort of "enabling sight by lighting and exalting a 'light giver' (candle or lamp)". That Jesus was fixated upon the proclamation of the Kingdom by His personal commission (4:43) and by His personal preparation of others (9:2) is inescapable. Thus, He is a "light giver" Who has been ignited by the Father and set upon the lampstand of His activities of "might" ("there comes One after me Who is mightier than I") so that the actual "light" (the words of the truth of the Kingdom) is shed abroad by proclamation. That He was this "Light of the World" (John 8:12) is one thing. That His method of "giving light" was to include a replication of the Father's action is revealed by the parallelism between 8:1 and 9:1-2. This is reinforced by what is known as "The Great Commission" wherein He commanded the disciples to replicate His replication of the Father's activities ("make disciples" equals "ignite lights") and it is reinforced by Paul's insistence that Timothy replicate himself in others (2 Timothy 2:2). Now, in this particular context, His replication of Himself involves the preparation of others by means of "parables". This means that those parables will be focused upon His fixation. That the sower sows the word of God seals this contextual fact. Thus, "lighting a candle/lamp" involves the proclamation of the Kingdom.
b. In this context of "proclamation equals giving light", then, Jesus is telling His disciples that it would be a "no one does this" kind of thing for them to be His "candles" if He did not send them forth.
c. But this raises this question: to what purpose did Jesus declare this "no one does this" truth? Was it a warning in parable form to the disciples? Was it simply a declaration of "Kingdom mystery" in respect to the Kingdom's method of expansion? What?
1) That the statement is immediately followed by an "explanatory" statement (For nothing is hidden...) indicates that we may have our answer by looking at the explanatory declaration. And what is that? It is a declaration that no one will get away with attempting to hide anything. This strongly suggests that Jesus' is warning His disciples to not make the mistake of thinking that certain things can be hidden and that segues into the notion that Jesus is also warning His disciples not to attempt to do something that "no one does".
2) But this raises this question: in what sense were the disciples in danger of doing something no one does? There seems to be nothing else but this: they have accepted His summons to be His "apostles" (6:13) and everything they do after this fact must be done in view of His "igniting" of them. In other words, they must not refuse His light-giving purpose for them by refraining from being wholly committed to it. There are two elements to this: first, He "ignited" them to be His lamps; and, second, they "ignited" themselves by accepting His summons.
2. The most necessary "point", then, of the relationship between the "no one does this" thesis and the prior parable of the soils is this: do not engage in anything that will subvert your reason for being. Jesus, apparently, conceived of the disciples' acceptance of His summons as, effectively, "lighting a candle". To what purpose would it be, then, to not do what He sends them to do? That would be the same thing as lighting a candle and then hiding the light.
B. What is the relationship of this "no one does this" to the following comment about the fact that there are no ultimate secrets?
1. We have already seen one: it has its "explanation" in this following comment and enables us to see that Jesus is in "warning" mode.
2. There are, obviously, several reasons for "secrecy". Jesus, Himself, told the parables to keep certain things from being known (8:10) as a judgment upon those who refused Him. But, He turned right around and cautioned the disciples regarding "trying to keep secrets" because, ultimately, nothing is going to be kept secret. That Jesus actually did "hide" His truth in parables seems, on the face of it, to be exactly what He claims "no one does". But, taken in the larger context of the response of Israel to His presence, words, and actions, how does one "hide the light" from the blind?
3. Apparently Jesus, being aware that men often do try to hide things for less than good reasons, did not wish for His disciples to go there. The question, though, is this: to what might Jesus have been referring in respect to the possibility that the disciples would attempt to hide something? Could it not be that He was pushing them toward a transparency of motive? There are few things as crucial as the issue of motive. Even the most "helpful" things can be done for nefarious reasons and, when they are, their "helpfulness" contains a hidden stumbling block. The apostle Paul, in defending his own apostleship, clearly made use of the power of transparency in making sure that his readers remembered that he had not taken any advantage of them (Note 1 Corinthians 9, but especially verse 12).
C. What is the relationship of this "no one does this" to the final "parable": the warning about "how you hear" and its subsequent "to him shall be given/from him shall be taken"? It appears to be the "second shoe to drop"; i.e., Jesus has two "problems" with which to deal. The first is the motivation of His "candles" and the second is the content those candles will broadcast. The two are interrelated in that motives drive methods (secrets indicate motives), but methods are often defined by what is seen to be "truth" (the content of the preaching).