Study Guide

Gospel of Mark Light

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This Little Light of Mine

You heard it in kindergarten. You sang it with your mom. You can even perform all of the motions. If you don't know the song—"This Little Light of Mine"—don't deprive yourself any longer.

Well, guess what? This popular children's song is based on one of Jesus's sayings, which first appears in none other than Mark's gospel:

He said to them, "Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lamp stand?" (4:21)

Sound familiar? "Hide it under a bushel? No! I'm going to let it shine!" La la la. The idea of "letting your light shine" will have to wait for further development by Matthew, who wrote a few decades later than Mark (see Matthew 5:14-16).

In the context of Mark's gospel, the verse is pretty difficult to interpret. It definitely underlines the importance of being a transparent—i.e., for everyone to see—follower of Jesus. But the continuation in 4:22 puts it all in a startling context:

For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. (4:22)

When will this full public viewing of all secret things occur? Is this referring to the moment when Jesus returns, which for Mark may be soon (flip quickly to 8:38; 9:1; 13:24-27)?

Bottom line: our cute, little G-rated children's song is in part inspired by Mark's not-so-cute or little vision of the apocalypse. Yikes!

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