"Upon the housetops"

The type of house commonly in use in Palestine in the time of Jesus was a one-story structure, with a flat roof which was often reached by stairs or steps on the outside of the house. It was the custom of the people in those days, as it is today in Palestine and in some other countries having a similar climate, to gather upon the housetops at night or in the cool of the evening to converse. Doubtless the healing works of Jesus were frequently discussed upon the housetops, and in comparatively small groups. It is possible, therefore, that it was these limited gatherings that Jesus had in thought when he said to his disciples, "What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops."

The word "preach" is from the Latin, prae, meaning "before," and dicare, "to make known"; so that, as used in the foregoing passage, it might well have meant, simply, "to make known before." In giving these instructions to his disciples, therefore, Jesus might have meant, When you are talking upon the housetops with your friends, proclaim, declare—make known—to them what I have told you in secret. This seems more likely than that Jesus was urging the disciples to proclaim loudly or indiscriminately in public what they had been taught by him. Isaiah prophesied of the Messiah, "He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street;" and so far as the Gospel record of Christ Jesus indicates, his methods of preaching and teaching conformed to the prophet's prediction. The methods of Jesus were not sensational, nor were they comparable to modern evangelistic customs. His teaching was not usually vociferous, nor did his preaching savor, at any time, of blatancy. And it is not likely that he would have urged upon his disciples methods which he himself did not use.

The Light of Revelation
January 11, 1936

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