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Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Markan Sandwich with a dash of Mustard

Mark Chapter 4 is filled with parables about scattering and sowing seeds.

Mark Chapter 4 has at least 5 parables in it all about, I believe, the spreading of the word of God.
Jesus opens the chapter with the parable of the sower who sows seed and it falls into 4 different types of ground. To begin, this is one of the great parables where we don’t have to guess what it means. Jesus himself tells us the meaning. He says that the seed that is being sown is the word of God. The differing places that the words of God falls are on different kinds of hearts.

The 4 different types of ground are as follows: the road, stony ground, thorny ground, and good soil. The seed that falls on the road that is picked up by birds is like where someone hears the word of God and immediately rejects what he hears. Jesus says that Satan comes and takes it away.

Two thoughts about this part of the parable: first the road. The road or the path is mentioned elsewhere:

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.

When he says – I am the “way”, he is using the same word. Jesus is the “road” to the Father. But Jesus does speak of another road.

Matthew 7:13-14 "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. "For the gate is small, and the road is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.

Jesus here speaks of a broad road that leads to destruction. I think this might be appropriate for what he is speaking of in the gospel of Mark. Some seed fell on the road, but Satan picked it up. To me this is comparable to the modernist scholarship that we see on certain cable stations that talk about history and discovery. When they examine the Bible, they begin with asking questions about the Bible and in the end leave you with more questions than when they began. So when you do hear the Good News of Jesus, you begin to count it all as myth and fluff.

There is an example of this in the Gospel of Mark itself:

Mark 8:31-33 And he began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter, and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men."

Next we see the word that falls on the rocky ground of little soil. This is the person who is excited about the faith, but when challenged, tucks tail and runs for cover. Jesus’ disciples again give an example of this in the garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus is arrested, his disciples run for their own lives.
Then we have the word of God that falls into the thorny ground of the - I believe – three lusts: The lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes and the pride of life. It is these worldly things that choke the word of God i.e. entertainment, possessions, pornography.

Finally, there is the word of God that leads us to eternal life and finds in our souls fertile ground. We heard God’s word and put it to work for the Kingdom of God.

But now Jesus’ words take a strange turn. He says this: Mark 4:21-22 "Is a lamp brought in to be put under a bushel, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For there is nothing hid, except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret, except to come to light.”

What is hid and secret? What is manifest and will come to light? It is the seed that was sown, the word of God that is spread in the world. We don’t usually see the effects of our words when we sow them in the souls of people, but in time they will be seen.

Again another seemingly unrelated parable:

Jesus then says this: Mark 4:24-25 "Take heed what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to him who has will more be given; and from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away."

I ask, the measure of what? What more will be given to me? It again is that seed, that word of God. This ultimately isn’t a message of philosophy or a way of life but a person and a relationship with HIM. The more we spread Christ, the more Christ will be given to us. Yes we will see more people reject the Gospel we present, but we will also see more fruit. The measure you give will be the measure you get.
Jesus then continues with the seed theme:

He says that the kingdom is like seed scattered but the sower doesn’t know how the seed grows. Meaning that the word of God goes out but who will accept and reject is a mystery to the preacher. St. Paul says as much in: 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

Finally, Jesus compares the kingdom to a mustard seed. It is one of the smallest of seeds and yet it grows to be a big shrub. The seed again is the word in the world, and while it is small, beginning with 12 men hiding in an upper room. It is today covering the whole earth in which people of every nation rest and make their homes.

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