World English Bible translation
4:1 Again he began to teach by the seaside. A great multitude was gathered to him, so that he entered into a boat in the sea, and sat down. All the multitude were on the land by the sea. 4:2 He taught them many things in parables, and told them in his teaching, 4:3 "Listen! Behold, the farmer went out to sow, 4:4 and it happened, as he sowed, some seed fell by the road, and the birds came and devoured it. 4:5 Others fell on the rocky ground, where it had little soil, and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of soil. 4:6 When the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. 4:7 Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. 4:8 Others fell into the good ground, and yielded fruit, growing up and increasing. Some brought forth thirty times, some sixty times, and some one hundred times as much."4:9 He said, "Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear."
4:10 When he was alone, those who were around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 4:11 He said to them, "To you is given the mystery of the Kingdom of God, but to those who are outside, all things are done in parables, 4:12 that 'seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest perhaps they should turn again, and their sins should be forgiven them.'"
When Mark first began to write about the ministry of Jesus he said that Jesus was declaring that people should repent because the Kingdom of God was at hand. Surely Mark did not mean us to understand that this was the whole of the message of Jesus. He placed that message at the beginning of the ministry of Jesus and it was indeed the first of the message that Jesus was to bring. Though Mark does not dwell on the teaching of Jesus through his gospel, Today's Scripture begins a section that involves some of the teachings of Jesus. In particular, today we have the first (and probably the most popular) parable recorded.
In this lesson we will not go deeply into the meaning of this parable because the gospel itself interprets the parable in the next section. Rather, it is important to understand first WHY Jesus taught in parables. He began teaching in parables while the multitude was gathered around Him expecting a miracle. The Gospel of John speaks of this time in the ministry of Jesus and says that even though many people followed Him and professed to believe in Jesus, He did not give Himself over to them because, "He knew what was in a man." Most interpreters of this passage believe that this means that Jesus realized that the people were not following Him because they believed in His message about the Father but because they had seen the miracles. They were interested in seeing the spectacular and the fantastic. They were not interested in learning the truth.
So, to this multitude, Jesus spoke in parables. When He explained this to the core of His disciples in private He quoted from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah. God had told the prophet Isaiah that He was sending Isaiah out to speak the Words of God but that the people would hear them but not heed them. Jesus understood that during His own teaching ministry that the people would also hear His words, but they would not believe them and would not put them into action. Even His own disciples would not fully understand what He was trying to teach them until after His death.
We have dealt with this concept before and at the risk of sounding very repetitive I feel as though it must be stated over again. Without God revealing Himself to us, we all would be lost in ignorance. God offers the same message to all men and each of us, left to our own reason, rejects the message of God. It is only through the intervention of God, through the revelation that He offers to His elect and chosen people that any are saved. This whole life is like a parable; a parable about God's love and what it takes to be pleasing to God. To a few, God chooses through His sovereign will to explain the meaning of the parable. It is God's right to do so as the creator of the world. He does not owe us any explanation nor is He required to justify Himself to any of us.
Jesus spoke in parables to the multitude. To His chosen Twelve, He said that the mystery of the Kingdom of God was theirs. He owed an explanation to no one. He offered an explanation to a few. Every person in the multitude had the opportunity to understand. To a few, the meaning was given as a gift.
God is speaking, even now. Do you want to understand? Is it in your heart to know the deep things of God?
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