Pastor's Ponderings: Meandering through Mark 4:1-9 Bible Study (October 24, 2023)
Greetings to all of you studiers of the Word of God. On this Tuesday I pray that in your life you are filled with the power of Christ's Love every minute of the day.
Yesterday I forgot to give you the parallels in the other Gospels to the text from the end of Mark 3 that speak of Christ's view of the ones who are truly His family. This can also be found Matthew 12:46-50, but in Matthew it appears to be aimed primarily at Christ's disciples and roadies, primarily men. (a term for those who followed Jesus throughout His ministry but were not counted as part of the inner circle.) In Mark Jesus indicates the believers in the crowd too. In Luke 8:19-21 there is an abbreviated passage that becomes even more expansive in its inclusivity. Anyone who hears the Word, and does it is family to Jesus, which is why you and I can speak of being His Brothers, Sisters, and family!
In today’s bible study, we are in chapter 4 of the Gospel of Mark verses 1-9. We will start out with the first portion of this passage. Mathew contains a parallel in 13:1-9 which is in effect a duplicate of the passage in Mark. However, Luke is different. It primarily tells us the same story in 8:4-8, but the part of the passage about Jesus getting into a boat is not in 8:4-8, but rather it is found in 5:1-3. John does not have this parable. However, in John 15:14, John writes, "You are my friends if you do what I command you". It is somewhat similar, but it is not the same as the parable in the other three Gospels.
In the early part of this passage, we discover that Jesus has moved, for now, to preach outside of the synagogues, so He finds Himself at the lake shore, and uses a boat to push out just far enough to not be mobbed by the crow that always gathered around him. I am certain that the crowd was looking for miracles of healing, but it is important to note that the Word which Christ offers to His people also bring healing, healing of the soul and spirit of everyone who hears the Word, and then whose heart is changed forever! This new method of reaching out to the people was really necessary if Jesus was going to win over the hard hearts of His own people. A parable is literally something thrown beside something else. It is a comparison too. In the case of what Jesus teaches, the parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. So why parables, of which Jesus was a spontaneous master?
Jesus uses this method to get people to listen. When I preach, I attempt to use my life and experiences as a way of gaining the congregation's attention. I have often heard it said that I must know what is going on in people's homes and lives. It is our shared reality which really helps the Gospel message to be more clearly heard.
Though the location and the "pulpit" was different and new, the method of teaching by telling a parable was very familiar in its usage in the Jewish faith, so He was not attempting to present a new style of preaching and teaching, but instead used this common method which had already been extremely successful as a tool for conveying the Word.
Many of the ideas in God's Word are intangibles that need to be given an opportunity for understanding if the average person is going to grasp what they are, and what they mean for the life of everyone who is in this relationship with God. An example would be the concept of goodness. We can talk about it all day, but until we set it with concrete examples it may remain mostly unreachable for us.
Here is the really important reason for Jesus to use parables. It makes people think! In the Spiritual Gifts we discover one called discernment. Thinking is a part of being one of Christ's children. Today we have a myriad of realities which Christ did not directly address because they were not a part of His world. So, if we are Biblical literalist, we would never drive or have a car, fly in a plane, use a refrigerator, and we would all need to have that kosher kitchen in order to maintain our relationship with God. Women would be faced with sitting outside of the sanctuary during church and would need to rely on the man in their life to relay what had been taught. It wasn't until the time of Paul's writing that we discover that women (Lydia) actually started communities of faith and nurtured their growth. We would all have to give up our deterrent of nuclear bombs and there would be no personal guns. We would manually row our great ships and use spears and bows and arrows for warfare in the world. We all seem to have no trouble using all of these things, when we believe in Christ, but in order to do that we must think about how they fit into the picture of this modern day. We must use discernment to know if we can use all of these things and still accept Christ's One Great Commandment as our guide for living as His children.
This is getting pretty long today, so we will finish next Monday with the parable of the Sower of the seeds and see our own lives of faith, and those of the people who remain in church around us, and those whose faith has failed. God bless you all and may this day of cool weather inspire you to great joy in the season's change.
In Christ, Pastor Kim