The Parables Begin: Mark 4:1-20

Day 8,
February 22, 2018
‘The Parables Begin’
Mark 4:1-20

Today you may feel some relief, 
Hearing Jesus teach something more familiar.

First, the gospel sets a scene,
For the movie between your ears:
Such a crowd on the shore
That Jesus sits in a boat offshore to speak to them.

How big is the crowd in your movie?
If you get in the habit of visualization,
Part of the old Benedictine discipline,
‘ Lectio Divina‘,
or the Ignatian disciplines of Jesuits.

More humbly, our less literate settler ancestors
Fully populated their imaginations,
Re-enchanting their universe,
By listening to one voice read in cabins – 
Like Nellie McClung as a girl in Grey County,
Before she became a western suffragette.

You may become ‘see’ different things – 
and compare your vision with others’,
or with other texts, 
like Matthew’s ‘Sermon on the Mount’
Luke’s ‘Sermon on the Plain’,
Or Palm procession or passion events.

As for the comfort zone of Jesus’ parables – 
Here comes ‘the parable of the sower’.

You can tell the story:
On path
On rocks
In thorns
And on good ground….

You can compare it in other gospels
(Matthew 13:1-23, Luke 8:4-15)

Return to your mental movie – 
Verse 10 relocates the action:
Jesus is ‘alone’, 
Except for ‘those around him’,
‘along with the 12’ – 
how alone is that?
When, and where is this follow-up chat?

I think it’s a generation later in Syria,
in Mark’s community,
claiming authority
for a particular interpretation
of a Jesus story)

We like this approach,
‘insider explanation’,
in this case by allegorical interpretation,
that we may be deaf to it.
This gospel is not.

Mark spells it out:
Some stuff gets said in public,
To big crowds and adulation in Galilee,
And smaller ones with resistance in Jerusalem

Other stuff gets said in private,
To 2 or 3 or 12 disciples,
Or to ‘those with the 12’ – 

Part of that distinction is called
‘Mark’s Messianic Secret’
by centuries of scholars – 
why would Jesus tell others
not to tell about him?

We saw that
in healing and exorcism,

Now we see it
in teaching.

Soon, we’ll see it
in Jesus’ predictions of his passion.

Got a guess?

 ‘I give you the secret – 
outsiders get parables – 
to look and not perceive, listen, not understand – 
that’s straight from the prophets – 
but may we not turn again and be forgiven
like those who did or did not heed the prophetic watchman?

With those notes,
Go ahead, listen again
to the text we got today:

Again he began to teach beside the lake.
Such a very large crowd gathered around him
that he got into a boat on the lake and sat there,
while the whole crowd was beside the lake on the land.

He began to teach them many things in parables,
and in his teaching he said to them:
 ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow.

And as he sowed, 
some seed fell on the path, 
and the birds came and ate it up. 

Other seed fell on rocky ground, 
where it did not have much soil,
and it sprang up quickly, 
since it had no depth of soil.

And when the sun rose,
 it was scorched; 
and since it had no root,
 it withered away.

Other seed fell among thorns, 
and  the thorns grew up and choked it
and it yielded no grain.

Other seed fell into good soil
and brought forth grain,
growing up and increasing
and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.’

And he said, 
‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’

When he was alone, 
those who were around him
along with the twelve
asked him about the parables. 

And he said to them, 
‘To you has been given the secret
 of the kingdom of God,
 but for those outside, 
everything comes in parables; 

in order that
“they may indeed look,
 but not perceive,
 and may indeed listen, 
but not understand;
so that they may not turn again
and be forgiven.”

And he said to them,
 ‘Do you not understand this parable?
Then how will you understand all the parables?

The sower sows the word.
These are the ones on the path
where the word is sown: 
when they hear,
Satan immediately comes
and takes away the word
 that is sown in them.

And these are the ones sown on rocky ground:
when they hear the word, 
they immediately receive it with joy.

But they have no root, 
and endure only for a while;
then, when trouble or persecution arises
on account of the word,
immediately they fall away.

And others are those sown among the thorns:
these are the ones who hear the word,
but the cares of the world, 
and the lure of wealth,
 and the desire for other things
come in and choke the word, 
and it yields nothing.

And these are the ones sown on the good soil:
they hear the word
and accept it
and bear fruit, 
thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.’