Mark 4:1 Again he began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them:
3 “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 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. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” 9 And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”
10 When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 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;”
We’re told in this passage that a large crowd gathered around Jesus, so many in fact that he had to get in a boat so he wouldn’t be crushed. I expect there were many who were there hoping to be healed by Jesus. Or perhaps to be rid of demons that were tormenting them. Or perhaps to see for themselves the miracles Jesus was performing, not unlike we might go see the circus. Or in the case of the religious authorities, they may have been looking for ways to discredit him. People had many motivations for watching Jesus. And in this particular instance Jesus chose to teach them. In parables.
Parables weren’t easy to understand, but I believe that was the point. Lots of people heard and saw Jesus, but relatively few actually followed him to become disciples. Many got their healing and went home. They got the show they wanted and then dispersed. They heard his teaching and went away confused. They made note of Jesus’ alleged blasphemies then left to give their reports to others.
But some people, drawn by the presence of God in Jesus, chose to follow him.
V.10 fast-forwards to a time when Jesus was alone. Well, as alone as you can be with a large group of disciples in tow. I expect he had stepped away from these followers to pray, but at some point the group came to him with questions. What does the parable of the sower mean? They’d heard the story, but didn’t understand. Then Jesus said something really interesting in v.11:
11 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…”
I don’t believe Jesus expected many people to correctly interpret the parables. Instead he was looking to see which of the many would be willing to leave everything to follow him and find out more. That hunger, that desire, would be a sign to him that God the Father was stirring in them to become his disciples. In other words, in many cases the disciples self-selected, unlike the original 12 who were chosen by Jesus.
In ministry we never know who will respond. Some people check out our church and then leave, never to return. Some people are around a short time, but then drift away. But some people come to us and stay. Why? I believe God has sent them. They have something to offer the church and the church has something to offer them. It’s a win-win.
This kind of thing is on my mind because we are seeing so many new people connect with our church via our live-streaming worship services and daily devotions. I believe we have something to offer these folks who are from all over the US, and they have something to offer to us. Please pray with me that we find ways to build on these budding relationships for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
Lord, let it be so. Amen.