Hello, and welcome to the STC podcast. My name is Casey Strine, I’m a member of the STC staff, and I’m excited to be sharing a few of my reflections on the Gospel of Mark with you this week.
This week we will be looking at materials from chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the Gospel according to Mark. The Gospel of Mark is generally known as a fast moving story where Jesus hardly finishes doing one thing before he has started the next. Today, as we move into chapter 4 of Mark, we see Jesus telling a parable about the ways people respond to the word of God.
This passage includes the well known parable of the sower. Jesus tells of a sower who spreads seed. Some of the seed falls on the path, and never grows. Some of the seed falls on rocky ground, and only grows for a short time before dying. Some seed falls among thorns, and even though it grows the thorns eventually crowd it out and kill it. Finally, some of the seed falls in good soil, where it grows and yields much grain.
Jesus then explains the meaning of the parable to his closest friends, the disciples. He explains to them that this parable illustrates how people receive and respond to the word of God. Even though this parable is familiar, it has much to teach us about the way God moves in this world, and how we might be helping or hindering that work. In short, the interpretation of the parable reminds us of the many ways we can be distracted from the good news God offers to us in Christ Jesus.
It is true, there are those who actively oppose the message of Christ Jesus. On many occasions, they sweep down on those who have heard Jesus’ message of forgiveness and life in order to deny it, to undermine it, and to call people away from it. We are called to press on in our own faith and to share God’s love with others in spite of this possibility. If we share God’s message of love, forgiveness, and the renewal of our broken world with love and in prayer, then we can do no more.
There are those who are discouraged by the difficulties that come with following Jesus, which are real and often present a challenge to following his call. There are also those distracted by all the other things happening in the world, so that they slowly fall away from God. It’s likely some of you listening will have had that experience at some stage; perhaps you’re now in a process of renewing your relationship with God after a period of indifference. This parable is a reminder that as individuals we are responsible to cultivate our faith daily—through reading scripture, prayer, and living in community. These three things are the fuel needed to persist in a journey through life with faith in Christ.
Finally, there are those who follow faithfully despite the challenges presented by this world. For those people, we should all give thanks, seek to learn from their lives of faithfulness, and to use them as models for how we might do so ourselves. We do so with trust that God honours such a life not in equal measure to its efforts, but in ways that go far beyond a simple repayment for services rendered. The promise of 30-fold or 60-fold or 100-fold return is Jesus’ way of saying that we are not merely paid staff, but the representatives of a gracious and generous God who will use what we offer to do something far greater than we are capable of on our own.
Let us end this week of study with the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
READING: Mark 4:1-25
Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered round him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: ‘Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.’
Then Jesus said, ‘Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.’
When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, ‘The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that,
‘“they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!”’
Then Jesus said to them, ‘Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop – some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.’
He said to them, ‘Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.’
‘Consider carefully what you hear,’ he continued. ‘With the measure you use, it will be measured to you – and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.’