Our Scripture reading today from the Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer continues the study from the Gospel of Mark. Today we take a look at a couple of very short parables Jesus told the people.
The first of these parables is the parable of the growing seed in verses 26 - 29. A person plants seeds in the earth. Days and nights pass, and the seeds slowly start to grow, though we cannot really fully explain how the germination and growth actually happens. Jesus tells His listeners that this can be compared to the Kingdom of God. When a person is saved, becoming a child of God, they do not have instant full insight into the Bible, or instant spirituality. The disciples spent three years learning directly under Jesus, and even then they had occasional faltering. Also the great Apostle Paul, after he was saved, spent several years apart with God in Arabia learning from Him, and then time with other believers before he started his ministry (Galatians 1:17-19). Spiritual growth is a continual process, which finally comes to fruition with spiritual maturity. It can be compared to the slow but steady growth of a plant. Plants need good soil in order to have good growth. In order to have good spiritual growth we need to feed ourselves regularly and daily with the Word of God.
When we witness to others, frequently the results may be slow in coming, just like the growth of a plant. When witnessing, the Word of God is presented to an individual. Some may get saved right away, or shortly thereafter. Many, however, take awhile to turn to the Lord. God is working in their hearts, and at the right moment He will reap a harvest in that individual, and save them (vs 29).
The second parable that Jesus told that day was one about the mustard seed, and is found in verses 30 - 32. Again, Jesus takes this parable to explain another point of the Kingdom of God. The mustard seed is not the smallest seed in existence, but it was the smallest seed the Jews at that time typically would have sowed in Israel. This very small seed grows into a large plant, one that birds can nest in. Christianity started very small, beginning with only 12 apostles, and having about 500 disciples by the time of the Ascension (I Corinthians 15:5-6), still a relatively small number. However, Christianity has since grown into a worldwide community of believers. There are times when we may feel alone, but we are not. There are faithful believers all around the world. Just like a tiny seed, like the mustard seed, the Church started small and grows large.
Finally, as our Scripture passage closes, Mark tells how Jesus frequently spoke to the people in parables, later explaining them to His apostles (vs. 33-34). Why did Jesus speak in parables? A lot of Jesus’s teachings were against people having hypocritical and impure motives. These were often characteristics of the Pharisees and other religious leaders who kept a watch over and were critical of His ministry. Sometimes Jesus did speak out against them, but if He had spoken against the religious leaders each and every time they deserved it, His public ministry would have been hampered. Thus, Jesus spoke frequently in parables. Those who listened carefully knew what He was talking about. Those who have no heart for God and who oppose His truth and Word, treat His message just as if it is a story and as nothing serious. Then there were those who came only for what they could get, such as a healing or meal. They weren’t interested in Jesus’s message, so He spoke in parables, knowing that those who were truly interested would glean the true message. To those who truly seek Him and His truth, Jesus will reveal Himself and His message.