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Jesus taught in parables

With even a basic knowledge of the Bible, many will know that Jesus taught in parables. Most assume that Jesus’ teaching on parables are nothing more than clever little stories giving sweet, non-intrusive life lessons. Yet, Jesus himself understood that this could not be further from the truth.


In Mark’s gospel, Jesus begins teaching in parables at a strategic moment. He has begun to define insiders and outsiders based on how people relate to him. Not even his family can claim insider status but only “whoever does the will of God” (Mark 4:35). It is at this point that Jesus begins to teach in parables about the Kingdom of God. Jesus clearly teaches that the Kingdom of God is not like you might expect and understanding it depends on your ability to hear. In his next discourse in Mark, Jesus refers to hearing no less than eight times, instructing those listening about the importance of hearing (4:3, 9, 12, 15, 18, 20, 23, 33). Jesus teaches that like a farmer sowing seed on different kinds of soil, so his Word finds many different kinds of receptions in human hearts. Some people reject it out of hand. In some hearts, it takes root but is choked out once trouble and difficulty come in this life. For others, Satan snatches the good deposit of the Word before the hearer even has a chance to digest it. And still yet, there are others who produce fruit thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and a hundredfold (Mark 4:8, 20). This is the mystery of the kingdom. What one heart rejects as irrelevant and unnecessary in this world, another heart embraces and bears more fruit. Fully aware of these realities, Jesus said, “Pay attention to what you hear; with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you” (4:24). If accepted, Jesus’ teaching could be used for much good in one’s own life. If rejected, even what a person has will be taken away (4:25). Jesus never understood that one could casually observe him with no personal interest. Instead, he taught that he is either to be embraced completely for who he revealed himself to be or rejected out of hand. With Jesus, there is no middle way. And while Jesus understood that the Kingdom of God was starting small, he knew well it was packed with power. Jesus taught “it is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth yet when it is grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants” (4:31 - 32).

Not everyone accepted Jesus’ teaching then and certainly not everyone accepts Jesus’ teaching now. Yet, what is surprising to many is that even this would not surprise Jesus. He spoke in parables “as they were able to hear” (4:33). Hearing Jesus rightly is the most important responsibility we have as human beings. It is only as we hear him rightly that we begin to make sense of God, of ourselves and the world in which we live. In Jesus, the Kingdom dawned. And soon, the once small seed planted will yield a grain that is ripe and at once, the harvest will come (4:29). He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

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