Mark 4:13 – (similar to Question #19) – Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable?” NIV
I have finished Matthew’s Gospel and covered all except one question of which I know that Jesus asked. I found that question as I was going through Mark and looking for questions that Jesus asked … not wanting to repeat the ones that He asked in Matthew’s Gospel. I’ll deal with that question in Mark’s Gospel. Since Matthew and Mark contain many of the same accounts, there will be significantly fewer questions in Mark’s Gospel.
Evidently, Jesus asked many similar questions to the one above to His disciples because He wanted to see if they were getting what He was saying. This question is similar to Question #19, but Jesus asked it in conjunction with a parable not recorded in Matthew’s Gospel but only in Mark and Luke’s Gospels. It is about a farmer who went out to sow seed and it fell in various places: along the path, in rocky soil, among weeds, and on good soil (Mark 4:3-8). Evidently, Jesus perceived that His closest followers didn’t get everything that He was saying; so He sat them down and asked these questions.
Often Jesus would use parables (earthly stories with heavenly meanings) to relate great spiritual truths. He did this for several reasons. Many people will pay more attention to a good story that they will just simple declaration of facts. Many people need a picture to attach to a spiritual truth so that they can better grasp what it means, and it gave these people something to remember and think about after they left Jesus’ presence. In many cases it kept Jesus from being accused of blasphemy for speaking with authority that His listeners only attributed to God; so it decreased conflict.
However, Jesus wanted His disciples to not only hear but understand the meaning of His parables; so He confronted them and urged them to push deeper than the surface of His stories and seek the deeper meaning that pertained to the Kingdom of God that He came to announce. Jesus explained this parable to His disciples. He explained that the farmer was sowing the word, and that the different types of soil had to do with receptivity to the word. The seed sown along the path wasn’t even given time to sprout because it was immediately eaten by the birds, and there are people who aren’t even interested in hearing the word of God. The seed sown on rocky soil sprouted; but it withered in the heat of the day because it didn’t have deep roots to support it. The seed sown among the thorns (weeds), sprouted, but it didn’t bear fruit because the cares and worries of life choked out the plant. The seed sown on good soil did produce a plentiful harvest.
Jesus stopped there. He didn’t draw conclusions for His disciples or for us. So what was He trying to teach them and us? First, it would seem that one would want to sow as much seed as possible on good soil…soil that had been prepared. So who prepares the soil? Is it solely the Holy Spirit’s job to prepare individuals to be receptive to the Word of God, or can believers help in some way? How do I determine if a person is receptive to hearing the Word of God?
In relation to the other teachings of Jesus, do I look for deeper meaning from His parables? Do I use stories or metaphors to convey spiritual truths to others?