Tuesday 02 November 2021

Bible Book:

'With what can we compare the kingdom of God' (v. 30)

Mark 4:26-34 Tuesday 2 November 2021

Psalm 29


Today’s passage from the Gospel of Mark contains two very characteristic elements of Jesus’ teaching: the kingdom of God and parables. The first is an enigmatic term that Jesus often uses in the gospels. Indeed, he begins his public ministry in Mark's Gospel by proclaiming that the “kingdom of God has come near” (Mark 1:15). We might understand it as meaning something like ‘the place ruled by God’. However, this kingdom is not limited in time or space and is a concept that we may never understand fully: it is a ‘mystery’ or ‘secret’ (Mark 4:11).

 In describing this enigmatic concept, Jesus used an enigmatic way of speaking: parables. Contemporaries of Jesus used this way of speaking too but, as we see here (vs 33-34), Jesus seems to have used them so often that they became intimately connected with his ministry. These are not just simple stories for children with a single meaning, though. They are metaphors, proverbs, riddles and more. Parables are meant to challenge their listeners and, like the Kingdom of God, their meaning can often be mysterious.

The two parables quoted here use horticultural metaphors, following on from the famous parable of the sower (Mark 4:1-20). The first (vs 26-29) is a rare example of a story that is unique to Mark. Matthew and Luke chose not to incorporate it into their gospels (as they did with around 97% of Mark’s narrative). Like many parables, it contains someone acting slightly oddly, in this case a farmer who simply sows his seeds and then lets them grow without any further involvement. The second (vs 30-32), which by contrast we find in all three gospels, again refers to seeds. This time it is the seeds of the black mustard plant (Brassica nigra), which can grow up to three metres tall but whose seeds are minute.

 These parables, along with most of chapter 4 in Mark's Gospel , form part of the first major block of Jesus' teaching. In part, they may be a reflection on why Jesus’ message had not been fully understood or accepted by many.


To Ponder:

  •  Why do you think Mark chose to record the parable of the growing seed (4:26-29), while Matthew and Luke did not?
  • What might these two parables have to say to us today when we think about evangelism, mission and outreach?
  • Why do you think Jesus chose to use parables so much in his teaching?


Mysterious God, help us to understand the wonders of your kingdom and hold on to our faith in the face of doubt and suffering. Amen.


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