Saturday

30 October 2021

Mark 4:21-25

And he said to them, 'Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given to you. For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.' (vs 24-25)

Psalm 28:1-2, 6-9

Background

We have here a collection of sayings that Mark considers relevant to the themes of this chapter. The first, about keeping a lamp in the place where it can function usefully, is found in a different context in Matthew and Luke's Gospels and we might conclude that Mark has placed it here as a particular example of the importance of hearing properly, which he reported at verse 9 and repeats at verse 23 before expanding it.

The position of the saying in Mark also suggests that the ministry of Jesus himself is primarily in view rather than that of his followers. Nobody lights a lamp and carries it indoors only to hide it in a place where its light goes unnoticed. Similarly there would be no point in God sending Jesus only to conceal his true nature. However hidden his true nature may be to some people, it is not God’s purpose for it to remain so. However, verse 22 does suggest that it may be necessary to hide his nature for a time before full disclosure occurs. This is consistent with the presence of the kingdom in Jesus being somewhat hidden or kept secret at first and openly revealed later.

Verse 23 is a succinct way of stressing that personal decision is required in relation to Jesus. Everyone does have ears (even those with hearing loss do in the metaphorical sense intended) but whether we decide to listen is up to us. “Pay attention to what you hear” (v.24) is a further challenge to move beyond surface meanings to true spiritual perception and to trust and obey.

The idea that the fuller one’s response to God’s word, the greater the measure of blessing it brings, indeed disproportionately so, is found also in Luke 6:38, Matthew 13:12 and Matthew 25:29, although those references primarily describe how Judgement Day will work rather than our present prosperity. Although these sayings may have had various contexts in the ministry of Jesus, here in the whole context of this chapter the meaning of verses 24-25 would seem to be that the more fully we allow Jesus’ word to enter our hearts and shape our lives, the more fully we will understand the secret of the kingdom. And conversely that the more we allow the message of Jesus to pass us by unheeded, the easier it will become to do so, until in the end we cannot hear it any more.

 

To Ponder:

  • Are you someone for whom Jesus was once somewhat hidden but for whom in due course his true nature became clear?
  • Which of the many things Jesus said are you most reluctant to fully listen to?
  • Do you find helpful or unhelpful the suggestion that the more extensively we give attention or give in other ways, the more we might expect to receive in return?

 


Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Stephen Mosedale

Stephen Mosedale is a retired Methodist minister living near Exeter, enjoying walking, gardening, and membership of a vegetable-growing co-op. He fulfils responsibilities for ministerial candidates, local preachers and worship leaders, and as a school governor. He has a particular interest in the natural world and its significance to faith, especially in the context of climate crisis. A former New Testament tutor at Cliff College, he has a passion for helping others use the Bible as our main way of knowing what God has to say to us in the world of today.

Share this