28 October 2021

Mark 4:10-20

'To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables.' (v.11)

Psalm 27


At the beginning of our passage today, Jesus explains why he uses parables to teach. His closest followers have “been given the secret of the kingdom of God” while the uncommitted hear parables that deliberately prevent them from understanding!

To make sense of this, the “secret” is that the kingdom has come in the person of Jesus, his teaching and his actions. It is a secret (or we might find “surprise” a better word) in that we already know many people found it impossible to see the incarnate Word, as with hindsight we describe him, in the lowly figure from Nazareth.

 Secondly, the gospels as a whole do not suggest that Jesus only used parables when teaching the uncommitted crowds but the disciples too, so overall he appears to be saying that his true followers will be able to perceive the meaning because they know Jesus himself is the key, whereas others will hear the teaching but fail to understand and benefit. The quotation in verse 12 is from Isaiah 6:9 where God was forewarning the prophet that many would reject his message; like many who came before him, Jesus will divide opinion.

Finally the way Jesus' identity is hidden – which is evident in his frequent requests for people not to make his identity known, and in his suffering on the Cross, for example, as well as in the nature of parables as an alternative to direct teaching – is not designed simply to prevent people knowing the truth. Its purpose is to make people less guilty than they would be if they rejected a totally overt manifestation of God.

The parable of the sower (or soils) is explained clearly on the basis that the seed represents the word (v. 14) or the hearers of it (vs 16, 18 and 20) and both in verse 15. The challenge to the hearers is clear enough: which kind of soil are you?


To Ponder:

  • Do you agree that the truth about Jesus is not something that we can discover for ourselves but that it has to be revealed to us by God as implied by the words “to you has been given” (v. 11)?
  • If that is the case, then why is it that God seems to have revealed the truth to some of us but not to other people?
  • Perhaps if you are viewing 'A Word in Time' you want to be good soil. Which of the other kinds is there a risk of you becoming, or which were you once?

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.

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