Wednesday

27 October 2021

Mark 4:1-9

And he said, 'Let anyone with ears to hear listen!' (v. 9)

Psalm 26

Background

Often called the 'parable of the sower' this would be more correctly described as the 'parable of the soils'. The introduction, “Again he began to teach” is a reference to Mark 3:7 and 2:13. Because the crowd is so large Jesus teaches from a boat in order to have a little space, and verse 2 says “he began to teach them many things in parables”. The word 'parable' is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament for a Hebrew word, masal.  It encompasses stories, metaphors, memorable quotations, riddles and much more, rather as we might use the word 'illustration' in relation to material in a sermon or lecture. In this case, it concerns the experience of sowing seed, which was an everyday experience for Jesus' audience.

The verse quoted above from the end of the parable is matched by the word 'Listen' at the beginning of the passage. Both stress that parables should stimulate thought about their application. In this case the verses that follow will indicate where that thinking should go but usually this is not the case in the gospels and readers need to work it through for themselves.

Even if we are not growers or gardeners, we can understand the various fates of the seed that Jesus describes, although we might think in terms of weeds rather than specifically thorns in verse 7. Each seed is considered important and verse 8 describes the different levels of fruitfulness when they fall in good soil (although even thirtyfold is an extravagant yield relative to true life). Jesus seems eager to demonstrate how the good soil more than makes up for the poor unfruitful soils.

 

To Ponder:

  • Can you recall a speaker using an illustration that stuck in your mind and made a valuable impression? Why did it work so well?
  • Tomorrow’s passage will offer Jesus’s interpretation of this one, but on its own merits what would you suggest is the message that this teaching might convey to those who hear it? (If you are familiar with the interpretation to come, try to imagine yourself in the place of someone who isn’t.)
  • Can you conceive of a scenario in a modern non-agricultural community that could generate a story with a similar message?

 


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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