MAIN TEXT: MARK 4:21-34
And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” And he said to them,“Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.
Mark tells us about Jesus – the hero of the Bible and our faith. The Bible is all about Jesus. The Gospel according to Mark is one of four accounts of the life of Jesus Christ while here on earth. Mark was written to Romans telling them that Jesus is the suffering Servant that gave His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
Mark is the shortest of all the Gospels. It moves fast – starting with Jesus’ public ministry rather than His birth. Mark’s purpose is to communicate who Jesus is and what He did. Therefore Mark includes very little of Jesus’ words or teaching. In fact, only chapter 4 and 13 include Jesus’ teachings. This should cause us to take special interest and hear the themes and implications of these texts.
There are four parables in chapter 4. Last week we focused on the parable of the soil (verses 1-20). This week includes these final three parables. The theme of all of them is how God’s kingdom emerges and grows with the appearance of Jesus. Mark brings these parables together to reinforce the main parable of the soil. These stories – a lamp, a bunch of seeds, and one small mustard seed - drive home the need for response of faith to God’s revealed Word.
THE LIGHT OF JESUS WILL NOT BE HIDDEN
Jesus begins this set of parables with a commonsense illustration about a lamp. With a more literal translation of Verse 21, it becomes clear that “lamp” is a reference to Jesus “The Lamp”. There are many references to Jesus as light:
- “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” (John 12:46)
- “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4)
- “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” (John 1:9)
- “Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’.” (John 8:12)
How then should we respond to this extraordinary Lamp?
If you hide it, you misuse it. The Lamp (Jesus), and any lamp for that matter, is not brought to be put under a basket or a bed. The idea itself is ridiculous. Instead, you would put a lamp up high in the open. In the same way, God has sent this Lamp (Jesus) to bring light to a dark world. He has come to reveal truth, enlighten minds, and conquer the darkness!
Verse 22 indicates that the Light, for the most part, may be hidden at the moment. However, eventually the whole world will see the glory of this light. The resurrection of Jesus assures this revelation and the second coming of the glorified Christ will establish it. The world may try to hide Jesus but it will fail miserably at those attempts. The Message paraphrase puts verse 23 this way, “Are you listening to this? Really listening?” Hearing the Word and acting on it is tremendously important.
If you hide it, you will lose it. Verse 24 calls us to have listening ears by using a critically important theological principle in the form of a proverb.
The means of measuring is hearing. If you respond to God’s truth, more truth will follow. If you embrace the kingdom now when it is small, you will share in it when it is worldwide (when all things will be made new). The concept “The one who has will be given more” is articulated well in Proverbs 9:9.
Jesus applies the radical contrast for the one who rejects the Word. Our spiritual health, our spiritual eternity is at stake. How we respond to Jesus day by day is of the utmost seriousness. Do not take for granted the relationship you have today. It could all be lost tomorrow.
GOD WILL SEE TO IT THAT HIS KINGDOM GROWS
The parable of the growing seed is the only unique parable in Mark – it is not found in any other gospel. Whereas the parable of the soil focused on the receptivity of the soils, this parable focuses on the innate power of the seed. The Word of God possesses the power of its own success and triumph. Let the Word loose and watch it work (Isaiah 55:1-11).
There is a mystery to the growth of the kingdom. The man’s insignificance to God’s plan is shown in verses 26-27. The power does not reside in him to cause growth. The seed has power within itself. James, the half brother of Jesus wrote of this in James 1:21. Plant the word in a receptive soul and it will take off in its own accord. Once it is sown, a process is started that cannot be stopped – even though its growth is a mystery to us.
There is a certainty to the growth of the kingdom. The original Greek word used for “by itself” is automate’, meaning automatically. Once the process has begun, it is destined to be completed: blade, ear, grain, and harvest (verse 28). The process of the kingdom isn’t spectacular but it is certain. Today the kingdom is present and growing, whether you see it or not. Are you certain that you are a part of it?
GOD’S KINGDOM MAY BEGIN SMALL, BUT IT WILL GROW
The final parable is about a single, tiny mustard seed. All of these parables are about the kingdom of God. Jesus lets us in on where the kingdom of God is headed.
God’s kingdom will experience amazing results. In Jesus’ day, the mustard seed was renowned for its small size. In Matthew 17:20, Jesus used it to represent a minimal quantity of faith that grows to a large mature state. It is a small seed that explodes in growth to something completely out of proportion to itself.
Jesus is letting us know that the same thing is true for God’s kingdom (verses 30-32).
The small and meager beginnings will expand for all to see. The smallest will become the greatest. When Christ returns, the entire world will see as He surpasses all the power, glory, and majesty of earthly kingdoms. This is a parable of growth, grace, joy, promise, and celebration.
God’s kingdom requires careful explanation. Mark tells us the importance of parables in Jesus’ teaching (verses 33-34). He spoke in parables so that they would understand the nature of the kingdom and the central role that He and the Word would play in it. To those that drew close to Jesus – those in communion and connection – got more from Him.
The biggest growth of God’s kingdom is yet to come! Revelation 7:9-10 speaks of this reality.
THE KINGDOM OF GOD WILL INCLUDE PEOPLE FROM EVERY NATION!
APPLY TO LIFE
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing as you open God’s Word together.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: Mark 4: 21-34
When we are told that Jesus is the light of the world, what is our responsibility?
Have you found that in the seasons of your life when you were actively responding to God’s Word, these were the times when you grew the most? What made those days so productive?
What makes some seasons in your life spiritually unproductive and stale? How can you avoid such times?
Why is it reassuring to know that God intends the kingdom to grow automatically as well as slowly but surely?