Day 11

Jesus Begins to Teach in Parables

from the reading plan


Mark 4:1-41


It’s easy for me to jump to the conclusion that the parables of Jesus are just quaint little stories intended to help us live nice, moral lives. In fact, I confess that when I saw today’s reading, I was tempted to say, “Parable of the sower? Got it. Seeds fall in the wrong places, and they don’t grow. We need to cast God’s Word onto fertile soil. Check!” In my arrogance, I wanted to do a cursory reading of the text and get on with my day. What else could I possibly learn from a passage I’ve heard about and read so many times?

Well, I was humbled when I read these words of Jesus: “Let anyone who has ears to hear listen” (Mark 4:9). What He had to say to me was not easy to accept, but I considered it absolutely imperative. 

In quoting Isaiah 6:9–10, Jesus highlights those who remain blind to God’s glory, deaf to His wisdom, and numb to His presence. Am I one of those insensate people? Why do I make the smug assumption that I already know everything there is to know about the parable of the sower

After rereading it, I concluded that this passage is neither bland milquetoast to be passed over nor bilious medicine to be reviled. The parable avails me of vital spiritual nourishment, and the implicit warning is a sweet, refreshing elixir.

If we read Isaiah beyond the portion quoted by Jesus, we see that everything the people have built must be razed to the ground before anything of heavenly value can take root. Cities, houses, and fields must “lie in ruins,” and the people must be driven far away before the Lord’s will can be accomplished (Isaiah 6:11–13). 

If I choose to read the parables of Jesus as 2,000-year-old folksy wisdom, then I will be like the people in the crowd who only received an oblique version of the message. But if I opt instead to draw closer to Jesus, as only a tiny portion of the crowd seems to have done, then I can trust that He will take me deeper than the surface significance of the stories themselves and “explain everything” (Mark 6:34). 

The challenge, then, is whether I want to hear “everything” the Lord has to say to me. If I open my eyes, ears, and heart to the full depth of what Jesus would reveal, I run the risk of actually being “healed” (Isaiah 6:10). And I know from experience that healing can be painful and messy. Old wounds often need to be reopened and infections thoroughly cleaned out; malignant growths must be excised, which may require deep, dolorous cutting. 

As much as it may hurt, I do not want the words of Jesus to fall on deaf ears. Even if it pains my heart to perceive the truth, I do not want to be blind to what Jesus wants me to see.

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