1 1 Mark 4:1-25 Parables Last week we looked at what are parables and why did Jesus use them. Why didn t he just speak to us in plain language. We learned that there were a few reasons for this. Just as a quick re-cap we learned: 1. We can have a deeper understanding of God through his parables. He is giving us examples about himself and his kingdom so we can have a personal relationship with him. He isn t just giving us a list. We are getting to know him. 2. The Gospel of Christ is foolishness to the World. These parables go against the wisdom of this world and much of what we would call common sense. We are called to sacrifice ourselves for others, even if we don t like them. 3. The rejection of Jesus Christ was to fulfill prophecy. There had to be enough people who didn t understand him, in order for the religious leaders to incite the crowd to crucify him so he could die and pay for our sins. a. And spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Because the Jews rejected Jesus, the Gospel message was then given to the gentiles and spread throughout the ends of the earth. 4. Our love for God and our listening to God is demonstrated in our actions. 5. When Jesus says He who has ears let him hear, he is inviting us to understand and to act on his teachings. 6. To hear God s word but ignore it is rebellion. I would also like to point out the word behold. It means Pay careful attention to what follows! This is important! So when you see the word behold, that is a clue to pay attention to what comes next. We are going to keep these things in mind as we study the parables. Also, we are going to ask some questions about each parable. These questions are: 1. What is the symbolism? A parable is often an object lesson. What do these objects represent? 2. What can we learn about God from this? Does this reveal anything about God s personality or character? 3. What does this teach about God s Kingdom? Try not to immediately think of heaven (where we go when we die) when we see the words Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven. It is true that heaven is part of God s kingdom, but I think his Kingdom is much more than that. Think of God s kingdom as his entire perfect creation. We are part of God s Kingdom. We are his church. So when you see the words The kingdom of heaven is like..., try not to think of angels and
2 2 clouds, and halos and harps. Try to think of God, his Word, his creation, his church, his gospel, all the things that make up his perfect kingdom. 4. What is the lesson (The main point)? Often times, we can learn multiple things from one parable, but what is the main key point that he is trying to get across? 5. What is the application for us today? Does this affect the way we live our lives today? What is the doctrine presented here? Not all of these questions may be answered in every parable, and some of the questions may have the same answer. But it is good to at least analyze each question for each parable. With that, let s look at the first one. Turn to Mark chapter 4 verses 3-9. This is the parable of the sower. The Parable of the Sower - Mark 4:3-9 3 Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold. 9 And he said, He who has ears to hear, let him hear. This one is good to start with, because in verses 14 through 20 Jesus explains the symbolism. 1. What is the symbolism? Let s start with the seed. What does the seed represent in this story? It represents the word of God, the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ dying on the cross and paying for our sins. Who is the farmer or the sower? It is anybody who is speaking the truth and good news of the gospel. In this case it was Jesus himself. Today, right now, it is me. It may be you though as you tell your friends about Jesus.
3 3 What is the soil, the ground that the seeds land on? It is the different types of people who hear the Word of God from the sower. We see that the different types of people have different responses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The first type of people, or soil, is the hard ground along the path. It is hard compressed earth, like concrete or pavement. Here the seed lies exposed and can t penetrate into the soil. Satan swoops in like a bird and takes away the seed. It had no impact on their lives because of their hardness of hearts. The second type of soil is the rocky ground. You know how really rocky ground will have a few inches of dirt between or on top of the rocks, but once you get past the dirt it is solid rock? Plants can grow in that little bit of soil for a short time, but they are not healthy and they die quickly. These are the people who respond to the Word of God. They may even be excited about it. But then hard times come. Trials and tribulations test their faith, and they fail. They back away from God as soon as they think that it will cause them pain, suffering, persecution or embarrassment. The third type of soil is the type full of thorns or weeds. They hear the Gospel message of Jesus Christ and respond to it. The seed takes root, but then they get distracted. It could be that they are busy with their family, or their job or Facebook. Maybe they are so caught up in their hobby that they don t spend any time studying God s Word or trying to grow close to him. The things of this world distract them from what is really important and it chokes out their faith. The plant of their faith never produces any fruit because of everything else that they have going on. To be honest with you, this is the one that I personally struggle with. The last type of soil is the good soil. The soil is deep and is free of weeds. It is a good environment for the plant so that the plant grows and bears fruit. There are the people who hear the Word of God and not only respond to it initially, but are faithful to continue in the Word. Their growth in God results in them telling others. They produce more seed that is then spread out to those around them. 2. What can we learn about God from this? This shows that God wants everyone to hear the good news. He is telling all types of people, not just the ones that are going to listen and respond.
4 4 3. What does this teach about God s Kingdom? It shows us that while God is sharing the good news of salvation to all people, it is up to us personally to control what type of soil that we are. Are we hard ground with hard hearts? Are we choking out the Word of God by the distractions of this world? Are we afraid of persecution and not letting our roots grow deep? This gives us a warning to watch out for the things that can cause us not to produce fruit. It was a good reminder to me personally not to get distracted by the things of this world. It can help us identify why we are not being fruitful. 4. What is the lesson (The main point)? The main point of this parable is to give us insight. It s not teaching us a lesson on how to be a good person, although we can learn from it on how to be more fruitful. Its main point though is to show us that God wants everyone to hear his Gospel, but that only a few will truly respond. 5. What is the application for us today? We are to spread the Word of God. We continue to speak and teach truth, but we have no control of the soil that our words land on. It is not our job to save people from hell. Only God can do that and only those individual people can make the choice to follow God for themselves. We can t do it for them, but that doesn t relieve us from our responsibility to sow the seeds. The Lamp Under a Basket - Mark 4: 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? 22 For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear. Don t get this parable confused with the parable of the lamp under the basket in Matthew 5: In Matthew 5, Jesus uses a lamp on a stand being placed under a basket to teach a different lesson. This parable is directly tied to the disciples question on parables. The reason I think that is because of the way it is tied to verses 24 and 25. In Mark, this parable of the lamp comes before the parable in verses 24 and 25 which is the parable of the measures. In
5 5 Matthew 13 we have this same story. We have the parable of the sower. The disciples then question Jesus as to why he uses parables, and we have Jesus same answer in Matthew that we have in Mark. In Matthew the parables of the measures (that are in Mark 4 verses 24 and 25) are part of Jesus answer to the disciples. So that leads me to believe that Mark gave us some additional detail to Jesus answer in verses that Matthew left out. I don t know if you follow all that, but compair Matthew 13:10-12 with Mark 4:13-25 and I think that you will see what I m getting at. So let s read Mark 4 verses again with the context in mind that Jesus is answering the disciples question as to why he is using parables. Mark 4: 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? 22 For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear. 1. What is the symbolism? What is the lamp? The lamp is the truth. It is the truth of Jesus Christ. It is the truth that Jesus brought with him to this earth. When Jesus came to earth, he revealed many great truths about God. One example is that of the Trinity. Even though we see the trinity being hinted at in the Old Testament, it is made clear with the arrival of Jesus Christ. That is just one example. What is the lamp revealing? Secrets. The truth brings forth knowledge, knowledge of things that were previously unknown and were secrets or mysteries. 2. What can we learn about God from this? That God is revealing himself to us in parables. We talked about this last week. He is inviting us to get to know him through the study of these stories. 3. What does this teach about God s Kingdom? It is showing us, that there is a lot we don t know about God s kingdom. Even though God revealed himself to Adam, Abraham, Moses and many other people in the Old
6 6 Testament, there was a lot that he left out. In the New Testament, Jesus starts to reveal some of these secrets, but we would be foolish to think that we know them all. 4. What is the lesson (The main point)? That God s secrets will eventually be made known. And not just God s secrets, but yours as well. This is a bit of a warning. 5. What is the application for us today? To study and pay attention. God is revealing himself to us in these stories. It is now up to us to study them. The Parable of the Measures - Mark 4: 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. 25 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. I think that most Bibles group this with the parable of the lamp in verses That is just a little reinforcement to me that these two stories are both about the same topic. They are both answering the disciples question. This one is a bit odd sounding at first. Why would God give more to those that have, and take away from those that are lacking. It is actually a common theme in the New Testament. Remember how I m always mentioning the themes of the Bible? This is one of those times. Jesus uses this exact same parable in a different context as well. Here the context is understanding parables, but he also uses this parable when explaining how we should act. That is because this is part of God s personality. We are seeing an insight into his character and it affects various parts of God s kingdom. We have an opportunity right here before us in verses 24 and 25, to get to know something about God s personality. So I m just going to read some of the other passages that have this same theme. Listen to them and see if you can get an idea of what God is trying to teach us.
7 7 Luke 6: Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you. Matthew 7:2 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. What is the second greatest commandment? To love your neighbor as yourself. That is in Matthew 22. Matthew 22: Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law? 37 And he said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. Do you think that loving your neighbor as yourself is related to this idea that whatever measure you use towards other people will be used back on you? Yes. How we treat other people will be taken into account when God deals with us. If we treat others with mercy, then that is how God will treat us. If we mistreat others than at some point, whether during this lifetime or after judgment day, God will repay us for mistreating them. But again, there is more here than just a lesson on how to be a good person. Let s turn to Matthew 25. This parable is a bit longer, so you can read it with me. Matthew 25: For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. 19 Now after a long time the master of
8 8 those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more. 21 His master said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master. 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more. 23 His master said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master. 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours. 26 But his master answered him, You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Again we see this idea that we will be judged based on what we do with God s gifts and those who have will be given more and those who have not, what the do have will be taken away. Here in Matthew 25 we see that God gave each of them something to begin with. Then God judges them based on what they did with the gifts that they were entrusted with. Those that used them wisely were repaid for their faithfulness. Those that were foolish and wasted it were punished and it was taken away from them. They were judged based on their actions. We disrespect God when we neglect what he has entrusted to us. How we treat others is how God will judge us. How we treat what God has entrusted to us will affect how God Judges us. At this point I would like to introduce a new term to you. The term is common grace. This term isn t specifically in the Bible. It is a theological term that we use to describe a teaching that is taught in the Bible. God gives grace to all people in some amount. This is called common grace.
9 9 Here is what I mean by that. Last week we looked at Luke 6. Luke 6:35 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. We see here that God is kind to even the evil and ungrateful people. Matthew 5 also reinforces this point. Matthew 5:45 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. God cares for all people on this earth, whether they deserve it or not. Things like food, clothing and shelter he blesses even the evil people with. That is part of common grace. Common grace is different from saving grace, as common grace does not save a person from hell. Common grace encompases all the good blessings from God that all people receive. But at some point, if the unbeliever continues in their unbelief, even what grace they have received from God will be taken from them. Just as a side note, there is a reason that God does this. He is waiting for us to repent and turn to him. He is giving us time and opportunities to become followers of Jesus Christ. We see that in 2 Peter. 2 Peter 3:9 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. Again, that is just a side note to this sermon, but I hope you see what it means when it says 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. Those of us that continue to grow our knowledge of God into saving faith, we will be rewarded with a deep and personal relationship with Jesus Christ in paradise forever.
10 10 But those that despise and reject God, those who do not have Christ as their savior, even the common grace that they have received will be taken from them as they are tormented in hell forever. So now let s go back and study Mark 4 verses and keep in mind that this is in the context of answering the disciples question about why Jesus used parables. The Parable of the Measures - Mark 4: 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. 25 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. 1. What is the symbolism? The measurement is action. What we do with God s gift (how we act towards God) is how God will act towards us. What is the gift in the measuring cup here? What is he giving us? What is in the Cup? In this parable the gift in the cup is the knowledge of God. God has given us some knowledge of himself. All people have some knowledge of God. We all know that God exists. If you look back throughout history, people have always recognized some type of god. It is just in us to recognize that there has to some kind of greater power. It is only in the last couple of hundred years that we came up with this idea that there is no God. That is simply a hardening of our hearts. We are stubbornly refusing to acknowledge what is obviously right before our eyes. Romans 1: For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. Psalm 19:1-4 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. 2 Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words,
11 11 whose voice is not heard. 4 Their voice ] goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. Creation declares God s existence. Nobody would look at a house or a car or an airplane and say that it just happened. There is too much intelligent design to ignore. People would say that you were either crazy or stupid to make such a claim. Yet even a simple dandelion weed is more complex than any of these. It is only through blind stubbornness and hardness of heart that someone can ignore the genius and wonder in creation and say that there is no god. 2. What can we learn about God from this? God will hold us accountable for our actions. He will hold us accountable for either ignoring his gift of self revelation or for acknowledging it and using it as motivation to pursue more knowledge of God. 3. What does this teach about God s Kingdom? God shares his good news with all people. As we have discussed, the seed is sown to all people. All of creation reveals that there is a God. It is now up to the individual people to do something with it. 4. What is the lesson (The main point)? I think that the answer to this question is the same as question number three that we just answered. We all have some knowledge of God. Some of us have more than others. Those of us that live in a nation where God is commonly taught have no excuse. The knowledge of God is freely available to us. Someday we will be held accountable for what we do with that knowledge. 5. What is the application for us today? This idea that whatever measure we use, will also be used on us is a common theme in the Bible. It is part of the character of God. It applies to multiple topics throughout the Kingdom of God.
12 12 It applies to how we treat each other. It applies to what we do with our God given knowledge of himself. It applies to what we do with our gifts that he has given us. It applies to how responsible we are with what he has entrusted us with. It s not just about how to be a better person, although that is part of it. It is more about learning the personality and character of God. That brings me to my final thoughts for the day. Final Thoughts: I d like to recap what we learned today about God and his kingdom. 1. God has given all people a knowledge of himself. He has revealed himself in our conscience, in creation, in his written Word and in other people telling us about God. We have no excuse. 2. God desires that all people be saved. He is blessing us all with common grace, while he patiently waits and gives us additional opportunities to turn to him. 3. If we persist in refusing God, he will at some point hold us accountable. This is what it means by those that have not, what they do have will be taken away. 4. We as Christians spread the Word of God, but we don t control the soil. It is God who saves people not us. I was talking to Hannah this last week about piano lessons. She made the comment that she can only point her students to the correct way of doing things. It is up to them personally to apply it to themselves. She can t control that part. The same is true when we tell people about God. We simply sow the seed. They control their own soil. And as we will see next week, it is God who causes the seed to grow. 5. God is revealing his truths to us. Many of these were secrete and hidden before, but he will eventually bring all things to light. 6. What measure we use towards God and others will be used on us. Do you see how these parables not only teach us how to live, but they also show us so much more when we take the time to study them? When we take the different passages of the Bible and look at them as one complete picture we can start to see the character of God. And we can start to understand how the Kingdom of God works.