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Who Do You Say I Am?
The Gospel of Mark

More Parables

 

This morning we are going to learn four lessons and then take an examination.  Or at least, we will listen in on Jesus as he teaches his disciples, four lessons and, then, watch as they take the test.  That is a lot to do so let’s get busy. 

Mark 4:21-23 And Jesus 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." 

Perhaps, if Jesus were alive today he might tell the parable of the microphone.  No one takes a microphone and places it under a pillow… but puts it on a stand so all to hear.  For everything that is now told in whispers, will be loud enough for all to hear! The point would be the same…

Jesus clues them in.  If you have ears you need to pay attention to this… “The things I am teaching you in private; the lessons I am teaching you in these parables; in secret, is one day going to be big news that spreads around the world!  If Jesus had known the word viral…he might have said, “The stuff I am teaching you in private will one day go viral!”  It is hidden now… but just wait the word will be made manifest!

Lesson Number One: These hidden parables are going change the world.

Lesson number two…

Mark 4:24-25 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." 

This is not talking about justice, it’s talking about hearing.  This parable in Mark continues the flow of thought about the parables of chapter 4.  These parables I am teaching you are going to take you deeper and deeper into truth. To the measure; to the level; to the amount of effort you put into listening… will be the amount you get out of these lessons.

The deeper you go into learning about the kingdom the more you will get.  The closer you listen the more you will hear.  Those who don’t pay attention to the teachings of Jesus aren’t going to get it.

Lesson Number Two: The deeper you go, the more you get.

I’m liking it so far… Lesson number three.

Mark 4:26-29 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." 

This seems pretty obvious.  A farmer doesn’t really know how a plant grows.  He knows how to sow it; fertilize it; water it, pull out the weeds; keep out the bugs and then the farmer knows how to harvest it… but as to the biology of plant reproduction, not so much.  And it doesn’t matter.  The farmer doesn’t need to know what happens on the cellular level of a plant.  God has created the plant.  The plant knows how to grow. 

On the surface… the lesson is the same as the poem…by Joyce Kilmer.

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree…

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

The surface point is the Kingdom grows on its own.

But if we apply lesson number two - the deeper you go, the more you get. - We discover that, the sickle and harvest part is a quote from Joel 3:13. “You’re kidding.”

Joel 3:11-14 Hasten and come, all you surrounding nations, and gather yourselves there. Bring down your warriors, O LORD.  Let the nations stir themselves up and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations.  Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Go in, tread, for the winepress is full. The vats overflow, for their evil is great.  Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.

Going deeper the more you get… Jesus isn’t talking about completely about the kingdom knowing how to grow on its own.  Jesus is saying the seed he is planting, these hidden parables, these lessons he is teaching his disciples, are going to lead to a day when all the nations are going to the valley of decision.  The kingdom of God is going to advance to the ends of the earth!  The nations will be stirred up.   The seed we are planting, now, will be huge, on the day!  The kingdom knows how to grow, sure.  But the deeper point is the kingdom is going to blow up all over the world!

His twelve disciples, as they learn these parables, are going to plant the seed of the word and without them knowing how it works the plants will grow. The kingdom will spread, until it covers the world and forces all the nations to make a decision about Jesus!

Lesson Number Three: Kingdom growth is going to happen.

Let’s do one more lesson and then we get the exam.

Mark 4:30-32 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." 

On the surface, Lesson Number Four is pretty much the same as Lesson Number Three… Growth is going to happen.  But if we go a little deeper to get a little more, we discover Jesus is jacking with a whole class Old Testament parables about plants starting small and growing large.

In Judges, in the Kings, in Ezekiel 17, and Ezekiel 31 and Daniel 4 there are parables of trees that grow to massive heights. In those huge cedar trees, all the animals come to make their home.  These are gorgeous trees that reflect the glory of the ancient empires.  But most of those stories the trees are cut down as God decides to show his own mighty power.

Here is the cool part of what Jesus is doing.  Instead of mighty cedar trees, the kingdom of God is like a nasty mustard bush.  What?  The kingdom of God does not grow, as you would expect into a towering Sequoia, but a mustard bush.  Mustard bushes at the time of Christ were wild invasive plants.

Pliny the Elder, who lived between 23 and 79 AD, overlapping Jesus, wrote about the mustard plant in his encyclopedia "Natural History".

With its pungent taste and fiery effect, mustard is extremely beneficial for the health. It grows entirely wild, though it is improved by being transplanted: but on the other hand, when it has once been sown, it is scarcely possible to get the place free of it, as the seed when it falls germinates at once. -- Pliny the Elder

The point of this lesson is more than just a tiny seed can grow to something big. That was lesson number three.  The deeper point is… the kingdom grows out of control.  The kingdom takes over the garden. It is not so much larger than the other garden plants but the point is it spread all over.  Who wants birds’ nests in their garden? Who wants the sinners as part of the garden?  Jesus.

 If Jesus were alive today, I think he would say, “The kingdom of heaven is like Kudzu…”  It is invasive.  It is dangerous.  It is nasty!  It is pervasive!  It grows it unexpected places.  In includes sinners.  It covers the world. It is kudzu!

Lesson Four: The kingdom is invasive!... like Kudzu.

Mark 4:33-39 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 

Lesson Number One: These hidden parables are going change the world.

Lesson Number Two: The deeper you go, the more you get.

Lesson Number Three: Kingdom growth is going to happen.

Lesson Number Four: The kingdom is invasive!

Now here is the examination…

Mark 4:35-41 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side."  And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him.  And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?" And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?"

The disciples failed the examination.  All four lessons we have learned today are about faith. 

--Faith… Jesus the light of the world.  His word is going to change everything.

--Faith… Jesus is the word, who takes you deep into truth.

--Faith… The kingdom of God is going to overcome the world.

--Faith… The kingdom is going to kudzu the world.

 

Faith… was Jesus going to drown in a boating accident?  Come on man!  Have some faith!  The disciples failed their exam.  They were afraid Jesus was going to drown in the Sea of Galilee… seriously.  The disciples failed the faith test.

But let’s go a little deeper to get a little more.

Trivia Question… Who else was asleep in a boat during a storm who was waken because they thought they were perishing?  Jonah!

Jonah 1:4-5 But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep.

Jonah, like Jesus, was asleep during a storm.  Coincidence? I think not.

Here is where it gets interesting.  Jonah was commissioned to take the word of God to the nations; particularly, Nineveh.  God was determined for Jonah to spread the word.

Jonah 3:1-5,10 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you."  So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days' journey in breadth.  Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's journey. And he called out, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!"  And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.  10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

Wow, just like our four lessons.  The word of God is going to grow and be invasive and go kudzu on unheard places.  Jesus was doing Jonah taking the word of God to unexpected places!

But it gets deeper even still… Listen to Psalm 65.

Psalm 65:5-8 By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas; the one who by his strength established the mountains, being girded with might; who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples, so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs.

Jesus is the awesome God of Psalm 65, whose power to calm the sea brings hope to the ends of the earth!  That’s us. 

What Jesus predicted would happen… has happened. 

Jesus told his disciples that…

--The parables would change the world… They have!  The parable of the mustard seed… viral.

--The deeper you go the more you get… It does! How enjoyable is to keep digging deeper into the Word of God… changing the world!

--His kingdom would grow – There are a billion Christians! China – Gazillion of Christians. South America – tons of Christens!

--The kudzu kingdom would invade the earth… It continues!

--Like Jonah, Jesus rose from the depths to take the word go to unexpected places. – Like Los Alamos, New Mexico.  Who expected that?

--Jesus is the awesome God who stills wind and sea and those of us at the ends of the earth are in awe of his signs!

Am I right? 

The disciples after hearing, “Peace Be Still!” and seeing the wind stop and sea calm, are stunned.  They ask the question we are asking this year… "Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?"

Who then is this?  Wow!  Who then is this? 

 

Tim Stidham

April 23, 2016

Los Alamos Church of Christ



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