Meeting Jesus

Meeting Jesus: Storyteller

This devotional is written by Maggie Sandilands who is human, except for early mornings.

Mark 4:1-34

4 Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water's edge. 2 He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 3 "Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times."

9 Then Jesus said, "Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear."

10 When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11 He told them, "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that,

"'they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!'"

13 Then Jesus said to them, "Don't you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14 The farmer sows the word. 15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop--some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown."

A Lamp on a Stand

21 He said to them, "Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don't you put it on its stand? 22 For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear."

24 "Consider carefully what you hear," he continued. "With the measure you use, it will be measured to you--and even more. 25 Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them." The Parable of the Growing Seed

26 He also said, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain--first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come."

The Parable of the Mustard Seed

30 Again he said, "What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade."

33 With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. 34 He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.

Reflection

This passage is a series of parables; short stories that use simple, everyday images to illustrate a point. Jesus often used parables to teach people about God (and themselves), to show us what the Kingdom of God is like.

We all love stories, from Beowulf to Buffy, Shakespeare to Star Wars; stories engage us. We identify with the heroes, we relate to the struggles...and this is the point of the parables. Often the meaning is not immediately clear, challenging us to think. To try to understand for ourselves what God is like, and what this means for our own lives.

The Ten Commandments were written on tablets of stone, but the Old Testament is pretty much the story of how God's people continually failed to obey. Lists of moral precepts don't stand a chance against human nature.

Jesus didn't write rulebooks, but he was a master storyteller. Our faith is not meant to be just an intellectual exercise, a list of words or tasks, external to us, that we can pin down, to recite or to forget. Jesus is not looking for legalistic religion; he's looking for a relationship. By telling stories, where we can recognise ourselves in the characters, and where everyday details of seeds or lamps can then become constant reminders in our daily lives, he is forcing us to engage - writing in our hearts and minds, challenging us to change.

Try rereading the passage, not just skimming over the words, but listening; open to what the spirit is saying to you. What does your faith look like today? Is your relationship with God choked by work or worry, or scorched by suffering? Or is it something that gives life to you and to others around you? What story does your life tell about who God is?        

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