Understanding Teaching and Events in Life – Mark 4:21-41

The video today deals with our cancel culture and the way God deals with cancels because of our sin. He cancels in direct contrast to the way society cancels people. The Bible Study today deals with Jesus teaching in parables and using the events of life to teach the disciples. The picture for this Bible study, by the way, is the flower I talk about later.

21 And he said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick? 22. For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad. 23. If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.

So, to remind us of the scene, Jesus taught the people using a parable. The disciples asked the meaning and Jesus told them in effect, “you should be understanding parables.” Then, He explained the parable and continued His explanation – with more parables. He talked about having a candle. Candles, or lamps, back then were little containers of olive oil with wicks in them. You wouldn’t want to waste the light of the candles. I imagine Jewish dads of that time went around the house blowing out the lamps that the kids left lit when they didn’t need the light. Jesus compared it to lighting the candle and then hiding it. There would be no purpose in that. The meaning, I believe, relates to our relationship with God. Why would God redeem us and fill us with His Spirit, only to keep us hidden. A lot of people act like they’re undercover Christians with the light of Christ burning in them, but hidden from the world so that no one will ever know who they truly are. That’s ridiculous and completely contrary to God’s purpose for us and call on our lives. In another situation Jesus reminded us to let our light shine before men so that all will see the glory of God in our lives. We can try to hide things from the world, whether it be the light of Christ in our lives or our personal failings and sins. The truth will come out.Conspiracies fail, because the truth will come out. I believe that Jesus was reminding His followers that if they try to hide their faith, it would come out anyway, so they might as well be open about it and share with others. Jesus finished this short piece with a saying He used often. I think that what He means is, if you can hear, then you should seek to understand. (Note: a lot of times you’ll read me talking about what I think while dealing with parables especially. I realize I could be wrong, and so I invite you to examine the meaning for yourself and compare what you think it means with what I think.)

24 And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given. 25. For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.

Jesus cautioned the disciples to be careful who they listen to. It’s a good reminder for us today. The disciples could listen to Jesus, they could listen to the Pharisees and other religious leaders, or they could listen to the people. Who they listened to would develop who they were as people, and how they dealt with others would be how others would deal with them. Today, we have all kinds of voices from all kinds of sources trying to get our attention: radio, TV, videos, social media, newspapers, blogs, friends, family, and we could continue to list all of those vying for our attention. I think Jesus would remind us to keep our focus on God and on His word. All those other distractions will take away from our relationship with God, but the more we listen to Him, the closer we’ll draw to Him; on the other hand, the more we let other sources guide us in life, the less faith we’ll have and even that will be taken from us. I think there are a lot of different ways we could look at these two verses, but the explanation I like best is that we need to treat others with God’s grace and we need to keep our focus on Him and our faith in Him.

26 And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; 27. And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. 28. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. 29. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.

I have often joked that I have a brown thumb. Any plants I try to grow seem to die. But this year, for a variety of reasons, I decided to try and plant some sunflowers. I didn’t do a lot of planting: 2 packets of seed. One variety of sunflower is colorful and the other is the yellow we normally expect when we hear the word “sunflower.” I planted carefully and followed instructions, mainly. About half of the seeds that I planted from the different variety grew; most of the seeds from the yellow sunflowers did. Why? I don’t know. The green stems and leaves came from the ground first and just this week, the colorful sunflowers started blooming. Eventually, I hope to harvest seeds from the colorful and the yellow sunflowers. Jesus used that whole process as a parable to describe the process of evangelism. He began this section with a similar parable about the one who sowed seeds. Evangelism is like the planting process. We sow the seeds, we don’t know how it happens, but we see changes in the lives of those who have been affected by the word of God. Then, the time comes when they’re ready to commit their lives to following Jesus Christ and we work with them immediately to help them commit their lives to Christ. At the same time, we’re reminded that when seeds don’t germinate, when they begin to grow and don’t endure, those issues are usually out of our hands and we can’t accept blame for that. Our job is to be obedient to God by planting, watering, fertilizing, nurturing, and harvesting through His love and grace. Paul used that same illustration in the book of 1 Corinthians to remind us that evangelism is a team effort.

30 And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? 31. It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: 32. But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.

And, the parables kept coming. Jesus told this one specifically about the kingdom of God, and again, He used an example that related to growing plants, something most everyone in the agrarian society could appreciate. In this case, Jesus talked about the mustard seed and the mustard plant. Scientists are quick to point out that there are smaller seeds than mustard seeds, but as I think of who Jesus was talking to and what they did with seeds, perhaps this was the smallest seed that they dealt with. Whatever the case, the mustard seed is small: 1-2 millimeters in diameter. When it germinates and grows, it becomes a great plant; so great that birds can perch in the shade. What was Jesus teaching His disciples here? I think He was reminding them, and us, that even though our efforts to share the kingdom of God may be small in our own eyes, the potential is great in God’s eyes. The story is told that Charles Spurgeon was looking for a church to learn how to be saved. Because of a snowstorm, he changed path and went into a Primitive Methodist Church. The pastor couldn’t make it because of the storm, and the fifteen people there weren’t sure what to do until finally one of them stood up and preached from Isaiah 45:22: “LOOK UNTO ME, AND BE YE SAVED, ALL THE ENDS OF THE EARTH” Because he wasn’t prepared, and because he wasn’t trained as a preacher, the sermon lasted about ten minutes, but Spurgeon had hope. Then, the makeshift preacher looked at him and confronted Spurgeon with his need for Jesus. It seemed such a small thing to most there, who knows how many went home that day joking about the sermon and how they couldn’t wait for the real pastor, but that was the day that Spurgeon was saved. It seemed like a small thing, but what an amazing history grew from that small seed.

33 And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it. 34. But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.

Jesus taught them for a long while, and the whole time He taught them with parables. Knowing how people are, some of them were understood immediately, some were food for thought that the people understood later, and some may never have been understood. The disciples, though, had a fringe benefit. Jesus explained the parables to them. I think that this whole passage is a parable on life. There are a lot of things that happen in life that we don’t understand, but as we grow closer to Jesus, we understand the things we need to because Jesus teaches us, and the other things don’t really matter.

35 And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. 36. And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships. 37. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. 38. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?

When the sun set and evening came, Jesus told them that they needed to cross to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. They sent the multitudes away, got on the boat and took off, apparently followed by other little boats. Then the storm hit. It’s interesting that we don’t hear about the other little boats after the previous verse. My guess is that they saw the storm coming and went back to shore. The disciples were following what Jesus told them to do, and, because Jesus was sleeping, He hadn’t given them other instructions. Finally the storm got so bad that they woke Him. Yes, teaching others is tiring and Jesus slept while the rain was falling on Him and the ship was tossed to and fro. The water rose in the ship and the disciples decided it was time to wake Jesus up. Their call to Jesus was much like my prayers when times get tough: “Lord, don’t you care about me? Don’t you see what’s happening? Don’t you care that we’re all going to die?” Faith falters when trouble comes because, much as we want others to think our lives are perfect, we are imperfect and our faith is also.
39 And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?

I try to imagine what these scenes would look like. I imagine Jesus, soaking wet from the storm and the water rising in the boat, stretching with a giant yawn as He stood up, saying something like, “Come on wind, did you really have to wake me up?” and then looking at the sea and saying, “Cut it out. Peace. Be still.” Then, He turned to the disciples and said something like, “Dudes, it’s cool. Why are you so afraid. I’m right here. Do you think any of these things will harm me? Have some faith.” And then, I imagine that Jesus, still exhausted, went back to His pillow and fell asleep. Obviously, that’s speculation, and there are some word choices that would have been different, but I think it captures the spirit of this part of the story. If anything amazed Jesus, it was either an awesome display of faith by those who didn’t seem to have reason for that faith, or an egregious lack of faith by those who should have known Him and trusted Him. In this case, the disciples showed a lack of faith. I’m not going to say anything bad about them, because I have no doubt that I would have been waking Jesus a lot earlier in the process. I also know that even though I’ve seen Him work in my life and have read what He’s done in the Bible, I still cry out in times of trouble from a lack of faith.

41. And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

What’s scarier: a horrendous storm or a person who can calm the storm by their words? Like I said, I believe Jesus went back to sleep after dispensing with the storm. Meanwhile the disciples were standing on the boat looking at each other and mouthing ‘Did you see that?” and other such exclamations of surprise. I think they did it soundlessly, lest their amazement wake Jesus and subject them to another discussion of their lack of faith. They couldn’t believe what they had just seen, and they probably wondered what they were in for as they followed a guy who had power over the wind and the sea. They hadn’t gotten to the point where they took Jesus for granted, and to be honest, Jesus kept them off balance the whole time He walked with them. We need to be sure that we never lose our sense of awe at the work of God in our lives and in the lives of others. I pray, expecting God to work in those situations. And just like the disciples asked Jesus to help them in the storm, He will often do far more than I imagine as He helps me through difficult times. I hope that I’ll never lose that sense of awe and wonder at the amazing work of God in my life. In our land, we’re going through some figurative storms right now. It may seem that the boat is swamped and there is no hope. I keep crying out to Jesus to heal our land. I pray that when He does, I’ll still be amazed at how He does it.

About rockyfort

I am a retired Middle School Teacher. I share each day what God is teaching me from reading His word hoping that people can benefit from reading what God has taught me.
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