I like how the apostle Mark writes about Jesus in this next story… “Again He began to teach by the sea, and a very large crowd gathered around Him. So He got into a boat on the sea and sat down, while the whole crowd was on the shore facing the sea.”
Imagine Mark telling about the details of what he saw – Jesus stepping into the boat, the crowd on the shore facing the sea – just like we would describe some great person or event we encountered – his every movement, where he went, who was there, and what he did.
No matter what your opinion of Jesus, this one person changed the course of history in just 3 years – with little means or status, with words that are wise beyond compare, and we are still talking about it today, over 2000 years later.
Mark 4: 1-9 ~ Parable of the Sower
Again He began to teach by the sea, and a very large crowd gathered around Him. So He got into a boat on the sea and sat down, while the whole crowd was on the shore facing the sea. He taught them many things in parables, and in His teaching He said to them:
“Listen! Consider the sower who went out to sow.As he sowed, this occurred: Some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.Other seed fell on rocky ground where it didn’t have much soil, and it sprang up right away, since it didn’t have deep soil.When the sun came up, it was scorched, and since it didn’t have a root, it withered.Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it didn’t produce a crop.Still others fell on good ground and produced a crop that increased 30, 60, and 100 times what was sown.”
Then He said, “Anyone who has ears to hear should listen!”
“All humanity winds up in a taxi at one point or another.” – Dorothea Benton Frank, American author
I just love that line from one of her novels. All of us, at least once in our life, have gotten lost. We took a wrong turn, or we weren’t paying attention, or we just didn’t know where to go next. Maybe we were running away, or perhaps we were returning home – anxious, excited, scared, alone. We’ve all sat in the back seat of that taxi, in an unfamiliar place, dependent on a driver who probably doesn’t speak our language very well, waiting to be taken somewhere. Suddenly our status, our money, our past – none of that seems to matter sitting in the back seat of a taxi. We are all the same, wanting to belong, wanting to go somewhere, trying to figure out the secret, or if there really is one.
Jesus said his parables contain “the secret of the kingdom of God”. (Mark 4:11)
And the parable he told about the lost sheep touches us all. It describes God’s greatest desire and love for us. It is a child who returns, a heart that repents, a voice crying out to God, and someone to lead us safely home.
~ Matthew 18:10-14 The Parable of the Lost Sheep ~
Jesus said, “See that you don’t look down on one of these little ones, because I tell you that in heaven their angels continually view the face of My Father in heaven. [For the Son of Man has come to save the lost.]
What do you think? If a man has 100 sheep, and one of them goes astray, won’t he leave the 99 on the hillside and go and search for the stray? And if he finds it, I assure you: He rejoices over that sheep more than over the 99 that did not go astray. In the same way, it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones perish.”
The overall theme throughout the entire Bible shows God seeking out his children and bringing them back to him. When Jesus came, he continued that same theme of His Father. Jesus did not make it difficult with a long list of rules to follow, or require that we have everything figured out first or make sure our house was all in order. Jesus simply said, “Follow Me.” Accept My Grace. And I will show you the way.
“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
Jesus could have easily been talking about the fair-weathered or pretend Christians of today when he was telling the parable of the Wheat and Weeds. Hardly a week goes by where we do not hear the surprising and shocking news of someone who is not the person they had pretended to be. Jesus never asked us to be perfect (for He is the only perfect one), but he did ask us to be authentic.
It reminds me of a time earlier this summer when I attended a small seaside church near the beach. The sights and sounds of the ocean always bring to my mind images of Jesus’ ministry – the fisherman disciples, their boats and fishing nets, shipwrecks and storms, and Jesus cooking breakfast on the beach for his disciples. So as I sat in church on that Sunday morning, listening to the music and pondering my thoughts, I saw a man walk in late just as the music had finished and the preaching started. The man shuffled his way through the row of people and took the empty seat next to me. He was nicely dressed – perhaps a little too nice for a seaside church where sandals are more the norm; and he smelled nice too – of expensive cologne and wearing an impressive watch. As the preacher began his sermon, the man opened his Bible, took out his notebook and fancy pen, and shouted a few loud “Amen’s” here and there, nodding to the preacher. I saw that he wrote down the title of the sermon in his notebook, while saying a few more “Amen’s”. I was impressed for a few minutes. But then he never wrote another word in his notebook. At the end of the sermon, when the music started back and the preacher gave an invitation for anyone who wanted to follow Jesus, the man packed up his things, climbed over all the people again, and left.
I don’t think Jesus was impressed with his show. Jesus would rather see someone come to the church in their wrinkled and disheveled clothes, worn out from the stresses and burdens this world can sometimes bring, falling down on their knees, pouring out their heart to Jesus and asking for His help. Authentic and Repentful.
The reason some people were angry with Jesus during his ministry on earth and chose not to follow him was because Jesus was not impressed with their wealth or status. How aggravating that must have been for them!
Jesus used ordinary people – fisherman, tent-makers, tax collectors and sinners, a prostitute, and a murderer (Paul) – and He made them extraordinary. Now that is impressive.
~ Matthew 13:1-2, 18-30 Parable of The Sower, and The Wheat and Weeds ~
On that day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. Such large crowds gathered around Him that He got into a boat and sat down, while the whole crowd stood on the shore.
“You, then, listen to the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word about the kingdom and doesn’t understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the one sown along the path. And the one sown on rocky ground—this is one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. Yet he has no root in himself, but is short-lived. When pressure or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Now the one sown among the thorns—this is one who hears the word, but the worries of this age and the seduction of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. But the one sown on the good ground—this is one who hears and understands the word, who does bear fruit and yields: some 100, some 60, some 30 times what was sown.”
He presented another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while people were sleeping, his enemy came, sowed weeds among the wheat, and left. When the plants sprouted and produced grain, then the weeds also appeared. The landowner’s slaves came to him and said, ‘Master, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Then where did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this!’ he told them. ‘So, do you want us to go and gather them up?’ the slaves asked him.
‘No,’ he said. ‘When you gather up the weeds, you might also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At harvest time I’ll tell the reapers: Gather the weeds first and tie them in bundles to burn them, but store the wheat in my barn.’”
Not many things pass the test of time. Fads quickly come and go. Languages evolve. Styles change. But storytelling has always remained constant. Two thousand years ago Jesus told parables to the people, and those stories are still memorable and relevant today. Almost everyone has heard them in some form. We cannot say the same about most other things. But it was not a common practice in Jesus’ time to speak in parables. The disciples began to ask Jesus why he was spoke in such a way. In fact, they often questioned Jesus about why he did certain things, especially things that seemed contrary to the current thinking or way of life.
Why did Jesus do what he did and say what he said?
The only explanation is that He must have known something that we did not. Something we could not see.
If someone had insight into heaven, knew the past and the future, knew God’s will intimately and had been there from the beginning, then that person would most certainly act differently and speak differently. Otherwise they would be a fraud.
Why did Jesus agree to die the humble death that he did on the cross, when his power was already well-known through his miracles of healing the sick and raising the dead? Even the people watching at the cross wondered why he didn’t just come down. The reason: He knew something more than just what was happening at that moment.
~ Matthew 13:10-17 Jesus speaking in parables ~
Then the disciples came up and asked Jesus, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”
He answered them, “Because the secrets of the kingdom of heaven have been given for you to know, but it has not been given to them. For whoever has, more will be given to him, and he will have more than enough. But whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. For this reason I speak to them in parables, because looking they do not see, and hearing they do not listen or understand. Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:
You will listen and listen, yet never understand; and you will look and look, yet never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown callous; their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn back— and I would cure them.
“But your eyes are blessed because they do see, and your ears because they do hear! For I assure you: Many prophets and righteous people longed to see the things yousee yet didn’t see them; to hear the things you hear yet didn’t hear them.”
Isaiah also must have had knowledge of something more. Do you want to know what God is like? Isaiah 51-58 gives a wonderful insight into God’s view, the past and the future, a hope and a warning.