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Gene’s Daily Scriptural Postings

Reflective Bible Study.

Flashback Episode — Teaching with Parables: Mark 4:21-34

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Flashback Episode: Year in Mark – Episode 10: Discover some huge truths Jesus shares when we look at a short passage of parables Jesus shares, and see a big truth about how God wants us to understand what Jesus shared through how Mark summarizes this section of his gospel.

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Read the transcript:

As Mark continues to tell us about Jesus, he decides to include more parables and illustrations Jesus shared. In the set of parables that we will focus on for this episode, we will discover how Jesus both explains and challenges those present with His teaching.

Our passage is found in Mark’s gospel, chapter 4, and we will read from the New Century Version. Starting in verse 21:

21 Then Jesus said to them, “Do you hide a lamp under a bowl or under a bed? No! You put the lamp on a lampstand. 22 Everything that is hidden will be made clear and every secret thing will be made known. 23 Let those with ears use them and listen!

24 “Think carefully about what you hear. The way you give to others is the way God will give to you, but God will give you even more. 25 Those who have understanding will be given more. But those who do not have understanding, even what they have will be taken away from them.”

Let’s pause briefly here because something Jesus just said jumped out at me. In the challenge Jesus just shared, we see a warning cautioning us to pay attention to what we hear. While this warning makes sense in the context of having understanding, between these two ideas that sound connected is an idea that sounds different. The way the New Century Version translated this distinct idea is: “The way you give to others is the way God will give to you, but God will give you even more.

If we switch translations and read this phrase from a different one, such as the New International Version, we see this idea translated: “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more.

This is one reason why I like having and using many different translations. While I don’t know the original languages of the Bible, having many different translations helps me see new angles on passages such as this one.

If we had simply chosen to use the New International Version, which is likely a little more accurate in this instance, we might have simply jumped to the idea that we are to hold off on judging, stereotyping, or condemning others because if we do this to others, even more of it will be done to us.

This is a huge truth.

However, if we had simply stayed with the New Century Version, we might be tempted to think this was a brief message that we should be generous and give money to the poor so that God will reward us in ways that only He can.

This too is a huge truth.

However, when we put both translations together we see an amazing truth that the way we show grace and forgiveness towards others is the same way we show grace and forgiveness to God, and when we show grace and forgiveness towards others, God shows significantly more grace and forgiveness towards us!

However, Jesus isn’t finished shared. Continuing reading our passage, using the New Century Version, and picking back up in verse 26:

26 Then Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is like someone who plants seed in the ground. 27 Night and day, whether the person is asleep or awake, the seed still grows, but the person does not know how it grows. 28 By itself the earth produces grain. First the plant grows, then the head, and then all the grain in the head. 29 When the grain is ready, the farmer cuts it, because this is the harvest time.”

30 Then Jesus said, “How can I show you what the kingdom of God is like? What story can I use to explain it? 31 The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, the smallest seed you plant in the ground. 32 But when planted, this seed grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants. It produces large branches, and the wild birds can make nests in its shade.”

33 Jesus used many stories like these to teach the crowd God’s message—as much as they could understand. 34 He always used stories to teach them. But when he and his followers were alone, Jesus explained everything to them.

From reading this passage, I get the impression that Jesus loved sharing stories and wrapping spiritual truths into stories that everyone could understand. However, we might be tempted to jump over Mark’s summary statement at the end of this verse, but this would be a mistake because in Mark’s summary, we discover two big ideas.

The first idea is within verse 33 and the first part of verse 34. Mark tells us that “Jesus used many stories like these to teach the crowd God’s message—as much as they could understand. He always used stories to teach them.” The big idea I see in this verse is that Jesus structured His stories specifically for His audience. Jesus wanted those in the crowds to understand God’s truth, and He shared God’s truth in ways that those in the crowds could understand it.

The second idea is in the last portion of verse 34, where Mark follows up by saying that “when he and his followers were alone, Jesus explained everything to them.” This tells me that Jesus really wants His followers and His disciples to understand what He taught and shared. While Jesus always used stories and illustrations in public, according to Mark, Jesus explained everything when He and the disciples were alone.

One big truth I see in this idea is that God might be waiting to explain something we are struggling to understand until we are alone with Him. While God sometimes will bring people into our lives to help us understand, other times, He wants to teach us directly as we study the Bible. While not everyone in the crowd would understand all the layers of truth in Jesus’ illustrations, Jesus wanted His disciples to know and understand everything He taught.

Another truth in this set of verses is that Jesus specifically made time to be alone with His followers. While we might get the impression that there was never times where Jesus was not without a crowd of people prior to the night of His arrest, Mark alludes to times of public ministry, as well as times where Jesus would leave the crowds and focus specifically on His group of disciples.

While it would have been amazing to sit at the feet of Jesus while He walked the earth in the first century, we can figuratively do this when we stop and intentionally read what the gospel writers share.

Some might be quick to point out that this isn’t the same, which is true, but this is the best we can do during this stage of history. Sitting and reading the gospels is actually better than you might realize because when we dedicate time to reading and studying the Bible, God’s Holy Spirit is ready and willing to come and help us understand what God wants to teach us. All the Holy Spirit is waiting for is an open mind and an invitation to come. With these two things in place, we are ready to study God’s Word and understand what He wants to teach us with the Holy Spirit’s help!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, intentionally seek God first in your life and choose to dedicate time in your life to spend with Him. While it might be easy to jump in and focus on reading and studying, which we should be doing, perhaps the first thing we should do when deciding to spend time with God is to pause, pray, and extend grace to God, similar to what we discovered in the first part of our passage.

When we open our Bibles, we want God to teach us and help us understand, and we should extend God grace because sometimes God will do things that we don’t understand, or things that make us confused. Extending grace to God means that we seek to understand God’s will and actions while also being okay if something doesn’t make sense right now. God is worthy of our trust even if some things He does don’t make sense from our limited perspective.

Speaking of opening our Bibles, always continue to pray and study the Bible for yourself. While it is very easy to simply move through life coasting on the thoughts and ideas of others, you shortchange your spiritual lives by staying dependant on others. Not only do you risk being deceived, you also risk your actual spiritual growth because when you filter your growth through other people, you cannot grow past where that person has grown. God wants more for you than you might realize, and mixed in with all the blessings He wants to give to you, a personal relationship with you is among the most important of these blessings.   

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or deviate away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

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