Saturday, 21 August 2010

Mark 4:1-20 - What does it take?

Ever wondered why some people just can't bring themselves to believe the good news of Jesus and follow him?  Maybe you're not convinced yourself and you wonder why apparently intelligent, reasonable people have given their lives to him.

There are so many responses to Jesus and his message and in this passage, Jesus tells a parable to help us understand why and what his followers should do about it.

Mark 4:1-20

I won't try and explain Jesus' parable too much because he does that himself!  Basically when God's message goes out, there seems to be at least 4 kinds of response...
  1. Path - People hear it but it just bounces off and makes no difference.
  2. Rocky ground - People hear it and follow for a while but it doesn't last because their faith and commitment is not deep enough to withstand the challenges.
  3. Thorns - People hear it, believe and follow but at the same time because of worries and temptations they allow other priorities to crowd in and they live a compromised life.
  4. Good soil - People hear it, believe it, receive Jesus, follow him, begin a life-changing journey, they stick with him through challenges, don't get distracted by other priorities and they share him with others too.
So what about that middle bit where it sounds a bit like Jesus doesn't really want everyone to believe (v10-12)?  What's the problem with everyone turning and being forgiven?  Doesn't Jesus want everyone?

Well I think the right understanding of this is to do with what it takes for a person to respond to Jesus.  Jesus is explaining why he chooses to use parables rather than speaking plainly.  It's about a person having faith so when they hear the message of Jesus, they are able to believe and follow like the person illustrated by the good soil in Jesus' parable.  Jesus doesn't patronise people by laying all the answers down at their feet so the truth is undeniable.  Don't get me wrong, there's tons of evidence for Jesus and all he said and did - including rising from the dead (see Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus from the Dead) but there will always be unanswered questions and doubts.  Jesus is looking for a response that comes from faith - not from having figured it all out.  It's not about unplugging our brains and forgetting about reasoning but if God is bigger than us, there has to be some mystery and so it's no surprise that Jesus doesn't explain everything to everyone.

So if we're scattering seed (sharing Jesus with people), let's scatter all over the place and to all sorts of people.  We'll get a variety of responses but that's how it goes.  Notice that the farmer in Jesus' story didn't carefully aim for the good soil and avoid any seed falling anywhere else.  And besides, we're in no position to judge what a person's response will be.  Let's also pray that people will have faith from God to accept the good news and follow Jesus as we share with them.

And if you're not yet a Christian, have you heard and understood and explored the good news of Jesus?  If so, have you asked God for faith as well as reasoning?  Maybe that will be what it takes!

Mark blog