By Ben Simpson

 

As we journey through the Witness of Mark, we want to encourage you to first begin with the Daily Reading that will take you through the entire book of Mark. Then, read the First 15 Scripture and Reflection to dive a little deeper into verses from the Daily Reading. 

Today's daily reading is:   Mark 4:26-34

Scripture

Mark 4:33-34

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

Reflection

Jesus taught in parables. Mark tells us this, and we have already seen a few examples. The Greek word for parable means, “to throw alongside.” Alongside what? That’s the question. The parable is a narrative form that invites interaction, engagement, and participation. Parables do not stand alone, and they do not do their work alone. They take up residence next to an experience, a memory, a common dilemma or situation. They thrive on interplay and metaphor and the power of creative connection. Jesus involves the learner in the process of discovery. If you are to learn from Jesus, it is important to have a teachable heart, to play along with him as he tells his stories, his parables. Let them rest alongside your life. Make connections, comparisons. Gain insight. 

Jesus’ parables often got at the Truth, with a capital T, but in a fresh and indirect way. Jesus didn’t always approach “capital T” Truth by an obvious or clear route. Eugene Peterson memorably described Jesus as someone who would “tell it slant.” He borrowed the phrase from the poet Emily Dickinson.

Dickinson put it this way:

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —

Dickinson’s statement that “Truth must dazzle gradually / Or every man be blind” captures the way we most often learn. We’re compelled and drawn in rather than overwhelmed and threatened when we’re wooed or wowed by a presentation of Truth. In the same way that we are more prone to receive the light of day gladly when gradually beckoned forth by the dawn, so too do we welcome Truth when it alights on us slowly, when we perceive contours and colors with our own eyes, when we make discoveries on our own, when we are first invited to bask in the glow and only then step fully into the light.

In Mark 4, Jesus tells parables about a farmer, the way a plant grows in secret, and how the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. There was a public telling, before the crowds, and then careful instruction given directly to the disciples. Jesus always taught in parables. He got people talking, thinking, taking a fresh look at reality. And then he engaged with the disciples. He made connections. He listened. He offered meaning and insight. And then he lived what he taught.

Jesus’ way is instructive for us. We should learn his parables, and tell them. But we should also tell our own. When we see God at work, we should see how those stories can be “thrown alongside” the Scripture texts, or how they can be compared to another’s experience of how God works, inviting engagement and imagination, interaction and discovery. We should also see that sometimes the best way to compel others is to woo them, to invite them, to ask them if they see what you see, rather than attempt to club or force them to embrace your convictions as their own. 

Jesus taught in parables. He continues to teach us. Listen. Wrestle. Engage. And then show and tell others what the kingdom is like. In Matthew 13:52, Jesus says, "Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old." Tell parables. Live a with-God story. Bring out the treasures, both old and new.

Prayer

Father, help me today to see what life in your kingdom is like. Teach me through participation in your kingdom, and as I see what you are like, help me to creatively share with others who you are and what life with you looks like here and now, in my community, family, and congregation. In Jesus’ name. Amen.