“Anyone with ears to hear, listen!”
Previous studies from Mark 4:
- Jesus’ explanation for the use of parables – Mark 4:11-12; 33-34.
- Don’t Be Afraid – Mark 4:35-41.
- Parable of the Lamp – Mark 4:21-25.
Read Mark 4, only verses 1-9, the parable that Jesus used to teach the crowd.
- Consider the historical context: Who do you imagine hearing these words? Remember this is largely an agrarian society of subsistence farming and herding. Although we know that persons of power and money showed up to hear Jesus, we might imagine that many of those present were intimately familiar with this method of sowing seed and the harvest to be expected. Myers, et.al.* suggest, “In reality, a bumper crop for a Palestinian farmer was at best six-fold.”
- Reread the original parable as if you were one of these farmers. What might your hearing and understanding have been? What might have grasped your attention? What do you consider to be Jesus’ central point?
Read Mark 4:10-20, the explanation Jesus gave to his closer circle of disciples. Although it is generally encouraged to not allegorize parables, i.e. to not find symbolic meaning for each character or action, in this instance, Jesus apparently does provide an explanation for each type of soil and result. Notice how Jesus prefaces the explanation.
Why might Jesus have chosen to offer this explanation to the disciples?
Read Mark 4:21-34. Observe the repeated themes in all the parables that are grouped here by Mark.
What might have been the problem, question or attitude that prompted Jesus to tell these parables?
Become aware of what surprises you. What is key idea speaks into your personal, congregational or cultural context? How are you listening and understanding? What action might be required of you?
The Sower with setting sun – Vincent van Gogh, 1888, public domain
*Myers, Chad, Dennis, Marie, Nangle, Joseph, Moe-Lobeda, Cynthia & Taylor, Stuart, “Say to This Mountain”: Mark’s Story of Discipleship, Ed. Karen Lattea, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 1996.