Following on from the Parable of the Sower that Jesus told (which we saw yesterday in Mark 4:1-9) Jesus gives a breakdown of the story, an explanation that probably raises as many questions as it answers…
Parables often defy easy explanation. In one sense they seem like straightforward teaching aids but something more complex also seems to be going on. In today’s reading Jesus suggests that parables are used so that people ‘won’t’ understand. I understand this as being woven through with a kind of mischievous divine irony. He tells a story that explains everything, yet doesn’t give the game away. He goes on to give his disciples a post-story explanation, that surely leaves them with more questions. Why does the sower sow indiscriminately on bad soil as well as good? You can imagine the disciples listening being like ‘But hold up, why is it the road’s fault that it’s a road?”
One of the great things about stories is their open-endedness. I think there are some truths that our tentative human understanding can, for now, only reach indirectly through stories. A truth we glimpse between the characters and settings. Maybe it doesn’t matter if we ‘get it’ right away. Maybe we have to ‘not get it’, to let it bother us for a while, while we live with these stories and grow with them.
This month we are thinking about gifts… and gifts often come wrapped.That’s part of the fun. I believe the stories and gifts Jesus gave us are sometimes deliberately wrapped and invite unwrapping. Like a seed that must break open upon the ground. Gifts we have to keep receiving and unwrapping and sharing, learning anew each generation.
gift us new ways of delighting in the unwrapping
in the journey of understanding —
not just the destination.
Help us enter the story and enjoy the process of receiving your gifts
as much as the gifts themselves.
Thank you for your ever-generosity
10 When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; 12 in order that
“they may indeed look, but not perceive,
and may indeed listen, but not understand;
so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.”’
13 And he said to them, ‘Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 These are the ones on the path where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. 16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy. 17 But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. 18 And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing. 20 And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.’