A kingdom of surprises – Memorial of St Timothy and Titus – Mark 4:26-34

A kingdom of surprises – Memorial of St Timothy and Titus – Mark 4:26-34

While the Gospel text of today is a continuation of the Gospel of Mark, the memorial is dedicated to Saints Timothy and Titus. To read about the saints, please click on this link

By profession Jesus was a carpenter but judging by the parables found in the fourth chapter of the Gospel of Mark one would be inclined to think that Jesus was a farmer. Yes, Jesus did make some comparisons to his profession as a carpenter when he said “my yoke is easy and my burden light” but those comparisons stemming from his profession were between few and far. Compare the number of parables that he took from the world of farming.

Chapter four began with what has come to be known as the parable of the sower though it should be appropriately called the parable of the seed. For Jesus this was a fundamental parable, a key parable to understand all other parables (Mark 4: 13). He now settles on two more parables based on farming and seeds to indicate that God’s new order will take root and eventually come to fruition, whether people desire it or not.

The first of these two parables is not found in any other Gospel. In many ways it is predictable and boring and does not have a sensational ending. Here, “someone” scatters seeds on the ground. When you normally think of sowing you would think of a farmer; not so in this case. The sower could be any one with just any purpose and yet the focus is not on the sower but on what God desires for the seed.

Look around and you will realise that the kingdom of God has many sowers or “someone’s” with many personal agendas for sowing. There could be those who sow for monetary gain or there could be those who sow for fame. What every be their intention of sowing it is God who works in the seed bringing it to full grain on the head or as the Greek word would rightly translate is as “to fruition. ” The focus of the parable is not on the sower but on the power of God to work in the seed and his working is a matter of fact. With this parable, Jesus shows the way the word of God works with hidden and mysterious power, just like a seed.

But there is another way of also looking at this parable. We are told that the sower is a “someone” who simply sows in the kingdom. He or she does not water or weed, just sows and waits in peaceful trust. The rest is done by God! This is a great way in understanding our partnering with God. God wants us all to be the “someone” that sows. He does not ask us if we have a qualification in farming, he just wants to know if we are willing to sow.

Once we scatter the seed our job is done and he takes over but we must be willing to scatter the seed. Having done that, we move over and let the miracle of God shine through. Micro managers have no place in this model of God’s kingdom for the kingdom calls for a partnership of trust; knowing that my work is done and God does the rest.

The Gospel also presents us with the second parable, that of the mustard seed which we are told is the smallest of seeds. Is it? It is not, nor is the end result as described true. The mustard seed at the time of Jesus was considered a garden pest; it grew all over and at its height was just three feet tall. It was certainly not the greatest of all shrubs and the rest of the descriptions in the Gospel is equally dubious. So was Jesus telling us a fairy tale? 

Jesus was making a point. Everyone was familiar with this ordinary seed and this garden shrub. While we see the obvious we fail to see the deeper meaning. What could one expect from something as small as a mustard seed or for that matter what could one expect from a wandering Rabbi like Jesus and a few disciples? Yet God is the one who works the unexpected. A garden shrub that seems insignificant and even a pest, becomes the shelter for the birds of the air to makes nests in its shade. The kingdom grows from the tiniest whisper, and from the most unexpected source. The kingdom is full of surprises!

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