‘Soiler’-alert – Wednesday, 3rd week in ordinary time – Mark 4: 1-20
We often hear that Jesus spoke in parables, so what then is a parable? When translated from the Greek, a parable (parabolê) is an analogy or a comparison but which has only one intended message. This compound word comes from “para” which means “to come along side or compare” and “ballo” which literally means “to throw” or “see” with. However the Hebrew word for parable is msl, pronounced as mâshâl and has a much wider range of meaning, including sayings, stories and even riddles.
This is the first of a series of parables in Mark’s Gospel. Interestingly he even positions it as the key parable when he says, “do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables? (Mark 4:13). There is something in this parable that Mark wants us to sit up and take notice.
Mark’s Gospel is about the Kingdom of God, and in chapter four Mark specifically begins to expose what exactly this kingdom is like. In all of these parables that are strung together in chapter four what emerges is the all-important question, in whom does the kingdom best take root? Who is the good soil?
Mark’s setting for the parable is the Sea of Galilee, the crowds are pressing upon Him to hear His words and so he takes refuge in a boat. The parable clearly has unchangeable components, namely the sower, the soil and the seed. The sower is most certainly God, the soil is the world and the seed is us. What changes is where the seed fell.
But the question one is bound to ask is, what fault is it of the seed that had no choice where it fell? The Gospel writer is not concerned about this issue, remember that this is a parable and he has one message to convey; in whom does the kingdom best take root?
The point being made is, am I open to God’s word? Or do I succumb to the obstacles of the world either directly orchestrated by Satan, by persecution or by my own submission to worldly concerns and pleasures? If the message of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel is to focus on the Kingdom of God then his concern is equally on the characteristics of the disciples in that kingdom.
The early Christians who heard this parable would at once identify what kind of disciple they were in the kingdom of God; for some of them had succumbed to satan even though they heard God’s word. The others that fell on rocky ground received the Gospel with joyous enthusiasm but when persecutions came their way their shallowness in their desire to follow Christ faded away and they abandoned the faith. This was the reality that affected the faith of the early Church. Then there were those who were chocked by worldly concerns, desire for things and deceit of wealth and finally there were those who persevered in the kingdom of God because they acted accordingly.
It is interesting to note that even those who fell on “good soil” and acted accordingly did not all produce the same fruit. We are told that some produced thirty, some sixty and some a hundred fold. This is an interesting observation; for when we look at our spiritual life, even though we may be faithful, our ‘produce’ is still proportionate to our own investment in the kingdom of God.
For those who argued about the ‘lack of choice or consent’ of the previous three seeds will now come to realise that even the seed that fell on ‘good soil’ did not all produce the same result. The point is made more clearly in the fruit of the good seed; God’s desire and man’s cooperation must go hand in hand
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