Mark 4: 21 – 34 NLT
Parable of the Lamp
21 Then Jesus asked them, “Would anyone light a lamp and then put it under a basket or under a bed? Of course not! A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light will shine. 22 For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to
light. 23 Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
24 Then he added, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given – and you will receive even more. 25 To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.”
Parable of the Growing Seed
26 Jesus also said, “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the
ground. 27 Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. 28 The earth produces the crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens. 29 And as soon as the grain is ready, the farmer comes and harvests it with a sickle, for the harvest time has come.”
Parable of the Mustard Seed
30 Jesus said, “How can I describe the Kingdom of God? What story should I use to illustrate it? 31 It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the smallest of all seeds, 32 but it becomes the largest of all garden plants; it grows long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade.”
33 Jesus used many similar stories and illustrations to teach the people as much as they could understand. 34 In fact, in his public ministry he never taught without using parables; but afterward, when he was alone with his disciples, he explained everything to them.”
Jesus is talking about growing God’s kingdom. If you need light, you don’t put your lamp under a basket or a bed. You put it where the light can shine in that environment. Jesus is not talking about search lights, strobe lights, rows of ceiling lights, etc. Even in his day, important government leaders would have multitudes of lights/candles to keep their palace or gardens brightly lit.
Jesus is talking about one lamp. That’s you! One single person – you! Don’t hide. In practical terms, what does that mean? Let others see you as someone different. They can see a kind person, someone who is friendly and loving. They can see someone who doesn’t hold grudges, is willing to give people a second chance. They see someone who is honest, doesn’t try to cheat on their taxes, or puts in a hard day’s work. There are so many characteristics of Jesus that apply to life in 2020. That’s what the people around us can see.
Be brave. Don’t hide your faith. It doesn’t mean you have to be spouting off about the Bible or religious topics all the time. You’ve probably met someone at work or in your neighbourhood like that; people try to avoid them. But, when an opportunity comes, don’t be afraid to speak. When I look back over my life, I see opportunities when I could have spoken, but didn’t. I was worried about upsetting people, or I wanted to fit in so didn’t want to look religious. I regret those times. I realize now that speaking wouldn’t have had the social consequences I was so afraid of. Talking doesn’t mean you have to be obnoxious, just kindly giving one more opinion in the conversation.
Jesus also told a parable about seeds growing in a farmer’s field quite all by themselves. It’s the natural light of the sun, rain, and rich soil that produces the crop. Those are things the farmer has no control over. He reaps the benefit, but can’t claim to be the sole source of the crop. When we get right down to it, we have to admit that God is the one who is growing his kingdom. We can assist God in a variety of ways, just like the farmer can take care of his fields. But, it is the Holy Spirit who speaks to that person’s soul. It’s God who arranges circumstances that get that individual thinking and pondering about a need for a personal relationship with God.
The third parable was about a mustard seed – “the smallest of all seeds”. Jesus said it could grow to tree size and shelter birds. I wondered about that. Was Jesus exaggerating? So I looked it up on my computer. I discovered mustard plants thrive in full sun with poor soil. That is why they are mostly found in Africa, India and the Middle East. Homeguides.sfgate says, “Mustard bushes reach an average mature height of between 6 and 20 feet with a 20-foot spread, although exceptional plants can reach 30 feet tall under ideal conditions. They have a spreading, multi- stemmed growth habit with a drooping or weeping branch structure.” So that tiny seed does become a huge tree.
Again, we have a plant producing lots of mustard crop with a tiny origin and no results based on human effort. God takes tiny beginnings and grows them. The real growth depends on God, not so much us. We’re definitely needed, but it’s not all up to us. If we have a tendency to want praise and recognition, then that is rather disappointing. We can’t take all the credit. But if you have a tendency to downplay yourself, and think you’re not good enough – then this is such an encouragement. God can take that little we do and turn it into something special.
Jesus began his ministry on earth with a group of 12 ordinary men. They weren’t trained theologians or well-known citizens of their day. They were actually quite a motley crew. But they were the men who would lead the new church and spread the gospel news around the world. Because they were amazing successful men? No! They loved Jesus, and wanted to learn from him. Remember what Jesus said?
“Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given – and you will receive even more. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.” (v. 24 – 25)
When we keep our relationship with God as a priority, and are eager to learn from him, then the growth of God’s kingdom will result. We may not be aware of the seeds we have planted, but God grows them. That is such a challenge for me, and I suspect for you too.