And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
Mark 4: 21 – 25 (ESV)
Jesus has selected his disciples and gathered them around himself. In Mark, the teaching moves on to his establishing of community of the disciples, founded on his ministry to the apostles. His choosing of twelve was a political act, a statement that something new was happening. His authority has been established and even the demons are declaring who he is.
In the parable of the sower Jesus indicates how the coming kingdom is not the kingdom anticipated. He explains why the re-sowing of Israel is not as they expected. The reason? The pride of Israel, the old wine skin; the torn garment; could not contain the kingdom. This is only visible to those whose hearts are prepared and from whose hearts much fruit will be revealed.
Jesus was not teaching a renewal but a reformation of Israel, starting with the apostles. They had the privilege to learn in secret but, as they had seen with Jesus, the going was going to get tough. Soon the truths they were learning would bring controversy. Then they will become immersed in conflict and opposition.
What was being revealed to them was essential and they needed to listen. We need to hear and go deeper. Everything they understood they had to take to heart, and seek after, if they were to inherit this kingdom.
The story continues; the theme is deepened. If they don’t listen and seek after what they have heard then when things get confusing and difficult they will walk away from the truth and lose the kingdom.
So for us today we have the same imperative. What we know about Jesus, be it so small, we need to get hold of it. Surely God is speaking to each one of us and the little we hear is sufficient for us to go deeper and deeper with. The work we put in to understanding what we know; the time we spend exploring what God has revealed to us will pay us back. And this is essential work as, when we are confronted with confusion and opposition, what we have made our own and know by revelation is what will sustain us. It is difficult to stand for what someone else understands and to pretend to a great understanding that’s not ours. We ultimately lose even what we know if we try. We are all experts in what God has spoken to us and should pursue this.
We are encouraged to hear God and go deeper. We will then hear more and, by experience, deepen our knowing. Jesus is calling his disciples out of a superficial understanding of the re-sowing of Israel, to come into a deeper understanding of how God is preparing to restore Israel to be a blessing in the whole world. The field is the world and there will be opposition. Our hearing God’s word will enable us to stand when opposition comes.
Jesus is the light. He is the lamp that guides. The apostles were being trained. Soon this light would be raised up for all to see. But were they expecting the cross? When this light shone out, what they knew would be tested. What they had heard proved. If we do not take the seeds of God’s word to heart we become lost in the confusion of disappointment and find ourselves unable to follow. Praise be to God’s mercy and Grace.