I had read the Gospel of Mark numerous times.
This morning I was stunned by Mark 4:13! Jesus told His disciples, “If you don’t understand this one parable, how can you understand any?” What great importance Jesus places on this one parable. Why? Somehow it must be at the center-core of God’s call on our lives.
I dug in a bit to discover the “why.”
In this parable of the four soils, Jesus is the farmer sowing His Word in four types of soil representing our hearts. The trampled heart, the shallow heart, the distracted heart and the fruitful heart. In Scripture, the heart is the control center of our lives. Heart is more than just emotions. It’s the place inside us where we gather and store all the data. Everything is sorted out in our heart. We decide how to react or act in light of it all in our heart.
Jesus asks us what the condition of our hearts as we approach the Word of Truth. In our innermost being, whatever we believe brings us life and meaning forms the deepest values in our lives, whether on target or wildly divergent. Jesus says “he who has ears to hear, let him hear.” He means: “I just taught a hard saying for many of you to do because it cuts across the grain of your existing life.”
What do you think is so difficult about doing this?
Jesus gives us a mirror to develop our ongoing self-awareness.
Without such self-awareness, we can never experience the close intimacy with our Family-of-Three for which He yearns. How we respond to His Word reveals the true condition of our heart, not what we verbalize. Our actions, not our stated beliefs best reflect the state of our heart. I come across relatively few Christians who have developed a strategy for life that includes both regular reflection to become self-aware of God’s footsteps and reflection with “one foot raised” in anticipation of putting it into practice.
I see a three-fold application toward growing self-awareness with “one foot raised,” ready for action.
- “How is the general tenor of my heart in this season?” (seasonal discernment)
- “How is my heart today, at this moment?” (immediate discernment)
- “How is my heart in different arenas of life, like at work, in the family, or when I’m alone?” (particular discernment)
For instance, the general tenor of my heart is fruitful since I normally respond quickly. Sunday morning, though, as I was listening to this message, my heart was a bit distant, more distracted. This Spirit-initiated insight led to repentance, a change of mind/heart. Then my heart became responsive again, fruitful. We can also have a fruitful heart in one arena, say Sunday at church, and still have a different heart response in the family, at work, or alone when no one is watching. Ask the self-awareness question often:
“Spirit of wisdom and revelation, what condition best reflects my heart in this moment, in this arena, in this season of life?”
Jesus called His disciples to develop self-awareness with “one foot raised” in anticipation of faith-action (Mark 4:3-20). This call to faith implies a response to Spirit-generated insight. Jesus does not leave His teaching there. He drives it home with three powerful parables as metaphors. All three parables in this chapter are indivisibility united, and necessary both for God’s call to maturity and His call to ministry.
Together the dynamic interaction of all three bring life.
Shine your light since what we pass on from within is the measure used for what we receive (light, Mark 4:21-24)
Scatter God’s seed since He causes growth without our frantic efforts (growing seed, Mark 4:26-29).
Ignore Outward Appearance since God’s Kingdom is not limited by what we consider our meager contribution (mustard seed, Mark 4:30-32).
“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (Jesus in John 20:21).
Then Jesus, the great trainer, brought them into circumstances to personally test their faith in their new-found knowledge. He carved out space for them to learn (He slept in the boat) so they had opportunity to work this out in their lives (Mark 4:35-41).