“With many parables...Jesus spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it...but he explained everything in private to his disciples”. Mark 4. 34
Well, lucky disciples! Having heard read a parable about some growing seed and another about Mustard Seed, they get a private explanation and we are left in the dark. So let’s try to unpick what was going on and see if we can glean some meaning.
Going back to verse 10, which was not read, Mark tells us a little about those private meetings. It seems the disciples asked questions and Jesus provided answers. When they asked, Jesus told them the secret of the Kingdom of God, but everyone else had to work it out for themselves from the parable. In my view, this information doesn’t much help to find out the secret surrounding the Kingdom of God. So having listened to both parables, we must try to work out the secret for ourselves. Mark is very keen for us to do this, because earlier in the chapter he repeats the phrase “anyone with ears to hear, listen. And he does not mean hear an entertaining puzzle; he means Listen carefully, with understanding, and amend the way you live accordingly. Hearing a parable demands a positive response.
Both parables refer the Kingdom of God. It is easy to work out that this Kingdom is where God’s influence is felt: it is where God reigns supreme, where God lays down the law of love, and where God invites us to live life with meaning and purpose. And this Kingdom holds a secret.
As an entity, God’s Kingdom offered a more purposeful way of life than that offered by the Roman Empire in which Jesus and his disciples lived. Whilst true, that was not the secret. Today, we could say that God’s Kingdom offers us a more purposeful way of life than that offered by the United Kingdom. Given that Government today has a much better approach to the welfare of its citizens, we may be able to perceive that God’s Kingdom has become a little nearer in modern times. Whilst true, this is not the secret.
The clue to the secret lies in the parables.
The first parable states that the Kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground. We can ask ourselves, what happens when we scatter seed on the ground in our garden? It grows! Just as seeds grow, so does the kingdom. How a seed grows remains a mystery; a seed can lay dormant for years or can pop-up in days. The suggestion is that God’s Kingdom grows in a similar fashion. There is no telling how its influence will change lives. But, are we any nearer discovering the secret of the Kingdom of God?
The second parable states that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed – small, but with potential to grow so big that birds may nest in its branches. We can ask ourselves what does this exponential growth signify? Fantastic Energy, attracting outsiders to its shelter, bringing in people who will disrupt the neat expectations of insiders sowing the seed. But are we any nearer discovering the secret of the Kingdom of God?
Putting the evidence together we can draw a picture of the Kingdom of God: it offers a more purposeful way to live life; there is no telling how and in what direction the Kingdom of God will influence life; and there is great energy to be found in the Kingdom of God, it cannot be held back by clubbable insiders, it cannot fail to be influenced by outsiders.
So what is the secret? Surely, it is that anyone who hears and understands the evidence of these parables can take their place in the Kingdom of God. That’s you....that’s also members of your family....and your friends....and the people you know in the neighbourhood. But, how are these people going to find out about the Kingdom of God, unless you and I sow the seed in their mind. Give them something to think about. Have they noticed that you live in God’s realm? Have they noticed that you follow God’s law of love? Do they see that your Christian life has a meaning and purpose far above the level offered by other ways of life? For other people to find the secret of the Kingdom of God all they need is for you to put the seed into their mind. God’s Kingdom will grow all by itself, with great energy and effectiveness. Don’t keep it a secret!