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Mar 19 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Meditations In Mark, chapter 4 03/19/2023



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning RefleXion Community. The Lord is with you!          The recent talk of The Jesus Movement got me thinking about movements, flow, streams and rivers.  Rivers are mentioned in Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.  I especially love Psalm 46:4, There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.

Some of us here and online were a part of what was called The Jesus Movement, or we have been involved in other movements—things that seemed important to us at a certain time.  And, whether these movements came and went, or grew and changed, I picture these movements as parts of the larger river.  For instance, you may see The Jesus Movement as a wave, a whirlpool, a bit of white water.  They are in themselves important things, but we can’t forget that they may come and go, and they are still all part of the larger flow of the river, and we are all held and carried by that river.  The movement of God has had its own pace and form since the beginning of time, and who knows how it was before that.  Jesus didn’t let little disturbances cause Him to doubt or sideline his movement.  He knew that He was in the Flow of the River carried forward in the time and way of the Holy Spirit, for His Father’s purposes.

“Aslan is on the move” (do you remember the Beaver’s word to the children in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe?).  Aslan was a Lion and the True King of the land.  The Beaver says, “They say Aslan is on the move- perhaps has already landed.”

The story goes on.  And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different. Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don’t understand, but in the dream it feels as if it has some enormous meaning- either a terrifying one which turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and are always wishing you could get into that dream again. It was like that now. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in their inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.

Let me read you the first few verses from the last chapter of the book of Revelation; this is where the river is taking us. What do you feel as you hear it?  Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations. No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him.  And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. And there will be no night there–no need for lamps or sun–for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever.”  Do you feel something jump on your inside?  It might be the Spirit of God leaping with the joy of it all.

My prayer:  Thank you, Savior Jesus for making a way; You are the Way.  Let us be carried forward in Your Flow of Love.  Let the joy of being with you now and forever help us to keep our heads above water and trust that You are the True King, who has landed and will come again. Come quickly now and take us all the way Home.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them, “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow . . . .” Mark 4:1-3

Intro: I’ve enjoyed the privilege of walking the shores of the Galilee “sea”

Sometimes in the early morning, other times in the afternoon, and some evenings as well
– so once, when reading this chapter, I put myself there
• Jesus could be seen walking those shores frequently
◦ that’s what he was doing when he called his first disciples (Mk. 1:16-20)
• in the previous chapter, people found him there
◦ so many, in fact that the press of the crowd threatened to crush him (Mk. 3:8-9)
◦ what he did then, he did again this time
◦ he climbed into a boat, pushed off from shore, and taught them from there
– I imagined serene surface of the lake, heard ripples running on shore,
• and noticed that the gentle rocking of the boat was mesmerizing
◦ it is easy to sit and listen to his voice coming across the water
• he tells his simple stories and my mind watches them unfold ,
◦ filling in details with color and texture

“Listen!,” he says, “Behold, a farmer went out scattering seeds”
– I picture the “sower” walking back and forth along the furrowed rows of the field
• he scatters handfuls of grain from a large sack slung over his shoulder
◦ the wind carries the kernels in all directions
◦ to the roadside next to his field, among a pile of rocks, and into a patch of weeds
• but, as we expected only the seeds in good soil thrived
– that was it – that was his message to the crowd
• only, in conclusion he added,
Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear
• I scratch my beard and wonder, “What’s the point?”

Jesus’ parables communicate truth in a rough narrative form

The purpose of a story is different from a lecture or essay
– stories are meant to create an experience for hearer or reader
• a good story gives you a sense of being there
– Jesus used parables to create a bridge
• between what we know and the unknowable
• they helps us make rational connections, but they do more than that,
◦ they produce an enlightening experience

In verse 30, Jesus asks, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like . . . .
– here is your assignment: describe yellow to a person who is color blind
• you would most likely start with “It is like,” because no visual description would be meaningful to them
• then what? “Yellow is like the feeling of sunshine on your face,” perhaps
◦ or, “Yellow is like a low note softly played on a saxophone”
◦ you have to work with what they know and have experienced

At the end of the day, Jesus met with a small group of disciples

They wanted to know what he was saying with all his parables
– he first told them why parables were necessary
• the parables were not meant for them as much as for the crowd
To you has been given the secret (mystery) of the kingdom of God
• I wondered what had been given to the disciples?
◦ was it what we call head-knowledge of the mystery of God’s kingdom?
◦ or had the kingdom itself been given to them
– is it possible disciples possessed more than they knew?
• obviously, if Jesus had to tell them the kingdom was given to them they had not known it
• at any rate, the parables were for those outside Jesus’ circle
◦ since the time of Isaiah, they were unable to grasp the straight-forward word of the prophets (vv. 11-12)

In verse 13, it sounds to me like Jesus was frustrated with them
“If you don’t get this parable, how can I take you any further? Okay, this time I’ll explain my parables to you. You have to receive the word like a seed, you have to receive the kingdom like a child” (Mk. 10:15)
– if they already had the mystery of the kingdom, they should have known what the seed is and does
• when the seed falls on a human heart, it may:
◦ never be given a chance to sink in
◦ or grow quickly, but without deep roots it dies
◦ or sprout, but have its life choked out (by distractions)
◦ or in good soil, grow, and produce grain – a lot of grain!
– I have to admit, his explanation is really helpful

One morning, the second line of verse 13 rattled my cage
How then will you understand all the parables?

Is Jesus saying that this parable is a gateway to all his parables?
– that it is the key to understanding his parables?
• in explaining this parable Jesus says, The sower sows the word
◦ that is to say, the seed is the word as Jesus delivers it–each parable is a seed
◦ Matthew refers to it not only as the word, but as the word of the kingdom
• parables are the seed that is scattered
◦ as Jesus talks about seed and soils, he is planting seeds!
– I’m convinced that Jesus’ next illustration brings further clarity to this
“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, let him hear (Mk. 4:21-23)
• a parable is like a lamp put under a basket
◦ the truth is there, but it’s hidden in a story
The light is revealed to those who are ready to receive it
But it is concealed from those who are not ready or who resist it
• the kingdom of God is a hidden, transcendent dimension
◦ but its light shines in Jesus and through his parables
◦ they are like portals through which the light of the kingdom of God enters our hearts

How do we receive the word so that it enlightens and grows in us?

Where did Jesus begin? In verse 3 he began with, “Listen! Behold”
– we listen and we look with focused awareness
(there is also open awareness where we are not concentrating on any particular thing, but noticing our environment with openness and no judgment)
If anyone has ear to hear, let him hear (vv. 9 and 23)
Pay attention to what you hear (v. 24)
• we choose how much attention we give to parables
◦ and the quality of that attention
◦ our attention determines how much we get from the parables
• but the principle of listening works both ways
with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added (v. 24)
– what happens next is that the more we exercise our awareness, the more it grows
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 (v. 25)

How do the parables make these incredible things happen?
The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear Mark 4:26-28

Do you hear the rhythm of these words, “sleeps and rises”“night and day”?
• it’s the rhythm of the farmer’s life
◦ farmers calibrate their lives according to the rhythm of nature
• they rise and plant, they sleep and the seed sprouts and grows
but they don’t know how! –they don’t have to know how
– we just do the work and accept our ignorance of things infinite and eternal
◦ we don’t know how the word changes us, or what kind of changes it will work in us,
◦ or how its growth occurs
• God’s Spirit makes it happen, so it is beyond knowing
◦ what we are allowed to know is the fruit of the process

God knows our limits and weaknesses, and he assists us

Many times I conclude my meditation with a prayer of confession
For instance: “I know God’s kingdom surrounds me right now and that it is in me at the same time. I also know that I do not give it all the space that it requires. Lord Jesus, I want to follow You; please help me do a better job of it.”
– I used to be frightened by the parable of the seed and four soils
• they looked like a test or trial used to cut the less talented from the team
• they are exactly the opposite
◦ Jesus gave us parables to qualify us for discipleship

Conclusion: In 2016, after meditating on this chapter, I wrote:

  1. I am not the first disciple who has been a slow-learner
  2. It’s possible that I posses more than what I know
  3. Jesus wants to give us the secret of the kingdom of God
  4. It’s okay to ask questions
  5. Faith will be enough to move forward when reason fails
  6. Jesus supports our success as his disciples
    In fact, he will guarantee it if we let him and trust him
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