If you remember the setting for last week, we saw how Jesus' family thought he was 'out of his mind' (Mk 3:21). Mark wraps us that section with Jesus asking the question, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" A couple verses later, Jesus tells us, "...whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother."
This context opens the parable of the sower. If you look at Mark 4:1-9, you will see that Jesus is beside the sea and a crowd has gathered.
Let's focus this week on the sea. Next week, we will move into the actual parable.
I would ask that you read a few verses and look for similarities:
- Mark 1:16 & 17- Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”
- Mark 2:13 & 14- He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
- Mark 3:7- Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea...
What do these passages have in common? I hope you noticed they all center around two things- the sea and the disciples. It seems that when Jesus is at the sea, his disciples need to pay attention! Mark is calling our attention to these things so that we sit up and take note.
The last point I would like for you to see today is this- Jesus begins this parable with a pivotal word in the Jewish world. Look at verse 3:
"Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow."
"Listen!" This command would have taken the people back to the most important imperative in their faith, "Hear, O Israel: the LORD is our God, the LORD is One."
Jesus opens this parable with a command, "Listen!"
Listen because a prophet is speaking.
Listen because God is speaking.
May we gather, as His disciples, to listen. So many things in our world fight for our attention. The voice of God is so easily drowned out and lost in the static of our world.
Listen because the Lord is speaking!
It is my prayer, that we sit up and take notice. God is speaking. May we turn off the noise around us to listen to the One who brings life.
The crowds following Jesus are growing. This is becoming a problem for the religious leaders. They probably asked themselves, "How exactly are we going to deal with this 'Jesus problem?'"
As the word spread about Jesus, it spread also to his family. Verse 21 reads, "And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, 'He is out of his mind.'"
The scribes agreed with the sentiment, actually, they were convinced that Jesus was possessed. The next verse gives us their statement, "'He is possessed by Beelzebul,' and 'by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.'"
This statement should not be easily dismissed- the scribes were saying that Jesus' actions were being controlled by Satan. He was under the 'prince of demons.' This is a very serious accusation and Jesus responds directly and with authority.
The text tells us that Jesus calls to them and speaks to them in a parable. This parable has three similar statements that reel the scribes in before Jesus finalizes His point in the next assertion.
- If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
- If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.
- If Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end.
Jesus then extends this parable with a mini-parable, "But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house" (Mark 3:27 ESV).
What is Jesus telling the scribes through these parables? Two things jump out to me. First, Jesus is reminding us that His work is in unity with the mission of God. His actions are in line with the Spirit.
Following this parable is a couple of those peculiar verses. Verses 28 and 29 read, "Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin."
What does it mean to blaspheme the Holy Spirit? Context is key. Jesus is telling them– when they say things against Him, those will be forgiven ("Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they are doing"). However, when the scribes said Jesus' actions were those of satan, they made a statement that God's Spirit in Him is the work of satan.
The Holy Spirit's actions (i.e. healing, freeing people of unclean spirits, proclaiming the Kingdom of God, etc.) are easily discernible from the works of satan. Jesus' struggle with the scribes was that they didn't recognize God's Spirit when it was right before them. For His Kingdom is not divided.
Second, in order for the strong man (satan) to be defeated, he has to be bound. In order to bind a strong man, you must be stronger than the one who needs binding. Guess what? Jesus will (and has) defeated satan.
When I read this parable, I take assurance in the fact that God is ruling and the Holy Spirit's action might be unrecognizable to those in the world, but that shouldn't stop us from seeing the captives set free!
And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”–Luke 12:16-21 ESV
I would like to focus on a few things in this story. First, we need to identify what the error in the story is. The farmer has planted his crops and they have produced more than he was planning. This was not his error. Nor was his error in storing the excess.
What then is the error? I think the error begins in the next two points.
Reread the parable and count the first person pronouns. I count 11 uses of 'I' or 'my'.
"I will do this...I will...my crops...my goods...my soul."
It never seems to occur to him that others might need his excess. He never looks outside of himself. Not only, does he not think of others, he never thinks to thank God for 'his' abundance.
This mistake leads to his second mistake. "Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry." He is not foolish because he makes plans for the future. His foolishness lies in the belief that his abundance secures his future.
This is where the parable hits home. We are lulled into the belief that our security comes from what we have and what we have planned. We invest in our future. Again, the issue wasn't that he prepared for the future, the issue was that he placed his trust in the temporal.
One commentator writes, "The farmer is called 'fool' because of neither his wealth nor ambition but rather because he accords finite things infinite value."
What are the things of infinite value?
Let us end with a quote from author David Lose, "Only as we recognize that the gifts of ultimate worth, dignity, meaning, and relationship are just that - gifts offered freely by God - can we hope to place our relative wealth in perspective and be generous with it toward others."
May we rightly place trust in the one true God and thus be generous as He has been generous.