Your Efforts Matter for the Kingdom of God

Mark 4:26-32

      Each Gospel has its own perspective of Jesus and his life. Some have said it’s because the authors were writing to different audiences. That seems likely for Matthew (to Jews) and Luke (to Gentiles), but for Mark and John, there isn’t as clear of a distinction. Others think that the four Gospels represent different groups of believers and how they differed in the way they understood Jesus and his life…kind of like the beginning of denominations. And doesn’t that make sense? Was there ever a time when anyone agreed upon the same thing?

     So what was the understanding about Jesus by the group that had been hearing and teaching the Gospel of Mark? If you read the whole Gospel, you’ll get the feeling that nobody, not even the disciples, understood Jesus or his mission. The disciples never get it. The original end of this Gospel is verse 8 where the women run away from the tomb and don’t tell anyone. A curious way to end the story. Verses 9-20 were added in the fourth century.

     Back to chapter 4. In verse 12, Jesus quotes Isaiah, repeating God’s instruction to teach in parables so that the people won’t understand and be able to turn their lives around for the forgiveness of sins.

     I have to be honest. I don’t get that. Why didn’t God want people to understand the meaning of parables? Why didn’t God want them to turn around so their sins could be forgiven? If you have the answer, please enlighten us all.

     Of course, since the disciples didn’t understand the parable of the Sower either, Jesus explained it to them.

     Then Jesus talked about a lamp and not hiding it under a basket or bed. I think he was referring to himself. He came to enlighten the world. Set the Lamp on a lampstand for all to see and be enlightened.

plowing 2     “Take heed what you hear – with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you.” How attentive are you to learning what Jesus had to teach? How focused are you on gaining spiritual understanding? If you intensely work at it, much will come from your efforts.

     Then Jesus tells two parables (vs. 26-32) about the kingdom of God. They seem logical. No one knows how or when seeds will grow. It’s the earth (soil) that causes them to grow and produce fruit. Then someone comes along and harvests it. Second, small seeds grow into big bushes that can shelter many creatures.

     The curious part is that the seeds represent the kingdom of God. No one knows how the kingdom of God grows. It just grows when the conditions and soil are right. It starts very small. And when it grows, it protects many creatures.

     The kingdom of God (same thing as kingdom of heaven) isn’t a magical place that is the destination of all believers after they’re dead. It’s something that grows here and now. The kingdom of God grows in places where the conditions are right for it to grow. It won’t grow in places where it is dry, hard, cold, or barren. It needs warmth, moisture, nourishment, and quality of earth/soil (as in the parable of the Sower).

     I suppose the question remains from the parable of the Sower: how’s your soil? Have you tilled it and invested the effort so that the kingdom of God can grow in you? “With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

     I spent a lot more time on this in my book, The Kingdom of Heaven is for Real and It’s Open to Everyone!

     It reminds me of Jesus’s teaching in Matthew – Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you. However intensely you seek the kingdom of God is the measure you will receive. Your efforts matter.

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