Lent Day 9: Mark 4:1-20

Mark 4:1-20

Sower and Parables

Jesus relays a parable about a farmer sowing seeds. It’s one we know particularly well. What we tend to gloss over, between the parable and Jesus’s own interpretation, is what he says about parables. He concludes the initial parable with a declaration “whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” This is an indirect reference to Isaiah 6. Later, Jesus makes this connection explicit in the company of his disciples. When Isaiah is called, we remember him having lips purified, and we recall him declaring “here am I, send me.” What we forget is that God declares that there will be no salvation during that time. Instead, exile is coming. Isaiah only has to declare the impending exile. Everything must be destroyed and Israel exiled so that God may begin again.

After all, this is what lies behind the whole idea of farming. When someone sows a seed, the seed is “buried,” dying in a manner of speaking, and new life forms up out of it. God in Jesus is declaring that he is now doing a new thing. He is planting a seed. The exile is over. But just because Jesus has come to end the exile (remember John the Baptist, at the start of the Gospel is declaring that he is preparing the way for the redeemer from exile), does not mean all of Israel will have this new life. Jesus can declare the word, but the type of soil it lays in will affect its receipt. It’s all about God, we cannot sow the seed ourselves, but God in Christ leaves it with us, the promise of salvation. Your response is far from guaranteed. You must do something with it.

abundance agricultural agriculture arm

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