More Parables I
Wednesday, July 10, 2019 at 02:00PM
Pastor Marty in Faith, Gospel, Harvest, Jesus, Judgment, Light, Parables, The Word

Mark 4:21-29.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Sunday, July 07, 2019.

Today we will look at two more parables that follow on the heels of the Parable of the soils.  Both of them continue with metaphors regarding God’s Word in our life and how important it is for us to receive it, believe it, and live it out.

The parable of the Lamp under the Basket

Verses 21-25 change the metaphor from seed planted in soil to a lamp made to shine light.  Although we are not given a detailed explanation of this parable, Jesus makes several comments to enhance what he is saying.  The key is to recognize that, though the metaphor has changed, we are still talking about the purpose for the Word of God in our life.

Let’s look at the elements of this new parable and compare it to the parable of the soils.  If we were to break down the parable of the soils in light of this parable we would note that the seed corresponds to the oil in the lamp.  It is the Word of God coming into our life.  Though the oil is not mentioned, the word for lamp here refers to an oil burning lamp that would have a wick.  The purpose of shining light is mentioned and therefore implies the presence of oil in the lamp.  Sometimes you will hear people say that oil always represents the Holy Spirit.  However, the connection between the Spirit of God and His Word is inseparable, though distinct.

Next, the Lamp as a container corresponds to the soil, and is the individual who hears the Word of God.  We are sent the Word of God in order for it to do something within us and our life.

Lastly, the fruitfulness of the seed corresponds to the unhidden light of the lamp, and is the transformative effect of the Word upon the individual’s life.

The parable of the Lamp under the Basket is all about the purpose of God’s Word.  The only reason to put a lamp under a basket or bed is because you are not using it.  It cannot be lit because it would catch the basket and bed on fire.  Normally people have lamps because they intend to use them.  There would be a particular place, a lamp stand, where you would put the lamp and then light it when you need it to illuminate the room.  The point Jesus is making is this.  God made us to be a lamp through which His Word could bring light to the world that isn’t listening to Him.

Verse 22 gives a principle that is intended to explain, but sometimes misleads people.  “For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light.”  On its own, this phrase serves as a kind of cautionary proverb that warns us about our private or secret lives.  Be careful how you live in secret because it will eventually become public knowledge.  However, in this context it relates to the Word of God coming into our life so that we can be a light to the world.  Thus, the point is not so much about a hidden life of sin, but about keeping God’s Word hidden and not shining it out to the world.  Up until Jesus, the Gospel regarding the salvation of mankind, Jew and Gentile alike, had been kept hidden.  Yes, God slowly and progressively revealed the Gospel throughout the Old Testament, but it really is in a cryptic and hidden form.  With the ascension of Jesus into heaven, the Church would become the light of God to the world.  It was not time to keep the Gospel hidden.  Our whole purpose is to let God’s Word transform us so that we will illuminate the dark world around us.  Will we cooperate with God in this purpose?

It is not enough for the lamp to be filled with oil.  We can hear the whole Bible seven times and yet it must be ignited.  This represents what we talked about in the parable of the soils.  We must understand the Word, believe that it is true and for our life, we must live it out, and we must hold onto it and the fruit it produces in our life.  Faith in God’s Word is the ignition point that begins to produce light.  This ignition first transforms us internally.  Then it produces an external transformation, which also leads to proclaiming the Gospel.  In fact, in Matthew 5:16 Jesus adds this regarding these lamps.  , “Let  your light so shine before men that they may see  your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Notice that the light is first and foremost our good works.  Remember, good works done by and for our own merit are filthy rags, but good works done by the Holy Spirit and for Jesus are truly a light to this world.  Sharing the Gospel with people is only one good work of many that represents the light.  Let’s first live the Word, so that we have earned the right to share the Gospel.

In verse 24 Jesus remarks that we should take care of the Word of God that we receive.  The emphasis is on hearing because most people were not readers, nor had a copy of the Scriptures.  If they were to receive God’s Word then they would have to go where it was being read, or happen upon someone who knew it and was sharing it.  Literally Jesus tells them to understand or perceive what they hear.  Don’t let it just come in one ear and out the other.   To the degree that you understand God’s Word and shine it out to the world around you, is the degree that God will give you more Word to understand.  In fact, if the lamp refuses to let the oil be ignited then God will quit sending it oil.  In fact, just as the parable of the soils had many obstacles to our faith in God’s Word so, those same obstacles stand in the way of us shining the Light of God’s Word to the world.  Just as the seed that did not grow to fruit was lost to the soil so, the oil that is not used to illuminate will be lost.  Yes, we are dealing with metaphors here and so, we should not become lost in the details of the metaphors, but instead focus on the spiritual truth they reveal.

None of us deserves the Word of God.  It really is His gracious mercy to us.  God is faithful to send His Word to those who do not deserve it.  Yet, this does not diminish the secondary truth that He will hold us accountable for the Word that we have received.  This connection between using and receiving ultimately catches up with us.  Over the long-term, how we appropriate the Word of God will affect how much more we receive.

The parable of the Growing Seed

The next parable is in verses 26-29.  We are back to the first metaphor of the seed being the Word of God.  However, here we are told that the “Kingdom of God” can be understood by this metaphor as well.  The soil can be seen as an individual, but here it is seen as a corporate thing involving all who believe. In the first century, the Kingdom of God was on the move through the new Church that Christ was building.  The people of God would take the Gospel to the ends of the earth and increase the Kingdom of God on earth, one person at a time.   Thus, the soil really represents the world as a whole.  Those who responded faithfully to the Gospel are good soil and those who do not are not good ground.

In this parable, Jesus mentions that the sower doesn’t understand how the growth occurs.  He just knows it works to sow the seed.  Similarly, we are God’s messengers through our lives and our speech.  We don’t understand completely how that works, and why one person believes and another doesn’t.  Nor do we know why one waits longer, but finally believes.  However, there are two things involved: the work of the Holy Spirit in their heart, and the response of the heart and mind of the hearer.  Will they let the birds, rocks, and thorns ruin the word in their life?  These mysteries of salvation cannot be solved.  Yet, we know that we are commanded to sow God’s Word and that it will powerfully save those who believe.

The parable ends with the emphasis that the field will be harvested when the grain has ripened.  God will not let it be lost or rot.  Yet, this metaphor is more complicated than it looks when it comes to harvesting.

In some ways, we see the idea of harvesting used to point to the act of bringing a person into the Kingdom of God.  The harvester is that servant of God who helps them to make that last step of stepping into the family of God and connecting to their brothers and sisters in the Lord.  I believe this is what Jesus meant in John 4.  In John 4:35 Jesus told his disciples, “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!..”  And then in verse 38 he told them, ““I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.”  Jesus is clearly speaking about their work of preaching the Gospel and baptizing those who believe.  They would be harvesting those whose faith was ready to be reaped.

The apostle Paul also picks up this metaphor in 1 Corinthians 3, where he also adds the concept of the one who waters the seed.  A person is brought to salvation by the working together of those who put the word in their heart, those who come along and water that seed by continually reminding them and encouraging them, and then those who harvest them by helping them to step out in faith.  Some may object to this metaphor because cutting down grain sounds bad metaphorically.  However, those who come into the family of Christ are being separated from the world in which they have grown and are connecting to a new spiritual and life-giving source.  So, even though the analogy breaks down in some ways, it is still an apt and valuable picture.

We could also see the harvest individually in regards to the end of our life in this body.  When a believer comes to their death, their whole life has been completely lived.  The seed of God’s Word is as mature as it is going to be and they are taken into God’s barn.  The reaping here is done by God Himself as He brings us to Himself.

Yet, we noticed that the parable emphasizes the Kingdom of God as a whole, and therefore, the harvesting should be seen that way as well.  The Bible speaks of a separation, or harvest, at the end of the age (the age of the Church spreading the Gospel).  In Matthew 13 Jesus tells a similar parable about the Kingdom of Heaven and a harvest at the end of the age.  Matthew 13:39, “The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels.”  This harvest has good fruit and bad fruit that must be separated.  God only intends to keep that fruit which comes from the Word He has sown, not that fruit which comes from other “words.” 

Revelation 14 also emphasizes this fact, but describes it in the terms of two different harvests.  The first harvest is described as a grain harvest.  It is the harvesting of the people of God.  The second harvest is described as a grape harvest.  It is the harvesting of the wicked.  They will be gathered together and tossed into the winepress.  This imagery is that of the wrath of God coming upon the whole earth for its rebellion against God.  Ultimately, the book of Revelation reveals that God is bringing us to a new heavens and a new earth in which nothing wicked will be allowed to enter.

May God help us to see the importance of both sides of this.  We must proclaim the Gospel to people and speak it as much as we can.  Whether we are planting seeds, watering them, or harvesting new believers, is not our concern.  Rather, our concern is that we are faithful at doing our part.  However, we must also be a transformed person.  We must believe God’s Word and cooperate with its transforming power, so that the world can see the fruit of God’s Word.  Yes, none of us do this without error.  However, we have an advocate with the Father.  If we will be faithful to respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, repent of our falling short, and stir up our faith in God’s Word, then He will shine his light through us into the world!

Article originally appeared on Abundant Life Christian Fellowship - Everett, WA (http://totallyforgiven.com/).
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