Jos 21-22; Mark 4; Psalm 143 -144
Following on from yesterday, there are two ways in which the conflict theme continues here in our reading from Mark.
Jesus is in hidden conflict with the crowds – for he speaks to them in parables. We are reminded that parables are not neat moral tales in which the meaning is obvious. Let us not be taken in, for all our exposure to them as moral tales in Sunday schools, what would WE make of the parable of the Sower were we to hear it for the first time?
Is not Jesus explanation to the disciples only clear to us because we have heard him explain it?
So Jesus is in conflict with the crowds. He tells them tales but as the Messiah is hidden in Mark’s gospel, so his words are also, and we must never forget this we who think we are the ‘in crowd’. Indeed Jesus is shown to be in conflict also with the disciples also. He tells them, ‘if you don’t understand this one, how will you understand any of the parables’
Herein is a point often missed. The parable of the Sower is as it were a key to unlock the meaning of all parables. If we don’t get this one, Jesus is saying, then all the others are closed to us.
So we would do well to contemplate the explanation Jesus gives, and I will resist the temptation to ‘snatch the word away’, by closing down ‘the answer’
Instead, at the danger of distracting us from this important task, I would highlight the Sower. There is nothing of careful application of the seed. Rather a divine carelessness in the true sense. The Word is spread gratuitously. Like rain it falls on the deserving and the undeserving. The deaf and the hearing alike are the ground onto which the seed is scattered.
Jesus throughout the gospels associates with those whom society reveres and those it despises. Those who have done well in the terms the world sets, and those ‘ne’er do wells’ – but it is those who have accepted the world’s values of what constitutes the Good Life, who not only accept it but in so doing close it off to others, those who act as gatekeepers, are the ones who find themslelves out of the Salvation story that Jesus is announcing.
The Sower is gratuitous – we would do well not to be too careful ourselves, to rush to close down the story.