Fri., Feb. 3, 2023 – Mark 4:1-34

Have you ever read a great book or seen a great movie with multiple layers? No matter how many times you read or watch, you find something new. It is as if there is an endless harvest to glean. And that is exactly what we find in Jesus’ parables.  

Jesus taught almost exclusively in parables, and they tend to have a wealth of layers to unpack. The beauty of the parables is they seem so simplistic on the surface, easy enough for anyone to understand. However, each word is carefully chosen by Jesus to bring about the most meaning possible. For example, what appears to be a simple story about seed falling on different types of ground and its ability to grow, turns out to be a challenge to the hearts of those who hear the Good News.  

The question we must ponder is how the Pharisees can hear the same Good News as the disciples of Jesus and have a completely different response. Jesus explains that it’s a matter of the heart. If the heart is in a condition to receive the Good News and nourish it so that it may grow, then the Good News will take deep roots in us. It will affect how we experience life. What’s more, having that kind of heart will allow the hearer to produce more for the Kingdom of God than would otherwise have been possible.  

On the flip side, if one hears the Good News with a distracted heart – represented by the thorns – then it’s easy to hear the message but not let it sink in. Other things crowd it out, like worries and longings. For the Pharisees, the desire to keep the Law to the absolute letter has kept them from experiencing the gift of the Good News. Instead, they have let their arrogant interpretation of the Law become a burden in their lives that crowds out the good things God wants them to experience.  

The Law itself, which was meant as a gift from God – one designed to give life – has become a suffocating set of thorns that is robbing their lives. It’s not the Law itself, but it is how they have come to interpret the Law with their own understanding rather than allowing God to write the true intent of the Law on their hearts himself. They think they are in good soil growing deep roots. In reality, they have no room to let their roots grow because the thorns of their arrogance in their own understanding and adherence to the Law have given them no room to actually grow roots. They have failed to see the many layers of God’s story that he is wanting to unfold for them.  

If we aren’t careful, we can allow the path of the Pharisees to become our own. It might not be in religious adherence, but it can be that we become so confident in our own understanding, control, affluence, influence and self-assuredness that we fail to see the goodness found in the Good News. Instead, we might see it as a nice additive to our lives rather than the true source for our lives. If we fail to let the Good News grow deep roots in our own hearts, we miss the best that God has for us.  

Jesus came to bring this Good News to us. He wants it to grow deep roots in our hearts. So, we are called to tend to our hearts to allow them to receive it. The seeds Jesus wants to grow in us are way better than the thorns this world tries to deceive us into believing are a better way. 

Questions for reflection: 

  1. As you have been reflecting on God’s Word, what work have you been doing on the soil of your heart to allow his Word to take root? 
  2. What are the thorns that get in the way of receiving the Good News fully in your life? How can you begin to remove them? 
  3. What steps are you ready to take to begin trusting more in God’s understanding than your own?