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01.31.16 Jesus’ Favorite Topic Mark 4:1-25 Sermon Summary

by on February 3, 2016

One parable is presented as the key to understanding all the others—or better, to understanding why we don’t understand. Since so much of scripture is a parable, this is a pretty important key.

Summary Points

  • What made Jesus’ preaching popular: seeing God present
  • What makes it hard: We have to pay attention
  • Challenges to our paying attention
  • Questions for discussion or reflection

Jesus was obviously a popular preacher. Mark tells us that he had to push out in a boat onto the lake as the crowd pressed upon him. What made his preaching so popular?

Part of it is that Jesus spoke of the everyday things. Things like sowers and seeds, birds and rocks, thorns and good soil, the sun and lamps, baskets and beds and lampstands. For Jesus, God could be found anywhere because God was everywhere. Jesus claims that God is interested in our everyday lives. Everything around us radiates God’s presence. Jesus believed that God was close, that the world was sacred. He said our lives carry divine significance.

But Jesus’ preaching was also hard. The hardest part of Jesus’ preaching is that he requires us to “pay attention.” He calls us to see beyond the obvious if we would recognize God’s presence in our lives. And the hard part about paying attention is that it takes time.

Paying attention takes more time than it takes for birds to eat seed off a path. But our culture is a path-paced culture. Running from one thing to another creates hard paths. Multitasking, multimedia, multiplatform, multiplying . . . We have no time to pay attention, and Satan swoops in and steals the Word that has been sown within us.

Paying attention takes more time than our rock-filled schedules allow. We’ve already dedicated our time to other things: Television shows and games, technological wizardry, physical exercise, maintaining the perfect house, going out with friends. We don’t have time to study and pray with God’s Word. Then when hardship comes we try to jump from one of our rocks to another, trying to stabilize our identity based on these, instead of being rooted in the Word of God.

Paying attention takes more than our thorn-filled emotions have time for. Jesus identifies three categories: The “cares of the world, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things.”

The world deserves our care. But we are responsible only for our corner, for what we can actually do. It isn’t much, and it certainly isn’t too much, for this is what God created us for and calls us to. The rest of the world’s cares we prayerfully leave to God and his call upon others. If we don’t maintain our balance in this way, the cares of the world choke out the Word of God.

Wealth promises more than it can deliver. It may adorn our bodies, but it doesn’t cover our nakedness. It may provide a beautiful house, but it does not calm our restlessness. It may increase safety, but it does not address our insecurity. It may relieve hunger, but it leaves our yearning unfulfilled. This is why Jesus responded to temptation with the reminder, “One does not live by bread alone, but by the Word of God.” The lure of wealth chokes out the seed of God’s Word.

So does our desire for other things. The interesting thing about this part of the parable is here the plant doesn’t die. Whereas before the plant is scorched and withers, here it just doesn’t produce. It suggests that you can attend church, study the Bible, and offer lots of prayer, and yet produce no fruit because it is all choked out by not trusting God with what we can and can’t do, with what we have and don’t have.

Jesus’ preaching is hard because it takes time. He says, “Pay attention to what you hear!” Literally the phrase is translated, “Look at what you hear!” Here is a profound insight. Today we hear something, store it in our brains, and think we know it. Jesus calls us to a deeper knowledge. We may hear and think we know, but we don’t see and thereby truly understand.

Jesus’ favorite topic is the Kingdom of God. He speaks of it most often in visions. He points us not just to what is seen, but to what is beyond what is seen. He acknowledges reality but posits a parallel reality—like bread and wine being body and blood. Jesus’ reality is a promised and a sure one in the future, but one that is seen already by the faithful. Jesus’ reality is one according to which the faithful live already today–if they pay attention, if they take the time.

Today take the time. Take time off the hard, beaten path of busy-ness. Take time to remove some rocks out of your schedule. Take time to trust God with the cares of this world, with your wealth, with your desires.

And take time to be patient with yourself. For the measure you give, will be the measure you get. Whatever time you give, more will be given back to you. And if you give nothing, even what you have will be taken away.

Questions for Discussion or Reflection

  • How would looking at life—the world around you and your very own life—as infused with divinity change your life?
  • Where, in your everyday life, do you recognize God’s presence? How can these, like the sacraments of Bread, Cup, and Water, serve as reminders to you that God is present everywhere?
  • Where are the places you can “take time” away—physically and out of your calendar—so you can pay attention to the Word of God in your life?
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