Today’s reading: Mark 4:21-41
Today we continue reading Jesus’ parables. We begin with the parable of the lamp under the basket:
And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”
This is a metaphor for Jesus’ himself, that even though his identity is hidden it will ultimately be revealed. It also is a metaphor for our lives. We must not be lights hidden under the basket. We must be light to the world. Finally, it is a metaphor for the Church. Jesus, in founding a Church, did not hide it under the basket. We will not need to look hard to find the Church that Jesus founded. It is obvious t anyone who looks for it and it is an obvious light to the world.
Jesus continues this teaching with an interesting statement:
And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
At first, this statement is often confusing to people. Mostly that is because we think in material terms but it should be interpreted more broadly in spiritual terms. The greater you measure out blessings, more blessings will be given to you. The greater you measure out love, more love will be given to you. The greater you measure our mercy, more mercy will be given to you, etc.
Finally, we should make note of the parable of the mustard seed:
And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
If you have never done so take the time to google images of mustard seed and trees. The seeds are indeed tiny. You may have seen them in jars of fancy mustard. The trees grow into wild bushes. Taller than a man they grow high and wide with fluffy branches. They look more like a wall of green then a true tree. The parable is a metaphor for God’s kingdom in general but again also for the church. The fully grown Church will not look like the seed that Jesus planted. The church will not be small individual seeds, rather it will be large, gangly, and spread out.
There is also something else particularly interesting about the middle-eastern mustard plant. It is an invasive plant. It grows fast and wild and is nearly impossible to eradicate. A mustard seed dropped on soil will germinate quickly. It will grow fast and push out other plants. Even when intentionally cultivated in a garden it will tend to grow out of its confines. One might liken it to the vine “kudzu” that has taken over the American south or bamboo. This is similar to the kingdom of God. It will enter new places and grow quickly, displacing what is there. It will grow where it is not wanted, upsetting your manicured garden. The Church will therefore be like this, it will get in where people are trying to keep it out. It will upset your planned out orderly life.
Mustard has one final property we should mention, it is hot and spicy but is considered healthy for you. When you taste it in bring a small amount of pain to the tongue but flavor your food and life. Again this is similar to the kingdom of God, it might be a touch painful but ultimately it will benefit you.
Tomorrow: Mark 5:1-20