This week at Crossover we continued talking about the book of Mark. We looked at the parables of Mark 4.
- The parables revealed Jesus’ message to those who really listened but concealed it from those who did not.
- Jesus’ parables were not just moral stories but were about the nature of the kingdom of God.
- Mark 4: 30-31- No matter how small the start, God’s Kingdom grows into something big.
- Mark 4:26-29- We won’t always understand the process, and that’s okay.
- Mark 4: 21-25- If we want to shine more for Jesus, then we must receive more from Jesus. And if we aren’t shining at all, it’s safe to assume we are not receiving at all.
We have been going through our series on the book of Mark. Mark is one of the 4 gospels, one of the 4 stories of Jesus’ life in the New Testament. While Mark wasn’t one of the 12 apostles, he most likely wrote down the events of Jesus’ life as told to him by Peter.
From Mark we have already seen how:
- Jesus is the Messiah or “chosen one”
- Jesus has the power to heal
- The Pharisees started in love with God, but over time lost sight of what really mattered.
- Jesus selected 12 very different, unqualified, and rejected people to be His apostles.
Today we are going to continue looking at Mark 4 and Jesus’ use of parables in His teaching.
Mark 4:1-20 Questions
- Read Mark 4:30-34
- Why do you think Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to the “smallest seed”?
- If the “smallest seed” becomes the “largest plant” what does that tell us about the Kingdom of God?
- Read Mark 4:26-29.
- This is the second farming parable Jesus uses to describe the kingdom of God. Why do you think that is?
- Who do you think “the farmer” represents?
- What about “the seed”?
- What do you think it means that the earth produces the crops on it own, without the farmer’s help?
- So what two things does the farmer do in this parable?
- Read Mark 4:21-25.
- Jesus spoke in parables to purposefully hide His message from those who would abuse it. Yet in this parable what point does Jesus make about hidden things?
- What point do you think Jesus was trying to make with this parable?
Mark 4: 30-31 Jesus said, “How can I describe the Kingdom of God? What story should I use to illustrate it? 31 It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the smallest of all seeds, 32 but it becomes the largest of all garden plants; it grows long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade.”
Where my mustard fans at? GROSS. I hate mustard. Where my mustard haters at?
But really, look at the size of these seeds.
They are insanely small. Yet the plant they produce is huge.
These things can get from 6- 20 feet tall. And yet they come from that tiny little seed.
Why do you think Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to the “smallest seed”?
- The Kingdom advances in small, seemingly insignificant ways.
- Jesus was born in a barn. He was rejected and crucified.
- His followers were unlikely, rejected men.
- Jesus didn’t come with a sword and a conquest, but rather came as a poor teacher who showed love and compassion. Not exactly how you would expect a kingdom to invade the earth. Pretty small in comparison.
Yet if the “smallest seed” becomes the “largest plant” what does that tell us about the Kingdom of God?
- This parable is also a prophecy. Despite its small beginnings, Jesus was convinced that the Kingdom of God would grow to become a huge, universal thing.
- In a way, we can see that historically.
Does anyone know how big Israel is?
Roughly 8,550 square miles. That means you could fit between 4-5 Israels inside Pennsylvania.
The Jesus movement has grown from this small belief of a poor rabbi and His 12 rejected followers to a movement that has gone around the globe to some 2.38 billion people.
And the claim if scripture is that one day every knee will bow and every person who has ever lived will acknowledge Jesus as the true king of the universe. From poor, crucified, carpenter to eternal king of the universe. The mustard seed is a good analogy.
Not only does this parable show the progression of the kingdom throughout time, but I think it also speaks to the growth of the Kingdom in our lives.
No matter how small the start, God’s Kingdom grows into something big.
How do we enter the kingdom of God. We hear about Jesus, and something inside of us decides that we believe. The seed is planted.
It may have come form a pastor, a friend, a song on the radio, or something we read. Doesn’t matter. But from that small seed of hearing about Jesus, God’s kingdom begins to take root.
If we allow that seed to grow and properly weed out other things like we talked about last week, what started as a small thing can grow to become the most important thing in our life.
Your relationship with God may start small, you may feel like you aren’t close to God or cant hear Him or don’t know His will, but through constant use it will grow into something so big you wont know how you could ever live without it.
But it has to grow, and it takes time. So don’t get discouraged. Don’t be jealous of what someone else has or their giftings or what God is doing in their life. Continue to be faithful where you are planted. Continue to water the soil, pull out the weeds, and watch what God will do in your life.
Mark 4:26-29 Jesus also said, “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. 28 The earth produces the crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens. 29 And as soon as the grain is ready, the farmer comes and harvests it with a sickle, for the harvest time has come.”
Again Jesus uses a farming illustration to talk about the Kingdom of God. In the parable of the sower he talked about people’s response to the kingdom, with the mustard seed He predicted the eventual outcome of the seed, but now in this parable He tells us about the process.
Who do you think “the farmer” represents?
- The farmer is anyone who shares God’s word. With another person or even when you plant God’s word in our own life. In the first parable the farmer represented God, but he cant here because we are told this farmer doesn’t understand the process, he just knows it happens. Jesus fully understood the process.
What about “the seed”?
- The seed is still the word of God.
What do you think it means that the earth produces the crops on it own, without the farmer’s help?
- Although the farmer had a responsibility to plant the seed, he ultimately does not make it grow. The seed does that itself. It really is quite a miracle of life isn’t it? You can take these tiny, appealingly unalive little specs and stuff them in soil and out can come huge plants that bring life.
- So it is with the Word of God as well. In the sower we saw that as long as the soil is good, there will eb a harvest. And the mustard seed taught us it doesn’t matter how small the seed.
- When ever you speak about Jesus to others or whenever you spend time in God’s word yourself, you are planting seed.
- It may feel small or insignificant. It may not feel like anything is happening. But God’s word does not return void.
- You may not even notice at first, but you can not spend time in God’s word and not be changed. You may not even always understand what you are reading, but the farmer doesn’t understand how the plant grows either.
- What matters is that when you take that small seed of faith, and put it to work, it begins to grow.
- So don’t get discouraged. Cause if you don’t give up, you will see a harvest.
This is why its suo important to put scripture to memory. To really bury it deep in the soil of your heart. Cause it will grow to become apart of you.
I can remember, I was about 13 or 14 when I got really serious about memorizing scripture. I began to read the Bible and put a bunch of verses to memory. I would write them out and tape them all over my room. (The walls in my childhood bedroom are still destroyed, but that’s Jacobs problem now)
At that time I knew I was called to be a pastor but it seemed so impossible. I’m not the loudest or most outgoing person by nature but back then I was downright shy and hated talking to people.
It seemed unreasonable and unlikely that God wanted to use me to speak to others. Yet, somehow, through a process I don’t totally understand, I planted God’s word in my heart and it grew.
He didn’t change my personality, but He began to build things like boldness and confidence in my heart, that I never could have produced on my own. So don’t give up.
Keep planting, keep watering. And if you’re not right now, today is a great day to start.
No matter how small the start, God’s Kingdom grows into something big.
Mark 4: 21-25 21 Then Jesus asked them, “Would anyone light a lamp and then put it under a basket or under a bed? Of course not! A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light will shine. 22 For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light. 23 Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
24 Then he added, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given—and you will receive even more. 25 To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.”
We learned last week how Jesus used parables to teach those who would listen, and to confuse those who would not. The Kingdom of God is available to those who seek it, but hidden from those who don’t. But someday, all will see plainly that Jesus was right.
Jesus shares that just like you would not turn on a light and hide it, so the message of the kingdom is designed to be shared.
The growth from the farming parables was never meant to just be hoarded for yourself, but meant to be shared with all.
We too as we grow in Jesus are supposed to share and help other grow. What does that mean?
It means a few things.
- As we learn, we share what we learn.
- As God brings us through things, we help others go through things.
- Hard circumstances
- It means we allow others to see the change in us. Which means, we should be changing.
Let me ask you another question though. Although light may come from a lamp, does the power tot create that light come from it?
No. A lamp must receive power from somewhere. Whether its electric or oil, a lamp can only make light so long as it is receiving power from somewhere.
Although Jesus call us to be a light, He does not call us to create that light ourselves. If you try to do that you will just burn yourself out literally.
If we want to shine more for Jesus, then we must receive more from Jesus. And if we aren’t shining at all, its safe to assume we are not receiving at all.
It’s easy to read this parable and think man- I got to be braver and not be afraid to tell people about Jesus. And that’s true, but how do you think you are going to do that.
Its natural to think we have to try harder- but the truth is we don’t need to do more- we need to receive more.
Because the more filled you are with Jesus, the more He is going to leak out of you. Naturally.
That’s what these parables are telling us aren’t they? The farmer doesn’t know how the process works- He doesn’t make it happen. He just knows it does.
The mustard seed starts small but grows to unimaginable strength. The lamp doesn’t create energy- it just uses and shares what it has been given.
So if you want to grow and shine more- you have to receive more. The power is in the seed, in the Word of God. And it is what will produce the change in our life.
Let’s recap some takeaways from today and then we will go to small groups.
• No matter how small the start, God’s Kingdom grows into something big.
• We won’t always understand the process, and that’s okay.
• If we want to shine more, we have to receive more.
- If you got lost in the woods, which would be a better plan to find your way: climbing a tree, or laying down?
- Have you ever been on an airplane? What about in a tunnel? Which one allows you to see more?
Read Isaiah 55:8-9 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. 9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
- What adjective does verse 9 use to describe God’s thoughts?
- Notice it says higher, not different. What does it mean that God’s thoughts are higher than ours, not just different?
- Is it easy or hard to trust that God always has a plan?
- Has there been any events in your life that made you trust God more?
Read Zechariah 4:10 Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.
- This verse was spoken by an angel to a prophet about the rebuilding of God’s temple. It had been destroyed by an enemy empire, and they were currently rebuilding their kingdom. Many were getting discouraged cause it was taking awhile.
- In what ways is this story similar to Jesus building God’s kingdom?
Read Galatians 6:7-10 Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. 8 Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. 9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.
- What is similar from this passage to the parables we read?
- What are some strategies to remain patient in doing the right thing even when it doesn’t seem to be paying off?
- Does anyone have a story about a time they did this?
- If we plant good things, we will get good things. Do you think the opposite is true?
We live in an age of instant gratification, but growing a relationship takes time and consistency. Don’t be discouraged when the process seems “slow” or “painful” but as we continue to be faithful, God will be faithful to us.