Mark reminds us today that after Jesus became known and popular, He began to do much of His teaching in parables. For His audiences both then and now, understanding the parable was more a matter of our spiritual condition than the difficulty of the analogy.
The Text (Mark 4:34-35)
33 And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it. 34 But without a parable He did not speak to them. And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples.
Mark tells us in today’s verses that by this point in Christ’s earthly ministry, He is now teaching the large crowds that follow Him with parables. As we saw earlier in Mark 4, parables are short stories that use familiar earthly illustrations to teach spiritual truths. Jesus’ parables are specifically focused on the kingdom of God, what it is like and how people may enter it. In other words, they are usually stories about salvation and spiritual growth. In the stories of the sower, the growing seed, and the mustard seed, Jesus showed us that salvation is a somewhat mysterious work of the Holy Spirit in people’s hearts and lives. The gospel is preached with the call to repent and believe in Jesus Christ. Many people reject the call, but some accept the Lord and are saved. Mark will not tell us many more of Jesus’ parables, but we do see many more specific examples in the books of Matthew and Luke. In today’s summary verses, Mark’s main point is to remind us that the parables keep the unbelieving and disinterested listeners from understanding deeper spiritual truths. But for Jesus’ disciples, followers who believed with willing hearts, Jesus would explain what the parables meant so that they could grow in knowledge and faith. Those really wanted to understand the parables would be given understanding.
As C.S. Lewis explained in Mere Christianity, the Christian faith is an experiential or you might say “experimental” faith. You have to try it out to really understand it. You can study the Bible and books about the Bible and Christ for many years, but that is not enough to make you a Christian. Biblical, saving faith is certainly based on a knowledge of the truth, but at some point you must begin to act upon that knowledge by placing personal trust in Jesus. Faith is a living, active thing. It is only as we try to live the Christian life, to seek Christ’s help in obeying His teachings, that we really learn what He means in those teachings. The parables only make sense to us as we experience the spiritual realities that Jesus describes in them. The Holy Spirit will guide us into the truth, but only after we have received Him by accepting Christ as our Lord and Savior. And once we are Christians, we grow only as we walk in the Spirit, which means hearing and doing what He says as He helps us understand the Bible. He will teach us, but only as we are able (ready and willing) to hear. Praying again for us all to have ears to hear today!