The Bridegroom about the need for Jesus to teach his disciples without distraction < /br> Cloth and Wine about new versus old < /br> The Sower about Truth's interaction with the individual < /br> The Lamp about the requirement to live like Christ < /br> Scattered Seed about the mystery of Spiritual growth < /br> Mustard Seed about the spread of Christianity < /br> The Parable of the Husbandmen about the bravery of Jesus the Christ < /br> The Fig Tree about Christ's reassurance towards his disciples < /br> The servants and the Doorkeeper about keeping watch and this generation's lack of keeping watch
Mark 2:19-20 And Jesus said to them, "Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days".
This parable is in response to the Disciples of John and the Pharisees. While Immanuel and his disciples were eating and conversing, the pharisees and disciples of John withered under the weight of fasting. To this they asked why his pupils were exempt from the same kind of sacrifice. He, having been born in an ugly manner and having, before that, existed where no man had ever existed, was in a need to teach and be with those whom he chose. Try to see the subtle moments that the bridegroom shares with those he chooses as his best men. They are all dressed eloquently and are sitting somewhere in the church, waiting for the wedding to begin. The groom is the main attention, the men only know each other from that single man (because some are brothers, some are college roommates, some are co-workers). Their affiliation exists through him and if he were not there then the men would never have met each other. So it was with Christ. He was surrounded by fishermen, business men, common folk and unknown folk.
The single solitary hour before the wedding is parallel to the life The Lamb of the Almighty spent with us. A time seemingly unimportant filled with boredom, impatience and lounging was a time of complete intention and concentration for Immanuel. This was his time, his three years to set up the cure to the disease through the minds and hearts of some brothers and strangers. One can imagine the need to free these men from any kind of distraction. He had a divine purpose and it could not be interrupted by work, fasting, seperation or even family. He was emphasizing two things through this parable, the impossibility for the disciples to do anything but be with him while he roamed about the fields and seas and that Christ counted these men as friends. It is difficult to say how long God-with-us had been with these men he was currently defending. The Gospels are ambiguous with time and so one cannot know if this moment of defense was after a month or year of knowing his students, his brothers, his apostles. Nevertheless, he (God-on-the-Earth) defended the weak minded twelve as a man defends his family.
Cloth and Wine
Mark 2:21-22 "No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse. And no one puts old wine into new wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins".
These two small parables have been a source of confusion. This is another illustration in response to the frustration of the fasting Pharisees. But it is hard to make the connection. Some believe the new cloth and the new wine to be the Gospel and the old cloth and old wineskin to be the undeveloped disciples. Others say that the contrast of new cloth/new wine versus old cloth/old wineskin to be between competing philosophies and the Gospel. In the end of the image Immanuel states that new wine must be put into new wineskins. This would make sense if Christ were speaking of new ways of life and the adaptation to that new way. But how does this run along side the idea of fasting?
Perhaps He left the exact situation (fasting) to point out a more general importance, that following him (which is new to the world) needs to be done in a contemporary way (which is also new). To put another way, the Son of God told the Pharisees and disciples of John that his new words required new forms of obedience: of contemporary following, of true forgiveness, of a new gracious enacting of religion.
Mark 4:3-8 "Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it. Some fell on stoney ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it whithered away. And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty and some a hundred".
To better envision the context it is good to understand from where he spoke. In the start of the fourth chapter of Mark it states that the son of Joseph began to teach by the sea. He may have been walking on the shore, barely getting his feet wet or he could have been walking on the nearby grass. It does not say. But it does say clearly that there was such a plethora of eager listeners that he had to shovel himself into a boat. From there, moving around because of the undulated sea, he spoke. I would imagine the phrases were carried by shouts from the front of the crowd towards the back. But however they all heard what he said it is important to know that these people were eager for teaching and some were perhaps let down by a tragically unimaginative parable.
The parable contains four senarios, each being ways in which the Good News falls into the rough cage of the human heart. The first soil is the wayside . After the seed fell onto the wayside birds came and devoured the small specks. Jesus later explains what each of these different types of soil signified. I am going to do the same. Christ tells that the first soil, the wayside, is the heart (soul, spirit, self, being) that is attacked and raped of the seed. The birds are Satan. This kind of example could be best understood as one who neither understands nor seriously considers the implications of the words of Immanuel. Instead the person rests their back on the presuppositions from others about this seed, this word, this person. Because of the personal disgust others felt for the seed, because of disinterestedness, because of busyness or pride, the word is gone; never to be fully accepted or fully declined. These souls reside under the canopy of church twice a year. Their heart stays unopened both due to fear of healing and fear of further wounding. For the most part the heart of the wayside acts the same in love, duty and decision.
The second ground is the stony ground . These spirits are not apathetic as the wayside, instead they are enthusiastic. In Mark 4:5 the key word is immediately . It is not said whether this immediate springing is good or not; but I can attest to the fact that any serious venture (be it a new job, a new friend or new philosophy) needs a certain amount of patience and calmness at the beginning. Fools shout "I love you" after the second date. Idiots ponder making bicycling their career after a six mile ride. All have been lured into the trap of early enthusiasm. It raises the bar in the wrong direction; we fall in love awaiting completeness and not love, we continue with a sport anticipating more than one personal void to be filled. The words of Christ can be taken incorrectly also. Even this attempt is filled with ignorance. But other types of folly are hoping for the word to make life easier instead of making it better.
Some desire Christ to be an emotional virus spreading through the blood making any previous sin (vice, ill) so unhelpable that one cannot choose to go either direction. This is not the way. Immanuel did not pull his disciples out of their boat, he called them. Their life was by no means easier after they left their families, it was better. In the same way the stony ground springs up because of the promise of salvation, restoration; health and rest. But it is burnt because of persecution and tribulation. The man who shouted 'love' whimpers 'like' when his girlfriend's laugh begins to annoy. The bicyclist repents of making bicycling a career after his legs give out at the thirtieth mile. The heart composed of stony ground likewise gives up and swears only a liking to God's son once humiliation and the weight of a dirty cross fleshes into his/her actual existence. When a moment springs in which case he/she has to defend the humble child born in December; this is where the heart caves in. As said in Mark 4:6, the earth sprung up some produce but the sun scorched it and the root was whithered. Enthusiasm is approached by reality and enthusiasm finds another belief to cling to; one less offensive.
The third ground is the thorny ground .This ground seems to be like the stony ground in the sense that it fails because of troubles. This is true; but the troubles are not painful but, rather, pleasurable. The lamb of the Almighty states that it is the cares of the world, the deceit of riches, the desire for other things that constitutes the thorns. These thorns consumed the disciples because they anticipated their leader to physically redeem them, as Moses did. The Pharaoh of their day was Caesar and the Egypt was Rome. Unlike Moses, Jesus fought a different and deeper enemy. The disciples were ready with swords while Christ was praying. They argued about leadership while he spoke of servanthood. It would take his ultimate victory, which was seen as the ultimate defeat, to readjust their soul. So it is with every being that follows the ways of Immanuel. Even the most pious struggle with fearing God over fearing people. Every Christian cringes at the idea that because of their lowliness no one will attend their funeral and yet because of their lowliness God himself will attend their resurrection. It is a scary thought but a necessary thought should one consider the spiritual life of Christianity.
The fourth ground is the good ground , composed of rich dark soil. It is watered frequently, kept in approapriate sunlight, produces fat crops and has deep cold roots. This soil is soft and yet durable; it does not require much and retains only the good. People flock to watch it grow and become frustrated going back to their hard and stubborn ground. The fruit that grows is round and plentiful, drooping the stem. The branches are green, strong and flexible. I would be a fool to say that my heart is comparable to this soil. No one can claim to be good soil on this side of eternity because any such claim makes the water bitter, makes the roots curl instead of grow. Should someone truly be of good soil then that person will not notice. Good soil and good crop never turns in on itself but only reaches, like fingers, towards the sun. It is also spoken of by David the Psalmist.
Mark 4:21-22 Also He said to them, "Is a lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? Is it not to be put on a lampstand? For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light."
This parable is in regards to the duties of a Christian. He says in Mark 4:22 that there is nothing hid that will not be shown and that no secret will avoid light. The light is the Good News and the lamp is the carrier of the news. This news is not meant to be stuffed under a bed, or to be stacked with pots and pans; though this has come to be throughout the existence of Christianity. It is akin to those who loath a duty. Any doctor who is regretful of being a doctor will avoid the hallways, will fake illness, will break his pager. He will hide his self, his knowledge, so that it will not be used. So the Christian shudders when they are brought a troubled soul, a tired beggar etc. It is their knowledge of forgiveness by God that should cause them to forgive others. The wisdom of being served by Immanuel (through the activity that happened 2000 years ago) should cause the Christian to serve anyone and everyone that lingers into their realm.
But this does not happen. False Christians reckon the duty of being on time over the duty of reassuring a worried heart. The False one fidgets at cold weather, but applauds giant churches furnished with self-flushing toilets. Somehow the Christian (who is saved by grace) argues fairness. They say, "I have been working for ten hours; I cannot possibly help this poor man. My legs would give out and my mind is not in the right place. And besides, it is probably his falut that he is there. It is probably fair for him to be where he is." Then the tired Pseudo-Christian continues with his/her day. Should someone not stop for every problem, not put their face into what is obviously not a place to be of help, or should something more important exist; this cannot be helped. That is not the problem. The problem is that the psychology of a Christian should equate such: grace from Almighty Lord = grace towards others. It does not equate: grace from Almighty Lord = fairness towards others.
And so the words from the lamb of existence brings this out; that the tired poor man who was ditched for the sake of being on time will not be uncounted or forgotten; that Christianity means that since God was gracious to them, they will be gracious to others. They, the lamps of existence, must show forth that light. Every lamp that is suffocated will soon burn out; every lamp that is hid will not only not give light but will itself exstinguish.
* This parable is confusing in the sense that it is hard to know exactly what is being spoken of because of Jesus' explanation in Mark 4:22. It talks about the revealing of hidden things. This might cause one to think that the parable is about hidden things (which it might). But my understanding is that should one not be a lamp then that action of not being a lamp will be made known. So Mark 4:22 does not explain the parable but the repercussions of those who are in disobedience with the truth found in the parable.
Mark 4:26-29 And He said, "The Kingdom of God* is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come".
In this parable the word 'Kingdom of God' might mean a single person or all of creation. The growing sprout may be a single soul or single planet. In any case the illustration emphasizes the mystery of spirituality and the process of life. As is the case with anything new, it is meshed with enigmas. This goes away once one becomes more knowledgable about a subject (like the menu of a restaurant), but spiritual truth cannot be fully grasped. The growth of Christianity is the same as fireworks to a rabbit. It is beautiful and yet not understood. The miracles of the first Christians, the revivals in Africa and China are not easily explained. Likewise a persons own spiritual growth is sometimes too deep for them to understand themselves. The sower who does not know how the plant sprouts is our own confusion amidst our own growth.
The second thing worth noting is the sickle and the harvest. This phrase hints towards the fact that this parable perhaps means all of creation. Revelation speaks of sickles at the end of time. Regardless this is important to understand. The sickle comes only when the plant has fully grown. In fact it states that immediately after the grain ripens it is harvested. Jesus constantly emphasizes that his unspeakable return is most of all going to involve confusion, quickness and ignorance on the part of humanity.
*The Kingdom of God spoken of here and in many other parables of Jesus is a difficult subject, as is everything spiritual trying to be understood by brown brained humanity. It is difficult because it seems to be different and yet specific things. Here is an example. In Matthew 13:24-30 Jesus speaks of a man who sowed seed. Another man then sowed bad seed with the good seed. It ends up that both grow and that at harvest the good are kept while the ill is not. In this illustration one might see the Kingdom of God as the people of God, the souls (which are the good seed). In Matthew 13:44 Christ says that the Kingdom of God is a treasure. In Matthew 13:46 the Kingdom of God is a pearl of great price. In other places it seems that the Kingdom of God is a place, that it is a group of people, that it is an object worth having, that it is something that grows despite persecution. I believe the phrase 'Kingdom of God' used by Jesus should be taken in context at all times. It is a place, an attitude of the soul, an item. It is like life or love. Love causes things to stop and start, causes pain and pleasure, is a thing and is a source of action.
Mustard Seed < /br> Mark 4:30-32 Then He said, "To what shall we liken the Kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? It is like a mustrad seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; But when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade".
In this parable Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God as a plant. It is interesting to wonder if he was standing next to a grown Mustard Bush; if the white sun warmed his enigmatic face while he stated that the festering Kingdom of God was trapped inside of the hearts of a few disciples. The meaning of the parable is about growth, but one should not be quick to say exactly what is to grow. As said before the Kingdom of God is a loose term, or at least it is an exact term with many usages. In this parable it is my imperfect opinion that the mustard seed represents the group of people who follow Jesus the Christ; the individuals who decide that he is no liar. He might have said this as a form of encouragement and as a statement to the reality of Christianity. It could have been difficult for Christ to explain such a thing, such a wild thing while trapped inside of time. He might have wanted to scream, "Look at what my life will do! Look, look at the billions of pounds of kind acts, look at the joy and seriousness. What was a pile of proud men; Look! A church, and other churches, and miracles of all sorts, devotion and true love inside of the blanket of lowliness! Look at the blessed martyrs"!
Something else to consider is 'the other herbs'. If there is no clarification as to what the Mustard Bush is then it is hard to know what the lesser herbs are. One might say that it is other religions or other philosophies. It might be a comparison against the world itself. I would guess that the main concern is that whether it be Hedonism, Satanism, Selfishness or any other sort of world view, the point is that the truth of Immanuel will sprout farther and with more patience. Should Christianity be false then it will burn under the scrutiny of the sun. Should Christianity be Truth then it will quietly continue; it will grow while other plants hit their peak, it will thicken and ripen while others shiver in Winter or burn in Spring; it will succeed without pride because it is exactly pride that will die away while it (Love) produces heavy crop.
The Parable of the Husbandmen < /br> Mark 12:1-11 "And he began to speak unto them by parable. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the wine vat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country. And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard. And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled. And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some. Having yet therefore one son, his well beloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son. But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be our's. And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard. What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others. And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner: This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?
This parable is not easy to let in should one believe that Jesus knew the reality of his own death. If Christianity is hollow (if Jesus did not know the way in which he was going to die) then this parable will not clang any deep-set bell, but if it is truth then this parable calls one to consider (among many things) the bravery of Jesus' life. When Christ gave this parable he was inside of the temple. It was here, while being loudly questioned by Chief Priests, scribes and elders that he spoke. The parable was to the point, as all of his were. It was illustrative and simple. Under the smallness of this image there were dark-purple clouds, there was apathetic killing, hostility that seemed to come from nowhere. And beyond these things is the faith-based truth that the main character (the dead son of the owner of the vineyard) was the one speaking.
This parable, unlike other religious teachings, requires one to recognize the placement of the parable. It is not necessary to know the circumstances that caused the poet to write the Bhagavad-Gita. Whatever greatness that exists in the Bhagavad-Gita exists because of the text. The truth, the pain, that I am trying to point out cannot be real if Jesus Christ was simply a human-being. The certain sting I want to bring forth has no worth if He did not see his crucified body before he was kissed (and betrayed) by Judas. But should He have really known his own death beforehand, if he knew it as he spoke, if he knew it and spoke any ways, if he knew it and spoke TO THE ONES WHO WERE GOING TO KILL HIM, then here we can see His bravery.
The parable starts with the origin of a vineyard. A vineyard was purchased by a man. This man set a place for hedges, built a tower and so on. He also hired husbandmen to take care of the vineyard. But these men betrayed the man who employed them. At vintage-time these husbandmen beat away and killed the servants who were sent to recieve crop from the vineyard. The parable states specifically that some were cursed away with stones while others were killed. To this shameful treatment the owner of the vineyard sends his son, hoping that there would be mercy set on him. The words of the father were "They will respect my son".
There is a necessary stop here. Instead of only considering the poetry of the story, consider the story-teller. By faith it is believed that this actually happened, that the son of the existing God said these things...that the son of the vinedresser spoke to the husbandmen before he was slain by them...knowing he was going to be slain by them!
The parable goes on to say that the son goes. Instead of respecting the son as they should have, an idiotic (and I mean truly nonsensical) idea came inside of them to kill the son and keep the land for themselves. In Mark 12:8 it states "So they took him, and killed him and cast him out of the vineyard".
My GOD! What impossibility, what a nervousness there is inside of me! That this is recorded! Imagine a man who said, "I will be assassinated tomorrow", and consider if he was. Not only this but consider that along with knowing the future, the soon-to-be-assassinated man also said, "I am going to let it happen". And even further, consider this: that the man spoke about his assassination through a story after church in his house with some foes and friends! Right there, in that moment, there is where I find the sting. Consider the Existential weight of giving a parable about your own death. How painful must it have been! What kind of pressure He must have felt to say the words, "...So they took him (HIM), and killed him (the Lamb) and cast him (the one speaking) out of the vineyard"!
After verse eight Jesus continues to speak. He asks the crowd what the vineyard owner will do. He says that the father will come and destroy the husbandmen. Jesus ends the parable by stating the verse "The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone". The God-man was indeed God but was also man. His life was the most difficult life in all of existence because of the truth I am trying to pull out. It is not just that he was going to die, and it is not just that the death was painful; it is that he willingly spoke about his own torture so that the very killers, betrayers, cowards, liars, whores, beggars, lepers, tax-collectors, fishermen, carpenters, and shopkeepers that left his father would have a chance at following him. What Lowly Love!
The Fig Tree < /br> Mark 13:28-29 "Now learn this parable from the fig tree: when its branches has already become tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that it is near - at the doors!"
This small parable has, because of context, an aura of beautiful atmosphere. He is talking with his disciples about various things and they are begging him to tell them when certain apocalyptic things are going to happen. He holds the times far from them but gives them this small parable instead. He reminds them of weather, of ground, dirt and plants. He talks about a fig tree. With such ambient simplicity he responds to their worry about things they know themselves incapable of handling. It reminds me of a gentle wise man speaking with a worried boy. While the sweating young man begs to know much, the wise man walks calmly; paces his action because he knows the value of breath and daylight. He sits and speaks hoping to relax the young man. Christ tells the disciples about the regularity of a fig tree, of how when the branches are tender...summer is near. In the same way, if they keep watch, all will be well.
The Servants and the Doorkeeper < /br> 13:34-37 "It is like a man going into a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and then commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming - in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning - Lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what Isay to you I say to all: Watch!"
This is also in response to the anxiety of the disciples. The imagery is also elegant here. The important tension is the realation between the man and the servants. He gives them authority, gives them something and trusts them. There is tenderness inside of that truth. I can see the doorkeeper regretfully watch his master leave, I can see the servants pull hard at the plow, work long hours in the vineyard, clean constantly; always waiting for the master to come back. And sadly I can see that this generation has forgotten the Reality of the situation of Christianity. Some have become too good at the plow, some have spent too many nights in the vineyard, some have forgotten loving the master and instead have become angry at him for having them clean and watch the door while he is away. At this some will end work early (give less love to those who hate them), they will smile less genuinely when they hear of their master and soon they will become bitter, will not miss him and instead be thankful that he is gone. And when he returns I have confidence that if they could they would take him and kill him and cast him out of their vineyard, their house, their soul, their home, their existence.