The past two weeks I have focused on a parable, the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4). Something about it intrigues me, in addition to the story.
Usually among the Biblical scholars, we think the Gospel of Mark is the oldest of the gospels. Most of Mark is also in Matthew and Luke which leads us to think Matthew and Luke had access to Mark when those writers/communities formed their gospels. If true, it means Mark was written first.
Within Mark’s opening chapters there are a few organizational details. Jesus is baptized, He performs several works of power, the disciples are called, He violates the Sabbath and the family thinks He is loony. Then, in Mark 4, we encounter the Parable of the Sower. It is the first teaching of Jesus we meet and because of this location the story holds a special place.
To me, the Gospels are not just stories, they are launching pads. The Gospels were written not to be biographical stories, chronological accounts, or historical records. There are elements of each of those in them, but primarily the gospels are instructions on how to be Jesus’ followers. They are catechisms, and once you read them and get them under your belt you’re ready.
Now, you may say ‘No Way! I am in no way ready to follow Jesus after reading a few pages. To which I say, yes, you are.
A few years ago I took a class with my son on learning to ride motorcycles. Over the course of two days we watched videos, read a small workbook, and spent about eight hours on bikes. At the end of that we took a riding test that lasted less than five minutes. We got a piece of paper that we took to the Department of Motor Vehicles and for $5 each the state of Texas put an ‘M’ on our licenses saying we could legally ride motorcycles anywhere.
We we ready? Yes. Did we need practice? Of course. But we were ready to ride and we hit the road.
The gospels are the same way, and the parable of the sower is helpful because it is about our launch. Parts of Jesus’ message are going to be rocky and tough. Through parts of following Jesus we will be attacked by evil – not fun – and we are going to need deep roots. And parts of Jesus’ message are going to hit a sweet spot and we are going to be in awe of what God does through us. Our job is to make all of our life like that place!
I would encourage you to read Mark’s gospel and the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4) like you are about to lauch, and then when you are done, go!