Jesus told some great stories. We call them parables. I can remember the
definition I was taught at school as “an earthly story with a heavenly
meaning”. Simple, memorable and engagingly true I suspect. As we look at the
parables they are certainly all three things but there is though, a much
deeper meaning to them.
Jesus told parables to explain spiritual truths. They were usually told in
response to a question about something or as an illustration as part of his
teaching. Simple though the stories were, often they needed to be explained.
Today’s gospel tells us that Jesus “did not say anything to them, (the
crowds) without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own
disciples he explained everything”. (Mark 4:34).
Today’s two parables are about what is the kingdom of God like. The first
talks about seed being scattered and growing even though the farmer does
nothing. Eventually the seed sprouts, bears grain and the harvest comes. The
second is similar, in that a mustard seed grows and becomes a bush in which
the birds of the air find shade and protection. Jesus ended some of his
parables with the phrase, “If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear”. I was
never much good at English literature at school so it will not be a surprise
that I often struggle with understanding parables. Perhaps I too am deaf
like the crowds!
What then do these parables tell us about the kingdom of God? One thing is
that they talk about the hiddenness of the kingdom. The seed is planted but
nothing seems to happen until all of a sudden harvest time has come or the
birds find shelter. We don’t know how it happens but it does. There is
something about the inevitability of the arrival of God’s kingdom even
though the farmer did nothing once the seed was planted. This is not an
excuse for us to do nothing and “let God”. We need to plant the seed and
then “let God”.