PARTNERS WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT: PART LXV
Mark gave the followers of Christ a realistic view of Jesus’ life and task. Jesus’ life was in danger of being shut down from the very beginning. It was not just the loose tongue of the leper that hindered Jesus’ mission, but the Pharisees and Herodians were set on destroying Jesus (Mark 3:6). A larger reason was to accommodate the crowds, that were too large to meet in the villages and in the small cities. Therefor, the outdoors became Jesus’ gathering place and the pulpit where He taught the people. Jesus, Himself, withdrew into the outdoors to be “One” with His Father in prayer. Jesus began His day with prayer very early in the morning (Mark 1:35). He also liked to be by the sea where He could use a boat to speak from. Mark did not record much about what Jesus said, as John Zebedee would do later on, but
Mark paid close attention to what Jesus did with those who came for healing to Him. The crowds were simply astounded and huge. Jesus had His hands full, silencing the devil’s demons, who tried to expose Him as the Son of God; and therefore, cut short His ministry (Mark 1:35-39).
Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed; also from Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from Tyre and Sidon a great multitude, hearing all that he did, came to him. And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they should crush him; for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. And whenever the unclean spirits beheld him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” And he strictly ordered them not to make him known (Mark 3:7-12).
THEN JESUS WENT INTO THE HILLS TO SELECT HIS TWELVE MEN
These twelve men would become his companions, students (disciples) and apostles (missionaries). Ten were Galileans, one a Jew who would betray him, and one a Canaanite, probably from a mixed marriage. Judas was the only legitimate member on Jesus’ team, the others, in the eyes of the Jews were outcasts. It was and is more remarkable that one was a Gentile, a Kananaion named Zimona.
And Jesus went into the hill, and called to him those whom he desired; and they came to him those whom he desired; and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons: Simon whom he surnamed Peter; James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, whom he surnamed Boanerges, that is sons of thunder; Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him (Mark 3:13-19).
JESUS WENT HOME! BUT, WHERE WAS HOME?
Nazareth, where Jesus grew up, was a provincial and traditional Galilean town and it was not open to new ideas. Folks back home were more likely to accept news from strangers than from one of their own. How could God be working in “One of their own?” Or how could Moses write about Him? What happened in Nazareth is being repeated all over the world. When things cool down, we bring in experts from outside to revive us, and we praise them for rattling our bones. Jesus, too, had that experience, when He went back to Nazareth and almost lost His Life. After that incident, Jesus made Capernaum His home, and He returned there often; however, but this time, Jesus stayed in the city:
He (Jesus) went away from there and came to his own country (Nazareth); and his disciples followed him. And on the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue; and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him? What mighty works are wrought by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching (Mark 6:1-6).
Then he (Jesus) went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for people were saying, “He is beside himself.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Bellezebul, and by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” And he called them to him, and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man; then indeed he may plunder his house. Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit” (Mark 3:20-30).
Capernaum was on the edge of Galilee with new residence settling, and travelers constantly passing through. And these travelers were more receptive to prophets, who were coming and going. The city was guarded by a Roman garrison and it had a friendly Centurion. The leader of the synagogue was more open and tolerant toward Jesus and to traveling preachers. Near Capernaum, Jesus found eleven of his disciples. In Capernaum, people also clamored for Jesus’ miracles and He began to draw attention to Himself. The high priest sent delegates to spy on Jesus. And Jesus was able to fulfill “His Promise” to John the Baptist. Jesus did cast out a demon, healed many, and made one man walk. Jesus stopped the demons from identifying Him and that caused him to abort His Mission. The people were open and tolerant, but not to covet candidates. They disappointed Jesus thoroughly (Matthew 11:23; Luke 10:15). They did not defend Him against the charge that He was in liege with Satan, and they thought that Jesus had lost his mind. His family had come to take him home, but Jesus disowned them.
And his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting about him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking around on those who sat about him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Mark 3:31-35).
WHY DID JESUS SPEAK IN PARABLES?
The question was and the question still is today, in a system that “kill on the spot” those who differ on any issues and on any beliefs. Had Jesus declared that He was the Son of God, He would have been stoned the first day. The use of the “Son of man” hid Jesus’ true identity. Therefore, the term “Son of man” served Jesus well until He was at liberty, during His trial, to say that He was the Son of God. The same has to be said for the parables that were a tool to tell the Jews who the “Sower” and who the “Seed” were. Jesus used “The Parable of the Sower” to introduce the “God’s Kingdom/God’s Reign” to a people, who were convinced that they were the Kingdom of God on earth (Mark 4:1-9). To his disciple and others present and interested, Jesus explained what the parable intended. Both, Matthew 13:1-33 and Luke 8:4-15 concurred with Mark. These men must have known each other. While following Jesus intermittently, Mark only reported what he had encountered. He chose to write about those incidents that were pertinent to Jesus’ purpose of His “Redemptive Work.”
And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But he was silent and made no answer. Again he high pres asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am; and you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And the high priest tore his garments, and said, “Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophecy!” And the guards received him with blows (Mark 14:60-65).
And when he (Jesus) was alone, those who were about him with the twelve asked him concerning the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, bu for those outside everything is in parables; so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand; lest they should turn again, and be forgiven.” And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown; when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word which is sown in them. And these in like manner are the ones sown upon rocky ground, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are the ones sown among thorns; they are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the delight in riches, and the desire for other things, enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. But those that were sown upon the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold” (Mark 4:10-20).
MARK’S SILHOUETTE GOSPEL CONSISTS OF INCOMPLETE MAJOR IMAGES, WHICH REQUIRED TOUCHING UP
For instance, to put the “Parable of the Sower” in line with Hebrew expectation of the Messiah, Matthew regarded the parable as a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. Luke shortened the explanation, identified the “Seed” as the Word of God, and he did not expect less than a hundredfold yield. In the conclusion of the explanation, Luke addresses the heart, perseverance, and patience. The evangelists did not identify the “Sower” with Jesus, because all of Jesus’ followers are the sowers of the “Kingdom.”
This is why I (Jesus) speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says: ‘You shall indeed hear but never understand, and you shall indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it (Matthew 13:13-17).
Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy; but these have no root, they believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life and their fruit does not mature. And as for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience (Luke 8:11-15).