Daily Bible Reading Reflections

The Key to Understanding the Parables of Jesus

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 3 and Mark 4.

Jesus frequently taught with “parables.” In everyday terms, he would encourage his listeners to envision weeds, seeds, leaven, treasure, pearls, nets, sheep, servants, sons, weddings, coins, managers, beggars, and more. Parables are often described as “earthly stories with heavenly meanings.” They are short illustrations that teach invaluable lessons.

In Mark 4:13, Jesus asked a question that reveals the key to understanding his parables.

“Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?”

“This parable” was foundational. “This parable” set the stage. What was “this parable”?

“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:3-9)

When Jesus was alone, “those around him with the twelve” asked for clarification. What did Jesus mean with this talk of a sower?

“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 that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones 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 deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” (Mark 4:14-20)

In what condition is my heart? That’s the key to the parables of Jesus.

  • Some hearts are like a path: beaten-down and always busy.
  • Some hearts are like rocky ground: full of clutter, with little room for spiritual roots
  • Some hearts are full of thorns: choked with the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things
  • Some hearts are like good soil: cleared, prepared, cultivated, accepting, ready and willing to bear fruit for the sower

“Do you not understand this parable?” It’s leading you to ask a vital question: In what condition is my heart? Miss that point or fail to consistently ask that question, and you’ll struggle to understand “all the parables.”

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