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Lesson 2: Parables

Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message.

– Malcolm Muggeridge  

Jesus invites his listeners to reflect on his parables: “let anyone with ears, listen” (Mt 13:9). Since Jesus does not offer detailed interpretations of his parables, we will be careful to not suggest one definitive meaning over another. The power of parables is their ability to invite each of us into the moment! The joy of parables is that different people can hear different messages from the same story. To encourage one another to encounter and wrestle with each parable, we will ask more questions than we might normally. Be sure to allow the Spirit to move in you as you ponder each one!   

Devotion: Read Mark 4:26-29. Today’s parable compares the reign of God to a growing seed which sprouts and grows without our knowing exactly when and how it happens. This is a nice counterpoint to yesterday’s reading which encouraged us to be good soil and receive the word. God’s power and activity are not limited to what we see or understand! The farmer has a role to play, but God is the driving force of growth. Modern weather forecasting is amazingly accurate, but God controls the wind and rain. We plant a seed, but only God can transform it into a stalk of grain. God is the driving force of creation, old and new. What do faithful people need to hear in this passage? What temptations might this parable help us avoid? What happens when farmers think their actions or beliefs make the seed sprout and grow? According to this parable, why is patience a fruit of the Spirit?

Personal Worship Option: Read Isaiah 45:1-7. Spend time in prayer, envisioning God as the Creator who wields great power. How might that image change how you pray? How does that image of God influence your attitude about prayer in general?  

Dig A Little Deeper:

Compared to the work of God, the farmer does not directly contribute in the actual growth of the seed. Rather, the farmer creates an environment where growth can take place. How does this relate to the process of evangelism in the church? Is the church called to make disciples or create opportunities for people to become disciples? What is the difference between those two ideas?

While the disciples desire for the reign of God to come in fullness immediately (Acts 1:6-8), Jesus describes the reign of God as slowly but steadily growing in the world. Is that a comforting image?  

Compare Jesus’ words “the harvest has come” to Joel 3:13 about the coming Day of the Lord, the time when God will pour out judgment on the nations of the world. How might this connection change your understanding of the parable?  

What, if any, is the connection between the seed and Jesus’ resurrection, considering that both “bodies” lie in the ground and then emerge?

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