The Ignorant Farmer: Mark 4:26-29

Focus Passage: Mark 4:26-29 (NIrV)

26 Jesus also said, “Here is what God’s kingdom is like. A farmer scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day the seed comes up and grows. It happens whether the farmer sleeps or gets up. He doesn’t know how it happens. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain. First the stalk comes up. Then the head appears. Finally, the full grain appears in the head. 29 Before long the grain ripens. So the farmer cuts it down, because the harvest is ready.”

Read Mark 4:26-29 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

One of the topics Jesus seemed to like using for parables was the topic of farming. In a number of places in the gospels, we can read Jesus using this occupation to help teach the crowds about spiritual truths. In Mark’s gospel, we read a parable about farming that sounds similar to other farming parables, but is also pretty unique.

In this parable, Jesus begins in verse 26 by saying, “Here is what God’s kingdom is like.” This preface tells me that everything that is about to be described will symbolically relate to God’s kingdom. A good percentage of Jesus’ parables begin this way, so we can conclude that this subject is something that Jesus wants us to understand.

Jesus then continues by sharing the illustration. “A farmer scatters seed on the ground. Night and day the seed comes up and grows. It happens whether the farmer sleeps or gets up. He doesn’t know how it happens. All by itself the soil produces grain. First the stalk comes up. Then the head appears. Finally, the full grain appears in the head. Before long the grain ripens. So the farmer cuts it down, because the harvest is ready.” (v. 26b-29)

What strikes me as odd in this parable is that in almost every other parable were God’s kingdom is represented, God shows up as one of the characters. In this parable, the most likely character to represent God is the farmer, but Jesus describes the farmer has being ignorant about how grain grows – and since God knows everything, this doesn’t seem to fit.

But perhaps there is an element of mystery in a being created with free will. While God can step outside of time and see the future and the past, when He is within time, in the moment we are experiencing right now, I wonder if He experiences surprise or excitement when we do something unexpected.

In this parable, God plants seeds in our hearts, and He tries to give the right set of circumstances to help these seeds grow. At the end of our lives, when we have fully “ripened”, God will harvest us. This is because our current life is simply a preparation stage for the life to come.

I wonder if the farmer’s ignorance is because God has chosen to allow us the freedom of choice regarding salvation. I wonder if God has purposely limited Himself to allow us to choose whether we will grow the seeds He has planted in our hearts. If we grow the grain He planted, and produce “fruits of the spirit”, then when we are ripe, we will be harvested and brought into the future life in heaven to live with Him forever!

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Letting the Spirit Lead: Luke 2:21-38

Focus Passage: Luke 2:21-38 (GNT)

21 A week later, when the time came for the baby to be circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name which the angel had given him before he had been conceived.

22 The time came for Joseph and Mary to perform the ceremony of purification, as the Law of Moses commanded. So they took the child to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, 23 as it is written in the law of the Lord: “Every first-born male is to be dedicated to the Lord.” 24 They also went to offer a sacrifice of a pair of doves or two young pigeons, as required by the law of the Lord.

25 At that time there was a man named Simeon living in Jerusalem. He was a good, God-fearing man and was waiting for Israel to be saved. The Holy Spirit was with him 26 and had assured him that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s promised Messiah. 27 Led by the Spirit, Simeon went into the Temple. When the parents brought the child Jesus into the Temple to do for him what the Law required, 28 Simeon took the child in his arms and gave thanks to God:

29 “Now, Lord, you have kept your promise,
    and you may let your servant go in peace.
30 With my own eyes I have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples:
32 A light to reveal your will to the Gentiles
    and bring glory to your people Israel.”

33 The child’s father and mother were amazed at the things Simeon said about him. 34 Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother, “This child is chosen by God for the destruction and the salvation of many in Israel. He will be a sign from God which many people will speak against 35 and so reveal their secret thoughts. And sorrow, like a sharp sword, will break your own heart.”

36-37 There was a very old prophet, a widow named Anna, daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Asher. She had been married for only seven years and was now eighty-four years old. She never left the Temple; day and night she worshiped God, fasting and praying. 38 That very same hour she arrived and gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were waiting for God to set Jerusalem free.

Read Luke 2:21-38 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

In the days that followed Jesus’ birth, Joseph and Mary took Jesus to Jerusalem to have Him dedicated. In their trip to the temple, there are some interesting things that stand out in my mind – especially knowing what Jesus ultimately faces 30+ years later.

Luke tells us that “At that time there was a man named Simeon living in Jerusalem. He was a good, God-fearing man and was waiting for Israel to be saved. The Holy Spirit was with him and had assured him that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s promised Messiah.” (v. 25-26)

I have always pictured Simeon as being one of the priests on duty at the temple for Jesus’ dedication, but according to what Luke tells us, Simeon was simply a God-fearing man who the Holy Spirit was with. “Led by the Spirit, Simeon went into the Temple. When the parents brought the child Jesus into the Temple to do for him what the Law required, Simeon took the child in his arms and gave thanks to God.” (v. 27-28)

What really stands out in my mind is that too often, we are quick to believe that those in Jerusalem had fallen away from God because of how the priests and leaders treated Jesus. However, in this passage, at the time of Jesus’ birth, we see a glimpse of someone (Luke does not give him a title) who God was with and who God had promised would live to see the Messiah arrive.

In the description of Simeon, we see hope for God’s chosen people, even if many of the leaders were unwilling to accept the Messiah who had recently arrived. In Simeon’s life, we can see a promise from God about seeing the Messiah arrive. In this promise, we can see God’s direction, His leading, and the choice on our part to follow. Simeon was led by the Spirit at exactly the right time to meet Jesus, and He was one of the first to truly grasp that this baby was the Messiah that God had promised to send to His people.

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God Steps Into Third Place: Luke 6:1-5

Focus Passage: Luke 6:1-5 (NCV)

One Sabbath day Jesus was walking through some fields of grain. His followers picked the heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them. Some Pharisees said, “Why do you do what is not lawful on the Sabbath day?”

Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did when he and those with him were hungry? He went into God’s house and took and ate the holy bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he gave some to the people who were with him.” Then Jesus said to the Pharisees, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath day.”

Read Luke 6:1-5 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Almost everywhere Jesus and His followers traveled, another group of people seemed to continually show up. While these people were not followers of Jesus in the typical sense, it would seem that they definitely followed Him around. Their goal was to catch Jesus doing something wrong.

This group of people were the Pharisees, and one Sabbath Jesus and His followers were walking through a grain field. A few of Jesus’ followers picked some grain, rubbed it in their hands to remove the husk, and ate it. While this was low on the scale of effort, it was still classified as work, so the Pharisees who were following along challenged the group of followers by saying, “Why do you do what is not lawful on the Sabbath day?” (v. 2)

Instead of focusing in on Jesus’ response, which doesn’t excuse His follower’s actions, but challenges the position these Pharisees had taken towards the law, let’s focus on the challenge these Pharisees gave.

The Pharisees had created so many rules that they had laws to keep them from breaking other laws. The “unlawful” action these followers did was one such law that was intended to keep them from breaking the very sacred Sabbath rest that God had commanded. Where the Pharisees’ became legalistic and critical was that they elevated their set of laws to be equal with God’s laws. The Pharisees expected the people to obey the laws that they had created so there would be no possible way to break God’s laws.

However, this was more of an outward projection rather than them living to their own standard. If a Pharisee slipped and broke one of their rules, then they could be forgiven, because at least they didn’t break God’s law. If someone else broke a Pharisee’s rule, then they were treated like they had broken God’s law. In a Pharisee’s mind, obeying the rules was more important than building a relationship.

In our own lives two thousand years later, there are people who follow this same train of thought. In the 21st century, there are people who would prefer to project their beliefs onto others as though they were speaking on God’s behalf.

But God doesn’t put rules ahead of relationships. Jesus came to show us that God values us just as much as He values His rules. Jesus came to take our place because God loves us so much. God doesn’t simply put us ahead of the rules, He placed the rules ahead of Himself, before also placing us ahead of Himself too. God placed us ahead of Himself, and He demonstrated this through Jesus coming on the cross to die for our sins.

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Rumors about Jesus: Matthew 16:13-20

Focus Passage: Matthew 16:13-20 (NIV)

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Read Matthew 16:13-20 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

During one of the times Jesus was traveling with His disciples, He asks them a question that is both insightful and profound. While this question leads into another question and ultimately into a response Peter gives that Jesus praises him for, the first “lead-in” question, is very interesting in my mind.

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’” (v. 13)

This question stands out in my mind because by this time in Jesus’ ministry, His disciples had been with Him for more than a year or two, and they had traveled around to enough places that the whole country knew about Him. However, Jesus’ question is more about wanting to know what people think. With everything that He has done, Jesus wants to know the general consensus surrounding who the crowds think He is.

The response the disciples give is interesting as well. They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (v. 14)

Some might point to the response the disciples give as pointing to a belief during that time in reincarnation. This would imply that Jesus reincarnated from one of these historical figures. But while this is a possible theory, a stronger theory is that these people believed in God’s ability to restore life (i.e. to resurrect someone). There are examples of resurrection in the Old Testament, and several of Jesus’ conversations center around the theme of resurrection.

But the big thing I see in this initial question and the disciple’s response is this: If we choose to stand out from the crowd by doing or saying anything significant, people will talk and rumors will circulate. None of the theories surrounding Jesus in the disciple’s response were correct, but that didn’t stop Jesus. If we stand out from the crowd, people might believe and/or spread lies about us as well. It is up to us to not let the rumors irritate us or knock us off the track God has placed before each of us.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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