Life is a Parable: Mark 4:30-34

Focus Passage: Mark 4:30-34 (NCV)

30 Then Jesus said, “How can I show you what the kingdom of God is like? What story can I use to explain it? 31 The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, the smallest seed you plant in the ground. 32 But when planted, this seed grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants. It produces large branches, and the wild birds can make nests in its shade.”

33 Jesus used many stories like these to teach the crowd God’s message—as much as they could understand. 34 He always used stories to teach them. But when he and his followers were alone, Jesus explained everything to them.

Read Mark 4:30-34 in context and/or in other translations on!

One of Jesus’ foundational methods of teaching people was through stories and parables. The goal of these stories was to help those listening understand truths and ideas that might otherwise be too big or abstract to understand.

The gospel of Matthew draws our attention onto this method of teaching when Matthew adds the footnote that: “Jesus used stories to tell all these things to the people; he always used stories to teach them. This is as the prophet said: ‘I will speak using stories; I will tell things that have been secret since the world was made.’” (Matthew 13:34-35)

While Jesus used stories throughout His ministry while teaching, not all of them were understood by those listening. However, since Jesus using stories and metaphors was prophesied, I wonder how much of life and the physical world is a metaphor for the spiritual world. In other words, I wonder if God purposely created parallels between the unseen spiritual world and the visible physical world to help us connect the two together and to help us understand Him better.

If this is the case, our whole lives become a learning tool. With every action we make or avoid, we are learning something positive or experiencing the results of something negative. However, not everyone is able to comprehend or understand everything.

Mark’s gospel draws us to this point when he tells us that “Jesus used many stories like these to teach the crowd God’s message—as much as they could understand. He always used stories to teach them.” (v. 33-34a)

The stories Jesus shared were intended to help people learn God’s message, but since God’s message is so big and overwhelming, the stories were designed to share small details, pieces, and segments of God’s message – as much as we could understand. By sharing many stories that helped describe the different parts of God’s message, Jesus was helping expand His audience’s mind to what God wants for them as part of His plan.

However, since not everyone understood every story Jesus shared, Mark follows up by saying, “But when he and his followers were alone, Jesus explained everything to them.” (v. 34b)

Jesus made it a point to explain all the parables to His followers while they were alone. Jesus’ stories were not meant to hide truth but instead to remind us of His truth. When the gospel writers share parables Jesus shared with them, it is to help them remember the big spiritual truths that Jesus taught them, and it is to help remind them about how our physical lives reflect our spiritual lives.

Similar to how it was in the first century, not everyone living today will understand everything that Jesus taught. However, while the temptation for us living over 2,000 years later would be to ignore and dismiss Jesus’ truth, the best way to test whether it is still relevant for us today is to prayerfully study it and try it out in our lives. If the truth that Jesus taught is still valid today, then it is also still relevant for our lives.

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!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.