Today we’re back in our series from the Gospel of Mark called, [Re]Discovering Jesus, where we’re taking a look at WHO IS JESUS?—not our Americanized version of Jesus—but the Middle-eastern first-century Jew of the Gospels, and WHAT DOES HE WANT WITH US? This is the fourth section of our series, and in an attempt to keep things a little fresh, we decided to go with a theme of the (re)Discovery Channel. And each week we’re going to do a quick tie in to a popular reality TV show beginning today with Mythbusters. Mythbusters is a show about how a team of interesting people, who like to blow things up, test out various myths to see if they’re true or not. Here recently they had an episode called “Five-Second Rule with Food on the Floor.” Is food that’s been on the floor less than five seconds really safe to eat? Truth or myth? Or how about this one, “Benjamin Franklin Discovered Electricity with a Kite.” Truth or myth?
So let’s start out by busting a few myths ourselves. Here’s a little exercise: we’ll have statements on the screen often attributed to the Bible as their source, and then we’ll see who believes it’s truth (that is, it came from the Bible) or myth (it came from some place else). Here we go:
“Myth” #1—God helps those who help themselves. Truth or myth? It is a Myth: Often attributed to Benjamin Franklin with actual origin in ancient Greece.
“Myth” #2—Bad company ruins good morals. Truth or myth? It is Truth: 1 Corinthians 15:33
“Myth” #3—Cleanliness is next to godliness. Truth or myth? Well, since it is Mother’s Day, every mother knows it’s true, but it’s not from the Bible. Myth: Some say it’s from ancient Hebrew writings, but it was first recorded in English by Francis Bacon in 1605.
We like it when things are true, don’t we? We like stories to be true, or, even if they’re fables, we like them to make a true point. For example: “A man and his son went exploring one afternoon and wound up in an open field. The end.” Not much of a story! Now, if you tell the story about a man and his son exploring one afternoon where they wind up in an open field, and a bear comes racing towards them, and the father pushes his son out of the way, fights the bear, and saves his son, then you can make a point with the story about a father’s love that compels him to act in the face of danger. The point, which is true, brings inspiration to real life. And these are the kind of stories Jesus tells—they are not myths to be busted but they are short stories that bring out truth.
In our text this morning, Jesus actually tells three stories—Mk. 4 beginning with v. 21. In fact, if you have a Bible or a Bible app, go ahead and turn there if you would—Mk. 4:21ff. So what I want to do is have us read these three stories, then I’ll come back and give a little recap of the stories, and then we’ll see if we can discover Jesus’ point and what He calls us to do. So, if you would, let’s stand together out of respect for the reading of God’s Word.
Story #1 (Mark 4:21-25)
And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
Story #2 (Mark 4:26-29)
And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
Story #3 (Mark 4:30-34)
And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.
You may be seated. So, let’s do a little recap. Story #1 is about a lamp and a measure. Do you put a lamp under a bowl or a bed? Neither. You put it on a stand. What type of measure do you use? Whatever you use will be measured to you—and even more.
Story #2 is about a farmer casting seed, and the seed grows even though the farmer doesn’t know how.
Story #3 is about a mustard seed, an extremely small seed when it’s planted, but it grows large.
The second and third stories, Jesus says, are about the Kingdom of God. And even though Jesus doesn’t mention that in the first story, it still gives us a clue on what Kingdom living looks like--characteristics of following God.
So what is the point Jesus is making in His stories? He’s telling stories to a large crowd, so large that Jesus has to get into a boat and push away from the shore in order to speak to all of them gathered at the water’s edge, Mark 4:1 tells us. What is Jesus conveying to the masses? Jesus is teaching about living life in the Kingdom. He’s teaching them what it means to live a life in alignment with God. Here’s something very important for us to understand:
Jesus taught that the Kingdom of God is near (Mark 1:15). He said to the disciples, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God,” in Mk. 4:11. V. 26, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground.” V. 30, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it?” Jesus wanted people to know about the Kingdom of God. But what is it? This language is unfamiliar to many of us. We talk about democracies or communism or dictators, but we don’t use “kingdom” language much in our modern vernacular. A kingdom is a domain. And what Jesus ushered in through His very presence was God’s dominion; His rule, His reign. But what does that look like?
I spoke at a Christian school awhile back, where there were preschoolers all the way up to high schoolers in the room. I asked the children and students to throw out words that describe a kingdom, and they started yelling out, words like, “Castle, king, queen, princess, moat, arrows, spears,” And then one little preschooler yelled out, “Aliens!” I don’t know what that had to do with a kingdom, but it worked for him! But minus the aliens, those other descriptions are pretty accurate when we think of medieval kingdoms. But what about modern-day kingdoms? What about pictures like this? Here’s a picture of Iran’s capital city, Tehran. Some see this as a kingdom. But then there are others who see this as a kingdom. How about modern-day kings? Here’s a picture of the G-8 leaders, leaders of the nation’s most powerful countries. In Jesus’ day, people might have had pictures like this conjured up in their mind when He started to talk about kingdom--a rendition of King Herod’s palace. Or maybe they pictured something like this: a rendition of first-century Rome.
All of these pictures show kingdoms defined by power, might, domination, control, wealth, influence. And then Jesus comes along and starts telling stories about God’s Kingdom being something that’s been hidden, like seeds scattered on the ground, like the smallest of seeds being planted. This is so antithetical to the first-century mindset of kingdoms that it would’ve created dissonance—just like it does today! Today’s kingdoms are about who’s in charge, who calls the shots, who has the most toys. In New Orleans, Al Copeland was a big name—creator of Popeye’s chicken, Copeland’s restaurant chain, and many other businesses. At his graveside service, do you know what they had on display—at the cemetery? —his toys. “He who has the most toys wins.” He was considered a “king” of a very wealthy domain!
But God’s Kingdom is different, according to Jesus. In telling these three stories in Mark 4, Jesus does a little “mythbusting” of His own, so to speak, of what a true, lasting, enduring kingdom is all about. It’s an “upside-down” Kingdom in these three ways:
1. What’s hidden will be revealed (Mark 4:21-25)
*A light is not meant to be put under a bowl or a bed. It’s meant to give light. The Kingdom of God has been hidden, but it will be revealed—and Jesus was the main Revealer! They “myth” of the world is that the Kingdom of God is nothing, irrelevant, passé. Christianity is just an old-time religion, and it doesn’t make any difference. Jesus comes along and says, what’s hidden (what appears to be hidden in this world) will be revealed. It does have an impact, and it does make a difference. So what does this mean for us?
*Application: Don’t hide your Kingdom life.
2. What’s planted will grow (Mark 4:26-29)
*The farmer scatters seed, and whether he sleeps or is awake, the seed grows, even if he doesn’t know how. The “myth” of our culture is that through science and technology we can figure everything out! Yes, we can figure a lot of things out, but in the “upside-down Kingdom,” it’s different.
*Application: You do the planting; God does the growing.
3. What’s insignificant will one day make an impact (Mark 4:30-34)
*The mustard seed is tiny, yet when planted it becomes the largest of all garden plants that gives shade to the birds of the air.
*Application: What you plant may seem insignificant but can have incredible impact.
I wrote a blog several months ago about how people can drive right past our property and not really see it. My point was that the best way for the Kingdom to grow is not by buildings—although they can be used for good. The best way for the Kingdom to grow is by you and you and you and you and me—all of us—sharing the light and sowing the seed. It’s in the little things we do day to day where we can see the greatest Kingdom impact. When you’re at the doctor’s office for a check-up, it’s being kind and gracious to the receptionist. I had a phone interview for some insurance that I was applying for not long ago, and I had to answer a gazillion questions about my health, who are the doctors I’ve seen in the last ten years, what medications have I taken in the last ten years. Have I ever had this disease or that disease or this health problem or that health problem? It was taking precious time, and I got frustrated and starting answering the questions a little too curt and gruff, and afterwards I thought, I wasn’t sowing seeds of God’s Kingdom. I was sowing seeds of the world’s kingdom!
The greatest impact we will ever have as a church body known as East 91st Street Christian Church is not by what we do in here, but how we live out there. It’s about living lives reflective of the Kingdom of God, which the Apostle Paul says is about “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Ro. 14:17).
So here’s my question: What light are you shining and what seeds are you sowing? How about with your children? With your spouse? How are you treating them? Are you words, actions, and attitudes reflective of God’s Kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit? How do you treat people at work? Are you angry most of the time? Are you bitter? Do you feel like a victim all the time—that life isn’t fair to you? Do people avoid you, or do they want to be around you? Here’s what I challenge you to do: step into the light of the Kingdom. Let His light—His warmth, His love—free you from yourself. And as you step into the light of His Kingdom, then His Kingdom will begin to flow through you. You will find that peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, and others will begin to see that in you, and it will grow and make an impact in the lives of others. Let’s pray.