DOWNLOAD MP3: Listen to Jesus (35mins)
I'm not sure how good a preach it was, it has been a real wrestle to prepare it mostly because it gets to the inner workings of parables and the doctrine of election, which are neither easy on the mind or on the heart. The passage forces you to speak of Jesus the judge whilst seeking to convey the lavish grace of Jesus coming from his Father to sow the life giving word. It's about 18 verses of the former and only two of the latter, so it should feel hard work, but I'm not sure I gave enough air to the "good" - did I have people believing in the word to judge and blown away that Jesus has given them life through the word? I'm not sure. The feedback has been positive but I found it one of the hardest to have preached.
All that said, it'd be easy to dodge or overlook it - but the only way to go is to ask Jesus to give you ears to hear and listen in. Mark 4v12 we're forced to face up to Jesus saying he uses parables to stop some people from repenting - and he tells of how many will turn away, seemingly reasonably, because of the world, the flesh and the devil. Outsiders hear and go no-where. The loss is devastating and weighty.
We asked the question: Why does Jesus use parables.At the same time the shocking punchline is that there will be a vast harvest which almost looks like exaggeration. But it comes from the mouth of the one who told all creation to be fruitful and multiply - so it's not all that strange. I think it partly equates to "the word spread and the number of disciples increase" but perhaps more to the relational fruitfulness that Jesus would have with us as he comes to us by his word. Insiders are given, by the great giver, the secret of the kingdom, namely the king.
Answer 1: to tell us where we stand with him
Answer 2: to call us to know him.
God comes to us clothed in the word of gospel as Jesus speaks to us. Here is the beloved son of the Father. Here is the bridegroom. His Father loves him and sends him out in love, and he loves us by laying his life down to bring us to himself.It seems to me that here in Mark 4, the one who is on the throne in Isaiah 6 and comissioned Isaiah to go and harden hearts, comes out from his throne, sowing the seed that is the fruitful word of the gospel, and through it he judges those with hard hearts but also invites any who will 'listen' to hear, accept and bear fruit. He invites me to listen and to keep on listening - not to gather knowledge but to actually know him, relationally. Those who walk away don't misunderstand, they mislove; they're not stupid, they have hard hearts. And we all start out dead hearted - but Jesus comes out looking for us. The one who spoke the world into being, comes out to engage our hearts - to win us to himself - to give us new hearts, to give him himself to us.
Here is the God of Isaiah 6; the one who sat on the throne burning in holiness. Isaiah saw him on his throne. Isaiah didn’t block his ears. He didn’t walk away. He didn’t look for something more attractive. No, he fell down on his face and wept for his unclean lips – his unclean heart. The one on the throne came out and atoned for his sin, gave him clean lips, a new heart. The beloved son came and laid down his life for him.
Faced with Jesus, he knew he had a hard heart – and he cried out to Jesus to save him.
He didn’t try to fix himself – all eyes on Jesus. Jesus who, this morning, walks off the pages of Mark’s gospel into our lives. Jesus comes from his Father to give himself to us – speaking his fruitful gospel word to those who will trust him.