“And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that: “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.”
And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” Mark 4:10-20
If you have ever wondered about the role God has in the hearts of those who respond, Jesus clears up any doubts about His supremacy in all things–including our own understanding. Jesus identifies the spiritual “goods” that people seek: seeing things as they really are, hearing the voice of God in their lives, having the ability to rightfully act within the eternal joys of forgiveness. Unfortunately, these things are not found by those on the “outside”.
But what about other religions, you might ask? What about the sincerity of the Jew? or the devotion of the Muslim? or the spirituality of the Mystic? Keep in mind the audience Jesus taught. They were Jewish. And the devotion of the Pharisees of his day would make most modern Muslims blush. Even the overall spiritual climate included a fair number of mystics who sought after God apart from society in the desert regions of Qumran.
So how does this relate to you and me?
There’s a part of you that finds your identity in being sincere and authentic. But apart from Christ, you’re still outside of his good graces of forgiveness and eternal life.
There’s another side of you that relishes being religious. It’s the side of you that leans toward ritual and tradition. But even that part of you stands outside the smile of God’s favor. The Pharisees, in all of their ritual and religion, still missed the Son of God in their midst.
Finally, there is a part of you that enjoys the mystery involved in pursuing a God you cannot see. Your heart enjoys the journey of looking for a God who is there in a sort of cat-and-mouse game. But the problem is simple: you are looking for Him on your own terms. This passage of Scripture reminds us that you cannot find God when you look for Him on your own terms. Instead, you must receive the truth as revealed in Jesus.
For many people–perhaps most–this is too hard to take. The idea that they must pursue God on His terms instead of their own is as foreign to them as me coming into their living room and changing the TV channel during their favorite show. But this is exactly what Jesus does to each of us who truly want to follow him–on his terms.
May you rediscover the richness of surrendering to Jesus and come in from the cold. He’s waiting for you right now.
1. Do you agree that seeking God must be done on His terms only? To what degree do you believe this to be true?
2. Are you still outside–trying to enter into true fellowship with Jesus on your own ability and sincerity? How’s that working for you?
3. Jesus doesn’t seem to leave any wiggle-room in this passage. To follow him, we must do so on his terms only. What do you think of that?