Take Heed What You Hear, Mark 4:21-29

There are seven parables spoken by the Lord in Matthew chapter 13 only three of which are also mentioned in Mark and Luke and none in the gospel of John.

While the gospels record about thirty parables mentioned by Jesus; these seven are significant because they reveal the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, or as Jesus called them in Mark 4:11, “the mystery of the kingdom of God”.

This mystery kingdom is the church age from Pentecost to the rapture of the church before the tribulation period described in the book of Revelation.

Technically it could be said that the mystery began when the Jews rejected Jesus as their King, recorded in Matthew chapters 12 and 13.

Many folks do not realize that Jesus had come to Israel with a bona fide offer to set up the kingdom right then and there if they had accepted Him for what He was; the long prophesied Messiah.

“From that time [death of John the Baptist] Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Matthew 4:17.

When Jesus sent the twelve disciples out to preach, He instructed them to go to:

“…the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Matthew 10:6b-7.

“Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” John 8:24.

I have tried to put myself in the place of the Jews of Jesus’ day, and truthfully it is a bit scary. If my faith in the Law of Moses had been as strong as my faith in Christ today it is hard to see how things would have gone down.

I, or we, if you will, would have been steeped in the teachings of the day which were to keep the law, be good and do good, and if we were to make the cut, God would let us into Paradise.

It is unlikely that the faith of Abraham would have been taught in many of the synagogues of that day. Yet that is how God’s salvation was received in those days.

“And he [Abraham] believed in the Lord, and He [God] accounted it to him for righteousness [a judicial verdict of ‘Not Guilty!’].” Genesis 15:6.

“For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something of which to boast, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’” Romans 4:2-3.

“And he [the jailer] brought them out [of a prison cell] and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.’” Acts 16:30-31.

So we see that the names have been changed, but the way remains the same; faith in God. Here then, we (as Jews) are confident in our belief that if we keep the law, God will receive us. Then, along comes Jesus.

Jesus came in making claims to being the King of Israel, their Messiah. More than that Jesus’ claims were that He was the Son of God which they all clearly understood to mean that He was God incarnate.

How should we respond to such blasphemous claims, especially since the high priests and the Pharisees condemned Him as a liar and demon possessed blasphemer who did His works by the power of Satan.

Now the world might be broken down into two categories, those who seek after God and the Homer Simpsons (the nighttime cartoon show) of the world.

Those who seek after God may side with the religious leaders of the day because they are supposed to know better.

But after comparing Old Testament prophesies concerning the Messiah, listening to Him and seeing His miracles, it would be easy to see that His words and His miracles validated His claims to being their Messiah. These would either immediately, or in time accept Christ as their savior.

But, the Homer Simpsons of the world who sit on their couch with the TV remote in one hand, and a beer in the other are too lazy or too self satisfied to do anything more than to accept the claims of the religious leaders and have it at that.

It was many of the Simpsons of that day who made up the crowds surrounding the Lord. They came for the healings and a show, TV not having been invented yet.

Earlier it was said that the world could be divided into two categories; actually one more needs to be added – those who love power, whether religious or governmental power.

This describes the priests, scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, and their sycophant pilot fish who rejected Christ, for they loved the power, riches and status more than God.

Those who died in their unbelief are now powerless, impoverished, destitute, and in hell after but a brief stay on earth.

“Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, ‘What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.’” John 11:47-48.

It takes a truly twisted heart like this to make a statement which is against all common sense like, “He has Beelzebub,” and, “By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons.” Mark 3:22b. It is people like these that many of the parables we will study are about.

Evil religious men like this have always existed and do to this day. This is why every smiling face that walks into your church with a message for you needs to be examined in the light of Scripture rather than accepted at face value because they are sincere.

“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.” 2 Corinthians 11:13-15.

Today, none of us needs to be slapped on the head to realize that a horrific evil is alive and well in these modern times. Not only is there an abundance of murderous wolves in this country due to an atmosphere of lawlessness from government on down, but religious apostates are more in number than ever before.

Watch! Now is not the time for the Christian to be asleep.

At any rate, the apathetic worldlings (Homer Simpsons) and the religious hypocrites made up a large segment of the crowds that came to hear Christ speak and to see His miracles.

This is why He spoke in parables, so only those who sincerely sought Him out may carefully consider them and with the help of God’s Spirit learn their meaning, or as many did, ask Him.

“But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: ‘Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they should see with their eyes and understand with their heart, lest they should turn, so that I should heal them.’” John 12:37-40.

The Jews had rejected Christ after so many of His signs confirmed that He was their prophesied King; by hardening their hearts to the things of God it became harder to believe afterward.

This person eventually becomes reprobate in their heart and they will never receive Christ.

Still, many of Jesus’ hearers became Christians later on through the preaching of the apostles after His death and resurrection.

The point here is that Israel had rejected Christ as a nation; this in turn terminated His offer to be their King. He then continued on to offer Himself up for the sin of the world.

These parables were used to convey His teachings to those who would listen while keeping them from the multitude which might have at that time repented and accepted Him as their King.

Repentance is something which they could not do because God had already accepted their rejection of His Son as their Messiah and had rejected them from receiving the kingdom which He had offered.

Listen! You can only say no so many times before the offer is retracted!

“He who is often rebuked [reproved], and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” Proverbs 29:1.

“And He said to them, ‘Is a lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? Is it not to be set on a lampstand? For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.’” Mark 4:21-23.

The parable of the sower was covered in the study entitled “Good Earth”, published in 4 parts on 11-16-18 through 11-26-18 as were the lampstand verses above, yet there remains a bit more to be said.

In the study “Good Earth” the point was made that Christians, no matter what their circumstances may have been, should let their lamp shine rather than hiding it.

A secondary thought is this, for those who have studied the Scriptures and the parables, are meant to teach others the things they have learned about them, not keep these things to themselves.

Teaching does not necessarily mean that one has to teach a Bible study, Sunday school, or become a minister. Anyone can teach just by sharing the things they have learned, around the dinner table, in a coffee shop, or just while with friends.

It is our job to acquire knowledge through the study of God’s word and to share it. It is God’s job to guide you to those who will benefit from the things you have learned.

If you have no idea where God is leading you with this, then pray for wisdom to know what His will is.

Jesus went on to say.

“For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light.” Mark 4:22.

Again parables are dark sayings which are nearly impossible for the ungodly to decipher. But here Christ indicates that the Christian can know what they mean and that they are meant to be revealed to the body of Christ.

“And He said to them, ‘Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.” Mark 4:24-25.

Israel is a good example of this principle, they had the law and the prophets, and even prophets living among them, but they neglected the Scriptures and even killed the prophets that God sent to them.

Instead, Israel listened to false prophets who did not follow the Scriptures.

They turned away from the wisdom of God’s word and listened to teachers who taught things that were on their own hearts.

Things put there by Satan, the doctrines of demons which made it impossible to please God or to learn the truth about the loving God who had betrothed them to Himself.

Israel did not bother to hear God and became dull of hearing until nothing was measured back to them then finally the little they had was taken from them. This is the Israel that Jesus came to.

Beware Christian lest you too become dull of hearing and fall away.

“And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” 1 John 2:28.

“And He said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.’” Mark 4:26-29.

These last four verses above are only in the book of Mark. Many commentators number this among the parables.

Those who classify it as a parable explain it in this way: The kingdom of God is the church age that we are in right now. Some say that the man represents Christ who sows the seed of the gospel and goes away, and when the grain fully ripens He puts in the sickle and reaps the crop, which would represent the rapture.

Others say that because Christ would not sleep, the seed is the gospel scattered by men in this present age.

Another explanation is that it is possible that this is not intended as a parable; rather it is a continuation of the Lord’s dialogue in Mark 4:21-25.

The kingdom is indeed the church age; the man who sows the seed is any evangelist or Christian giving out the gospel.

Once the seed is sown the mystery of God working through His Holy Spirit brings about not only salvation in Christ, but growth which is just as inexplicable as the growth of a seed in the ground.

This should be a comfort to many of us who tend to second guess ourselves, wondering, “Did I say the right things? Did I offend them by pressing too hard? Do I need to go back over some of this stuff? I may never see this person again, was I thorough enough?”

If from the heart you presented the word of God, even if you fumbled around a little it is not necessary to fret over your delivery; just commit the whole thing to God and ask Him to straighten out whatever you think you messed up.

Can you see this? You sow the seed of the word of God; you cannot push, drag, or cajole someone into the kingdom of heaven.

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” 1 Corinthians 3:6-8.

Remember this, your lamp must be lit and visible, Mark 4:21.

You must heed the word of God and the more you study and take in the more you will be filled to overflowing, Mark 4:24, and be able to sow the seed for the next person, Mark 4:26.

In this manner you can live your life going about your business of sleeping at night and rising by day, all the while knowing that it is God who is bringing the seed to fruition.

The curious last verse, “But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4:29, this can refer to the rapture, or the end of the mature Christian’s full life.

“…on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades [hell] shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18b.

The gates of hell will not prevail, or be victorious against the church, but that does not mean that the church will not be battered violently, mercilessly, and continually until Christ returns for His own.

We will see this as we examine the parables of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.

“Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32.

Take Heed What You Hear taken from godisrevealed.com posted on 12-2-14, updated on 6-21-19.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version, copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission, all rights reserved.

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