This is a very interesting statement from Mark that we would do well to pause over. I'm taking this study of the Gospel of Mark very slowly, as you may have noticed (!) as it is chock-full of detail which is easy to miss.
Mark states here then that Jesus NEVER spoke publicly without using parables. We have His first sermon recorded in the Gospel of Luke and there He didn't use parables, but we should see that as a one-off, a declaration of the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven and, in some ways, all His other public teaching flowed from this. Why did Jesus use parables to get across His message? It was so the people could understand. Now we studied that passage a few days ago- 4 v 11, 12-which seemed to state that Jesus preached using parables so that His listeners, in the main, would not understand! The verses we are looking at today re-emphasis that He did whatever He could to make His message clear and one which would stick in their minds long after they had returned to work. It appears to me that Jesus was conscious that He should not cast His pearls of wisdom about the Kingdom of God to those who were only following Him out of what they might get or the sensationalism of witnessing the miracles. He would not have those people trample all over the precious nuggets He had for those who were serious about following Him.
There were four types of listener to Jesus:
1. The Twelve- Jesus spent a lot of time and energy teaching this group and living with them;
2. The committed followers- these were those who were determined to work out the Gospel in their lives. Some would turn away from Him when He spoke controversially about eating His body and drinking His blood-John 6 v 53-69. However, Paul tells us that there were 500 people to whom the resurrected Christ appeared- 1 Corinthians 15 v 3-8-and so we can see that this was a large group of followers.
3. The crowd of those who were interested. This would have been made up of people with lots of different reasons to be there. Some would have come because they needed healing; some out of distrust of the religious leaders; some because they wanted a new direction in life; others because they were hoping to be part of a revolt against the Romans led by Jesus. We know that they numbered over 5000!
4. The passers by, who heard fragments of the message as they walked through the vast crowd listening and would have retained the very short parables Jesus gave.
How many sermons have you listened to? How many do you think you retained anything of? Thank God for the hope of some kind of mental osmosis where the Word of God drips deep into our hearts! Perhaps we all should be more active in our listening. Perhaps taking a notebook to church?
I'm on holiday next week, so won't be writing this blog until Monday 25th. As we study Mark, please feel free to email me questions. We are on this journey together!