The parable of the soils has always been one of the most widely remembered stories. Often I hear people use snippets of this parable to describe a situation or person, and immediately the others in the group know what that person is talking about: “Oh, it’s like the seed that fell among the rocky soil…” And another will say, “Right. No roots.”
This parable continues with one of Jesus’ central themes, that the kingdom is about growth. In Mark, one additional aspect is highlighted. For him another curious theme arises. Mark has a harsh view of the purpose of the parables – they are told in order to perplex and confuse. Here, even more troubling, “in order that they may indeed look, but not perceive, and may indeed listen, but not understand; so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.”
Is it really true that the parables are provided so forgiveness does not occur? The question then arises, what was this growth anyway? I thought the growth was the good news itself. Evidently it is more complex.
Jesus tells these stories in order to highlight the difference between those who “get it” and those who don’t. And while it is clear that the kingdom is growing wildly and without restriction, it is also important to note, that like Revelation, it appears there is a divine secret and mystery behind it. Just as the kingdom is growing, so is the conundrum of the kingdom itself. More are understanding. More are also experiencing profound confusion, or perhaps even greater judgment.
Here we are in the midst of Lent. We are being encouraged to live into the mystery and experience the dichotomy of God’s gracious activity in our lives. For the more grace we encounter, the less it may make sense. The lines are being drawn, and we are being told to listen and make sure we are on the proper side – one in which grace triumphs over the establishment, and in which, ironically, divisions are healed.