Well “fun” is not a word that comes to mind with the Gospel of Mark. The reading this morning is somewhat harsh – a continuation of the lambasting that Jesus is giving the disciples. Mark has a harsh view of the parables, focusing on the hardships of discipleship, and the ignorance of those hearing them, a place where forgiveness will not occur, and that the kingdom will come to a head – when judgment or separation occurs.
Today’s parables are about the lamp under the bushel basket, the growing seed, and the mustard seed (interestingly enough the NT lectionary topic for this next Sunday). At the end of each is a clear message that there is a fork in the road. You either get it or you don’t. Either you have it and receive more, or you have nothing. You either make the harvest, or you don’t produce grain.
There is also a sense that the kingdom of God is about growth and expansion – out of control – out of our hands. Even its understanding is out of our hands, which we are reminded of in that “Jesus did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.” There is something hidden and mysterious about the inner workings of God’s kingdom.
There are those who get it and those who don’t.
This is all somewhat upsetting, considering we just started this gospel. It is like walking in to see the last Harry Potter movie without having read any books or seen any previous movies. The story is hidden and mysterious. Good luck understanding the full picture. Mark is similar in that much of who Jesus is is beyond our grasp anyway. Ironically this keeps me reading!
All of this, it turns out, illuminates Mark as a brilliant storyteller. He knows that those who are reading his work are going to be folks who have interest in the story. They have heard bits of this GOOD NEWS and are hungry for and seeking out more. When he talks about growth and the spreading of the kingdom like wild-fire, it is going to be easier to relate to than when the disciples initially heard it. It is that same literary concept that makes us yell out in the middle of a mystery/suspense novel, “No, don’t go in there!” The reader knows a little more than the characters.
What we have come to know, as followers of the risen Lord, is that growth is secondary to the good news itself. A good harvest is a natural outcome to the news that we have heard – a news that is more than just good, it is great! And we also know that if a final judgment is coming, there is work to be done in the interim!