Series: 24: A Day in the Life of Jesus
Title: Teaching up a Storm
Date: 9am Worship. 13th June, 2021
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Bible Reading: Mark 4:1-34
Continuing our sermon series about an incredibly intensive 24 hours in the life of Jesus from Mark chapter 3 and 4. This Sunday we cover the first 8 hours of the 24 hour day when Jesus launches into a full-on time of teaching – covering such topics as the sower and the seed and not hiding your light. Even though Jesus was already tired, it is funny how doing things that we are passionate about can give us extra energy. How does this experience of Jesus (and the teaching of Jesus) help us in our work / life balance?
Before Netflix, there was a show on TV called 24 (it’s where I got the logo from). Do you know what I am talking about? Jack Bauer was the main character and basically he would pack a months worth of action into 24 hours.
It is a similar premise for this sermon series. We are exploring a 24 hour period in the life of Jesus where Jesus seem to pack in a months worth of action and ministry. But for Jesus, it was even more intensive than a Jack Bauer series, because as we saw last week in the prologue – Jesus went into these 24 hours already run-down and exhausted. Last week we saw that in the day before this crazy 24 hours, was being pressured by the crowds, hit with family expectations, criticised by the Pharisees, stirring the pot with his own comments and so busy that he didn’t have time to eat! Jesus was ready for a break when … this even more intensive 24 hours started.
There is so much to look at that I have split this 24 hours up into three sections – beautifully shown in this circle diagram.
8pm- 6am Calming the Storm
6am-midday Flying Pigs, raising the dead and other miracles
Let’s just jump to the side for a moment and talk about the Harmony of the four gospels. We all know that there are four gospels which tell the story of Jesus’ life and ministry – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John … and I assume that you have noticed that they are not all the same. They vary in little and sometimes big ways. The gospels are four different witness accounts and it sort of makes sense that while many things match up, there are some variations. And the study of these similarities and differences in the gospels is called the “Harmony of the Gospels”.
When it comes to the Harmony of the Gospels – you have the four gospels but one is not like the others.
Three of the gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke – we refer to as the Synoptic Gospels because there are places where they synchronise … they are very similar. But the gospel of John is quite different, largely because John takes a different approach. Where Matthew, Mark and Luke are a chronological retelling of Jesus life and ministry; John’s gospel is more of a structured narrative where John tells the story of Jesus to make a point. John is much more interested in revealing that Jesus is the Messiah rather than being chronologically correct.
A classic example of this is the cleansing of the temple. Where Matthew, Mark and Luke have this story happening at the beginning of Holy Week, just before the Easter story, John has it in chapter 2 – right at the beginning of the gospel. As I said, when it comes to the Harmony of the Gospels – one is not like the others.
Let’s jump back to this 24 hour period that we are looking at – and these stories is one of the best examples of the Synoptic gospels synchronising. Matthew, Mark and Luke all have this crazy 24 hours – the things that happen are slightly different from each other but the crazy time frame is in all of them.
So let’s start the clock … what happens on this 24 hours?
At first, it seems nothing out of the ordinary, Jesus is just teaching. Parable of the Sower, Don’t hide your light, the parable of the Mustard seed. However, let’s not undersell what is happening here.
Verse 1 – Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge.
While Jesus did a lot of teaching during his earthly ministry, there are only a handful of examples where Jesus did these extended long periods of major teaching to a large crowd… and this is one of them. In Matthew version – this teaching time not beside a lake but rather on the side of hill. Yes, in Matthew’s gospel this 24 hour crazy day starts with the sermon on the Mount!
Remember the context – Jesus is run down, exhausted by his ministry to the crowds, his run in with the Pharisees, his clash with his family and not looking after himself or find time to eat … and he goes straight into an extended 8 hour long major time of teaching. It just crazy. And we while we will come back to this point, let’s just take a moment to zoom in on the teaching itself as recorded by Mark.
Let’s start with the parable of the Sower. We all know this classic parable from Sunday School and youth groups. Because it is so familiar, I am not sure when was the last time I actually preached on it. But one of the powerful aspects about parables, is that they can speak to us in different ways in different circumstance or points in our lives. I think that is why Jesus preached using parables or imagery so much – because of its power to speak to us in our own situations. All we have to do is have ears to hear.
So … even though we have heard this parable numerous times – God can still speak to us in a fresh way today because our situation or life stage has changed since the last time we heard it.
I have an experiment … this reading has four different parables… the Sower and the seed; a lamp on a stand; the parable of the growing seed and the parable of the mustard seed. Just have a moment to stop and reflect on them. Ask God to speak to you in your situation right now through these images and parables. What is God saying to you today?
Let’s just do that for 3 minutes. If you are struggling just to sit and reflect … talk to the people around you. I am not going to ask you to give your answer … this is just a time to have ears to hear God speak.
How did that go? Did you God speak to you through this teaching? I am not going to ask you to share, but I did this process when I was writing the sermon and I would like to share what God was stirring within me through this reading.
I kept coming back to the work / life balance discussion we were having last week, and I found that this parable takes on a much more personal aspect.
The imagery of the thorns crowding out the space for the good seed to grow seems rather apt for the idea of our lives being crowded with the expectations of work and life and family and other expectations … so much so that there is no space in our lives for the good stuff to grow.
I wondered whether the stony soil, the soil which is not fruitful because there is no depth, be similar to the times when we have been running so much that we find ourselves on empty, and there is just nothing left in the tank to put towards growing. There is no depth for the roots to be established if the inner well is dry?
Or even worse, have we got so used to running non-stop, so used to be exhausted and running on empty, that any opportunities for growth or reflection just bounce off us like seeds on a path?
We want to spiritually growing … so how do we tend to our lives, to the soil in us, to create a good environment for spiritual growth?
Or we could apply the parable of the Lamp to this idea of work life balance. Life is about deciding where we invest our energy, our passions, our time and focus. Our problem is not producing the light, it is making the decision of where we are going to place that light. It would be crazy to push ourselves hard to produce light and then just hide the lamp under a bowl or under the bed. The lamp can’t light up everywhere but we can be wise in working out the placement of the light to get the most impact.
And just when we start to start to feel overwhelmed with the pressure that our spiritual growth and the impact of our light is all up to us … Jesus weaves in two more parables to remind us that the growth of the seed is only something that God can do. It is comforting to know that while we can influence the rate of growth, ultimately we depend on God who makes the seed grow. And God can take our contribution – even if it is as small as a mustard seed – and make something significant from it.
Can you see the power of Jesus teaching and parables. Jesus might have preached it on the side of a lake 2000 years ago, but it still has the power to speak to us, right here, right now, in our own context. All we have to do is have ears to hear.
To finish with, let’s just circle back and refocus from Jesus’ teaching back to Jesus’ situation. I remind you again, Jesus in the lead up to this marathon time of teaching was constantly surrounded by demanding crowds, clashing with his family and the religious leaders, and working so hard he couldn’t find time to eat … only to find himself with the opportunity to have an extended teaching session. And Jesus’ seems to cope fine.
Even after his crowd teaching, when Jesus finally got alone with just his disciples, Jesus continued to teach … Mark tells us that “he explained everything” that he had been teaching to his disciples.
Did it imply that Jesus was not happy having to teach when he was tired? No. Actually, it seem that Jesus is energised, enthusiastic, creative and willing to go the extra mile. But I think this can happen when we are doing something that we are passionate about.
Have you ever found that? When we are tired or have not much left in the tank … sometimes when we are asked to do something that we are interested in, are passionate about, or simply love doing … then we can find a second wind? I have learnt this. When I am tired but have work still to do – if I have a choice; choosing something I love doing is the better choice.
For Jesus – he loved to teach. You just have to read through the gospels and you will see Jesus’ passion for teaching. Even in the lowest night of his life, the night before his death on the cross, Jesus was still teaching the disciples … it was his passion. So I am not surprised that in Mark 4, in a point of exhaustion and feeling the pressure of people’s expectations – we find Jesus teaching. He loved it.
But I think for Jesus, it was not only about doing something you love, for Jesus it was also energising because he was doing it for the people he loved – the crowds and particularly the disciples. When the evening came, after 8 hours of teaching, and Jesus finally gets to step away from the crowds and the disciples said, “what did you mean by that parable” … Jesus kept going and explained it to them. Why? Because he loved the disciples and you keep going for the people you love. We will see next week that Jesus does need to rest – but he keeps going for the people he loves.
And maybe that is the message of hope that we can take away with us today … that Jesus keeps going for the people he loves.
I am going to pause there and come back next week when this crazy 24 hour period takes another turn.