When asked why he spoke in parables, Jesus responded:
“To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, 12 so that
‘Seeing they may see and not perceive,
And hearing they may hear and not understand;
Lest they should turn,
And their sins be forgiven them.’
Those who had ears would, Jesus said, hear him. We have ears, yet so often we do not hear, we have eyes and yet see not; we listen, but we do not understand. Like so many, we look for miracles, we want signs. But signs have been given – if we would but see them. If we read the whole of Mark 4 one of the things that strikes us is the way Jesus speaks about the kingdom of God: it is like the growth of a seed, the radiating light of a candle, and it requires more faith than the disciples showed in the face of the storm. Faith works from within us, from the seed of Grace planted there, and when joined to the vine, it will bear good fruit.
God does not work in us by announcing from the highest Heaven that He is God and we should worship and believe; of course He could do that, and when we expect miracles, we act as though we expect Him to. But Jesus shows a very different way of working – through love, through faith, and through service. Change begins in our hearts when Grace touches us; that seed of faith, so tiny, begins to grow. Jesus works in us and through us. We see this throughout the Gospel of Mark, when the Apostles themselves so often fail to understand and see what their leader is saying and what it means. If men who walked with Jesus every day found it hard to understand at first sight, then we should not feel so bad if it takes us some time and effort; God will help us. If you stop and think about it, how could it not be so? How can the finite grasp the infinite, or the creature the Creator – as Paul put it, we see as through a glass, darkly and know only in part.
Those early Christians who were expecting an imminent second coming, or who thought it would arrive before the death of the last Apostle, misunderstood in the way the Apostles had. God is already here, working through his people in this broken and messy world. It is not the other people, it is not the priest or the worship leader, or the Pope, or the Archbishop, to whom we should look to see how God works, we should look within ourself. That is where the kingdom begins its work in the world, and if we are rescued from our sins, then we shall want to be about His work – according to the gifts he has given to us. As the storms rise and the winds blow, let us not be like the Apostles, and let us not be fearful. Do we have the faith for that? That is the question Mark’s Gospel poses to us all. Let each look to his or her heart to see how we shall answer it.