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Studies in Mark - Part 21

"A Parable On Parables - Part 1"

by David Legge | Copyright © 2007 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com

'Preach The Word'Let's turn to the Scriptures together for our reading, Mark's gospel chapter 4, as we continue our studies in Mark's account of the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus. Mark chapter 4, beginning to read at verse 1, and we will conclude at verse 20.

We're going to look in depth at what a parable is, and I think that is necessary in order that we understand both the parable that is mentioned here, and the three other parables that we will study in subsequent weeks...

Speaking of the Lord, it says: "And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land. And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine, Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred. And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without", or outside, "all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables? The sower soweth the word. And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts. And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended. And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred".

We want you to pay attention, and you will have to pay attention this morning - well, you have to pay attention every morning - but we're going to look in depth at what a parable is, and I think that is necessary in order that we understand both the parable that is mentioned here, the parable of the sower and the seed, and the three other parables that we will study in subsequent weeks. So my title today is 'A Parable on Parables'. Before we look at parables, and this parable, there are a number of lessons in this passage of Scripture, and that means that it's going to take us two weeks to get through it. The first is found in verse 1, because Mark makes clear to us that the Lord began to teach by the seaside, and the crowd forced Him to use a boat for His pulpit. Now it might be interesting for someone to do, on a future occasion, pulpits of the Bible - strange places and things that the Lord Jesus and prophets and evangelists and apostles used as their pulpit from which to preach the word. But as far as the Lord Jesus' ministry was concerned, this was a new departure. He had not preached before on a boat, and I would vouch to say that perhaps no one had ever done it as He did it in this particular passage.

It was an ideal venue to preach from, because the shore shelved gently down to the water's edge and made a kind of natural amphitheatre for the crowd to stand on and hear very clearly what the Lord was saying...

He is no longer now teaching in the synagogue, as was the accepted means, but was teaching by the lakeside from a boat. Now, it was an ideal venue to preach from, because the shore shelved gently down to the water's edge and made a kind of natural amphitheatre for the crowd to stand on and hear very clearly what the Lord was saying. But what I want you to notice is that not only was this a practical approach, but it was very unorthodox for Jesus to preach from a boat to a hillside. He had made the orthodox approach already to the people and they had rejected Him in the synagogues, and now He had to take unusual methods to sow the seed of the word of God. Now I only say this in passing because I think it is very relevant to the day and age in which we live: Jesus was prepared to use new methods in His day. His message did not change, but the method by which He presented it did. Now not every method would have been appropriate, and not every method is appropriate today to use as a medium to preach the word, to present the gospel - but out of the conventional setting, the synagogue, the Lord Jesus moved, because of the hardness and unresponsiveness of people's hearts, out into the open air to be among the people, to fish where the fish were swimming.

John Wesley was for many years a faithful and orthodox servant of the Church of England. Down in Bristol George Whitfield was preaching to miners, to as many as 20,000 at a time in the open air, and his hearers were being converted by the hundreds. He eventually sent for John Wesley, and Wesley himself said, and listen carefully to his words, I'm quoting him: 'I love a commodious room, a soft cushion, a handsome pulpit'. The whole business of open-air preaching rather offends him. He said himself: 'I could scarcely reconcile myself at first to this strange way', that is, open-air preaching, 'having been all my life, till very lately, of every point related to decency and order, that I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin if it had not been in a church'. But Wesley realised that Whitfield's method, field-preaching as it was called then, won souls - people were being born again. He responded to that by saying: 'I cannot argue against a matter of fact' - people were being won for the Saviour by unorthodox means in his day and generation.

Now I'm sure in the Saviour's day there must have been many orthodox Jews who regarded this new departure as a bit of a stunt or sensationalism, but Jesus was wise enough to know when new methods were necessary, and adventurous enough to use them. The question I pose to us today is: are we willing, ready, and able in ourselves to use new methods to reach others, methods that are effective in winning the lost, methods that are biblical in their standards and approach, and yet perhaps are new?

Now, let's leave that, because Mark then begins to tell us what the Lord Jesus has to say about parables. Now Mark's gospel, as I hope you've learned so far in our studies, is a gospel of action. Mark is 'action man' in the Bible! He is more concerned with the works of the Lord Jesus than the words of the Saviour, and that is borne out in the fact that he records eighteen miracles and only four parables. But now we're coming to Mark's record of the parables, only four, and it's interesting when you keep in balance the fact that Mark is the action man of service, portraying for us the Servant of the Lord and how we ought to serve in the way of the cross, and now when He comes to give His first parable He gives His disciples an instruction, a lesson in how they can expect to serve the Lord - how they will see God work as they go in service in the lives of men and women.

Now such instruction was very necessary and relevant when you consider the diverse responses that they have already received to the message of the Kingdom come in the Lord Jesus. You remember our study in chapter 3, if you look back at it, verse 28, you see that the Lord Jesus had been blasphemed - that could be forgiven - but then the Holy Spirit had been blasphemed in the hardening of their hearts to His work in their nation and in their own individual lives, and so He faced persecution and opposition externally, and then we see in verse 31 and following that even His own family and friends were beginning to doubt Him and say that He was mad. These were the diverse and many responses that people had to the message of the Kingdom of God in the Lord Jesus Christ. So what the Lord Jesus is doing in this first parable is to give them a lesson as to what they could expect when they went out to sow the seed of the word of God.

Are we willing, ready, and able in ourselves to use new methods to reach others, methods that are effective in winning the lost, methods that are biblical in their standards and approach, and yet perhaps are new?

So He gives the parable of the sower and the seed, but then He explains the purpose of parables and, having diverged away from the main parable to do that, He then returns to give the point of the parable. Now I try to be as honest as I can when I'm reading and studying the word of God, and I have to say that, looking at this account over the years, I first thought it strange and even unnatural for the Lord to interject an explanation of what parables are right in the middle of giving one. Does that not seem strange to you? Indeed, before He even gives the interpretation of it, He talks about what parables are all about, and He seems to do that exclusively to the disciples. Now a critic, and there's plenty of those around, might say: 'Lord, You're going off on a tangent'. If He was standing in a preaching class, they might say: 'You're digressing from the subject, You're in danger of losing the main point, stay on track!'. Now there is nothing in Scripture that is there by chance or is irrelevant. It might be the case that the Lord was digressing, or going off on a tangent, if the parable in question was completely unrelated to the definition of parables that the Lord gives in this passage. However, not only is it related to the parable, but it is intrinsic to our understanding of what a parable is. This parable, if you like, as I have entitled this message, is a parable on parables - it is given to us to understand how people receive and respond to the Lord's parables.

Parables in general, and this parable in particular, are all about how people respond in their hearts to the word of God. Now since these verses, and the next number of verses we'll consider are parables, we need first of all to ascertain the answer to two questions. The first is: what is a parable? The second is: why did Jesus use them? If you're involved in communicating the word of God, whether it is to mixed companies like this, or to your peer group, or to young people or children, listen carefully because there are lessons on communication even as we define what a parable is and why the Lord utilised them.

Let's answer the first: what is a parable? Well, a parable literally means 'something thrown beside something else', or 'a comparison'. Now here is a basic fundamental truth that you need to understand if you're not going to misinterpret parables in the gospels. Now listen carefully, even write this down: originally parables were meant to be heard, not read - parables were meant to be heard, not read. Now we read them, of course, because we've got the record of the life and ministry of our Lord, and we've got time to study it, and at leisure we can think about the implications and what it actually means - but the people who were originally hearing these stories, they heard and had to make an instant split-second appraisal of what Jesus was saying. They didn't have Bible commentaries, they didn't have concordances to compare with another verse in the Old Testament - they had to get the message.

Now what's my point? Well, whilst there are several truths interpreted from this parable, and some other parables have numerous truths weaved throughout them, generally - as far as parables are concerned - there is one main point that the Lord Jesus wished people to grasp. One main truth! So what I'm really saying is: a parable is not an allegory, and that is a mistake many people make. What's an allegory? Well, an allegory is a story where there is symbolism, and the symbols represent something. A parable is not an allegory, every symbol in a parable doesn't necessarily have to represent something. Sometimes the symbols do, but not always - but sometimes we can get sidetracked by the symbols and miss the main point of what the Lord Jesus Christ was saying! So a parable is not like 'Pilgrim's Progress', where the intention of the author is that everything has meaning, but a parable is used to communicate mainly one point.

When you study the parables, when you read in your daily devotions and so on, don't get too bogged down with the details of a parable and then miss the main point...

So let me say to you: when you study the parables, when you read in your daily devotions and so on, don't get too bogged down with the details of a parable and then miss the main point. If you get the main point, you'll see how the other details are related to it. One author puts it like this - and I'm spending time on this to help you in your daily readings and your study and listening to preaching - he puts it like this: 'Therefore what we must look for in a parable is not a situation in which every detail stands for something, we must look for a situation in which one great idea leaps out and shines like a flash of lightning. It is always wrong to attempt to make every detail of a parable mean something, it is always right to say 'What one idea would flash into a man's mind when he heard this story for the first time?''. Have you got it? What would he think? What impression would he be left with? Not when he read, or studied, or memorised the parable, but when he heard it - he couldn't press 'rewind' and play it all over again, he heard it once. What was his thought?

Well, that's what a parable is, it's not an allegory, it is a comparison with mainly one truth being communicated. Now why, to answer the second question, did the Lord Jesus use parables? Well, the writer I quoted gives a number of reasons, and they're very helpful. Let me share them with you, there're four reasons he gives: one, it caught the attention of the listener. He is not writing a book now, it's not a novel, it's not a biblical letter or a prophecy, it is a spoken parable. He has not a fixed congregation sitting in pews or in the synagogue, He has a moving target, people in the open air who could stay or leave at will. The parable caught their attention, and Jesus knew that the way to keep people was often to tell them a story. It caught attention. Secondly, the people of Jesus' day were familiar with parables. The Jewish leaders would have recognized them, some parables are in the Old Testament - you think of David caught in adultery, and you remember that God brought Nathan to him to further convict him, and he told the parable about the man with the wee lamb. The rabbis used parables themselves in their own writings and teachings, so the people were familiar with them. He was using language that they worked with in the past.

It caught their attention, they were familiar with parables, and then thirdly - and this is very important: Jesus was making abstract ideas concrete. Let me repeat that: He was making abstract ideas concrete. Let me explain: very few people can grasp abstract ideas. Maybe you're even saying 'I don't know even what you're talking about, let alone...' - well, most people think in pictures. Let me illustrate it to you. We could talk about beauty - and I could say I'm a very handsome man and all the rest! - but we could explain what it is to be beautiful: chiselled chin, dark complexion, tall, brown eyes of course, no grey hairs, etc etc! We could abstractly discuss what we feel is the definition of beauty, but then someone comes along and says: 'Well, there's David Legge, if you want to know what's handsome and beautiful, well there he is!' - and the abstract becomes concrete, do you understand? Where you can point at something and say: this is a beautiful flower, this is a beautiful bird, this is a wonderful landscape, the beauty becomes clear because you have made the abstract concrete. The New Testament does this, when the New Testament talks about faith it talks about a man, Abraham, isn't that right? So faith becomes flesh, and from the experience of this man we see, not in abstract but in concrete form, personified what faith is in life. A parable does that, Jesus was the master teacher, He knew the people's minds could not cope with just purely abstract ideas, but He put them in stories that they might understand. Now that is interesting, indeed more so, there's something in that for all of us who communicate God's word.

You see the truth enshrined within the parable had a double impact, in that the person felt they had discovered the truth themselves when they worked it out!

Then fourthly, not only did it catch their attention, and were the people already familiar with these parables, and He was making abstract ideas concrete, but we see that the virtue of the parable is that it compelled the people to think for themselves. What I mean is - well, the worst way, for instance, to help a child with their homework is to do the homework for them, isn't that right? Because they'll never learn! You see the truth enshrined within the parable had a double impact, in that the person felt they had discovered the truth themselves when they worked it out! Jesus didn't want to make men's minds lazy, and He didn't want to take away responsibility from people, but He is encouraging them into an active pursuit of the truth. He is wanting to lay responsibility on them. In other words, 'Here's the message, can you work it out?', and if you've a heart after God, and you're seeking after God, and a heart that is good soil, you will work it out - but if you're hard in your heart, you'll be closed, and you'll say 'That's a lot of nonsense, I haven't time to think about that!'. Do you see what the Lord is doing? He's compelling people to think about their souls.

Now, let's see how He does this in this parable. We will deal with three things in the time that remains: first, He delivers the parable in verses 1-9, look down at it; then He defines a parable in general in verses 10-12; and then He decodes the parable itself that He gave in verses 1-9, in verses 13-20. So first of all He delivers this parable, the sower, the seed and the soil. Now perhaps, as the Lord Jesus was in that boat, He actually saw a sower busy sowing seed in the fields within His own sight, and He says 'Behold', literally 'Look', 'the sower went out to sow'. In verses 3-4 He says some seed fell by the wayside, and that ground was too hard for the seed to penetrate. Many believe it was the place where people walked, the tramp, tramp, tramp of their feet made the ground even harder, and so the seed just fell and lay there, and then the birds of the air came and snatched the seed away and ate it.

The wayside soil, then in verses 5 and 6 there is the stony ground. That was ground that had a thin layer of dirt covering a bedrock, and so it was shallow earth, and that shallow earth prevented the seed from taking deep root - and so it had no root, essentially, and just perished. Then in verse 7 we read of the thorny ground - there's the wayside soil, the stony ground, and the thorny ground. The thorny ground had thornbushes that cut the seed off from nourishment, and the sunlight from getting in and causing it to grow. So literally the seed and the little sprout was choked by the weeds and the thorns and the thistles.

The wayside soil, the stony ground, the thorny ground, and then in verses 8 and 9 the good ground - and this was deep, fertile soil with conditions that were favourable for production of the seed into fruit eventually. We read that some produced thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred. He delivers a parable, and then He does this detour in verses 10 and 12, and we read there that when the disciples were with Him alone, the disciples asked the Lord: 'Master, why do You speak in parables?'. This is deeply informative, pay attention, He explained to them that only those with receptive hearts were permitted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God - that's what He says. Now a 'mystery' in the New Testament is a truth that was previously unknown, that can be only known by special revelation. So the Lord Jesus is coming as God's ultimate revelation, He is bringing the truth of the Kingdom of God in Himself, and He's telling them that those with receptive hearts are those that are permitted to know the mysteries of the Kingdom. So in other words, God reveals His family secrets to those whose hearts are open to Him.

He explained to them that only those with receptive hearts were permitted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God - that's what He says...

However, the converse of that is that the truth is hidden from those who reject the light given to them. Look at verses 10 to 12, verse 11: 'Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are outside, all these things are done in parables', verse 12, 'That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them'. Now that's a quotation, verse 12, from Isaiah chapter 6 verses 9 and 10, and that might seem harsh, what the prophet Isaiah is saying and what the Lord Jesus is quoting - that people should see, and yet not see; should hear, and yet not truly hear; should conceive in their mind, and yet not really understand with their heart what the Lord is saying, what God's word means. But you've got to keep this in the context of the whole of not only this gospel, but the whole of the Old Testament, this is being spoken about the Jewish people who had had the great privilege of the oracles of God, and the prophets of God, and the priests of God, and they have rejected the Messiah of God who had now come to them in the Lord Jesus - and because they had spurned the Light of the world, Jesus is saying they will not see the light of the word.

It's basically akin to what we were talking about concerning the unpardonable sin, that it was a hardening of heart to everything that God's Spirit had been saying to them up until this moment, and they had gone one step too far. So when the heart is hard, when it is unresponsive, not receiving, not wanting, it gets harder and the seed is snatched. But when the heart is open it receives not only what God is saying, but receives more, and more, and more of light.

So the Lord defines a parable, let me sum it up like this: a parable has two effects, and they are both opposite effects. On the one hand it makes truth more clear to those who are willing to hear, have you got it? First it makes truth more clear to those who are willing to hear, and yet on the other side of the coin it makes truth more obscure to those who lack spiritual concern. The best way to summarise it is the way the Lord did in verse 9: 'He that has ears to hear, let him hear'. A parable tests the spiritual responsiveness of the soul.

Now, I have wee bit more to say this morning, but I want to ask you as God's people - and perhaps those who are here who are not believers yet - how do you receive God's word? Does it cause you too long for more, or do you shut your heart? That has a great knock-on effect to your ultimate spiritual destiny, because the more you close your heart and harden your heart, the less light, the less word, the less truth you'll be able to receive and respond to.

Then thirdly and finally, He decodes a parable. He has delivered it, He has defined what a parable is, what it's for, and now He decodes the actual parable that is given here in verses 13 to 20. Now we could go into great detail looking at this parable, but we're not going to do that this week, we'll do it next week - but basically He said that some people's hearts are hard, some people's hearts are shallow, some people's hearts are crowded by other things, and some people's hearts are ready to bear fruit. The reason why I'm not looking at these particular soils this morning is that I want us to get the main point of the parable - sometimes we jump right away into the interpretation and miss the main point! The main point applies to saved and unsaved people alike, and it's all about how we respond differently to the word of God. It is particularly appropriate if you, like the disciples, are a sower of the seed. You're a preacher, Sunday School teacher, you work with children, you work with young people, you work with ladies, you work with men, you work with all sorts of different types of adults, you work with the unconverted on the street, you work in the open air, maybe you're a parent, a grandparent - this tells us of a spiritual principle that applies to saved people and unsaved people: those who have an honest and a good heart shall be given more, those who harden their heart shall have less. Those who cover up light will lose the little knowledge of God that they have.

Things don't always go your way, and it's not a revival every day of every week, and people aren't falling around us here getting saved - so what do we do? Despair?

Now listen, please, if you're involved in the service of the Lord, you need to hear this as loudly as the early disciples heard it from the Lord Jesus. You need to grasp it, why? Because it can make the difference between finishing your course, keeping the faith, or making shipwreck of your profession! Because things don't always go your way, and it's not a revival every day of every week, and people aren't falling around us here getting saved - so what do we do? Despair? Say 'God's word doesn't work any more, the Holy Spirit has gone to sleep'? Galatians 6 and verse 9 tells us: 'Let us not grow weary in doing good: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not' - that means literally, 'If we do not lose heart'. Now you will lose heart if you don't understand the various responses that people can have to the sowing of the seed. Jesus had different responses as He sowed the seed, He told the disciples: 'You will have different responses as you sow the seed', and we will experience the same. Unless we sit up and listen, we're going to be discouraged, we're going to be downcast!

Now, I told you, when we looked at what a parable is, that you must look for the one great idea in the parable that leaps out, that shines like a flash of lightning. Now, if I was to ask you what it was in this particular parable, what flashed upon the minds of the crowd who heard it for the first time, what would your answer be? That would be an interesting one! Will I ask you? You're all hiding now! What would it be, seriously? Do you know what it is? Although part of the seed never ever grew, the fact of the matter is that in the end some did. That's the point, it's very simple, isn't it? Yet we miss it, why? 'Oh, what do you think the shallow ground means? What's the hard soil?', we get so taken up with the interpretation before we get the main point! Some of the seed never grew, but some did - and eventually there was a splendid harvest! That's the message! This is a parable on parables, and it is a parable for the servants of God, for Sunday School teachers, to parents. It explains how God's Word will be received. Listen, look at the mathematics: three-quarters of the parable would suggest that this seed sowing was not very successful, is that not the case? Yet what the Lord is saying is: 'Don't measure success in service mathematically'!

Irrespective of those whose hearts are hard, and those who believe and then fall away, those who are distracted by the world and temptation, there will be a great harvest! So Jesus says to these disciples: 'I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it'. This is a parable to end all despair! How are you serving the Lord? I know how I serve the Lord sometimes, and I'm ashamed of it. We get so downcast, so discouraged, we may feel that all our effort yields no results, and it may seem that our time and our labours are wasted - that is exactly how the disciples were feeling. They had seen Jesus banished from synagogues, regarded with suspicion by the religious leaders and even His own family. In many places His message seemed to have failed. They were discouraged, they were downhearted, but this parable said to them: 'Wait, do your work, sow the seed, sow it prayerfully and faithfully, leave the rest to God for the harvest is sure!'.

As Isaiah put it: 'God's Word will not return to Him void', that means it will not return without producing any effect, it will accomplish the reason why it was sent. Now you mightn't see it first, it mightn't be obvious how God's word is being blessed - but the Psalmist said: 'He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him'. There might be a lot of weeping, mathematically three-quarters of our work might seem to produce nothing - but there's always that quarter, always that harvest!

There might be a lot of weeping, mathematically three-quarters of our work might seem to produce nothing - but there's always that quarter, always that harvest!

I had wonderful news this week, and I had this sermon prepared before I heard it. Andrew Watkins tells me at times what's going on on the internet, and he told me of a man who does a work around residential homes for old people - senior citizens, I beg your pardon - and he takes CDs, tapes and everything into their premises of our services. He was able to tell me - that man sees very little fruit, as you can imagine, in such a work - but he heard of a man who didn't even listened to a whole sermon, who came to the Lord Jesus Christ in one of those homes at the age of 98 - 98! That's worth its weight in gold, isn't it?

Now we mightn't see it right away, but it will come - it doesn't say when it will come or how it will come, but the harvest will come and so we need to sow! Ecclesiastes says: 'In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening do not withhold your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, either this or that, or whether both alike will be good'. Just sow the seed of the word of God everywhere, and there will be a harvest - that's what the point of the parable is.

Can I illustrate this great one point of truth by telling you a story I came across recently, with this I'll close. You'll know, most of you, that North Korea is one of the most Communist societies in the world - there are 22 million people cocooned from birth to death in an atheistic nightmare. God is banned. Well, what you may not know is that R. J. Thomas was a missionary to China in the middle of the 19th century. He had a heart for Korea before Communism existed, but Korea, even back then in the middle of the 19th century, was a hermit kingdom - no one was allowed from a foreign land into the nation. So R. J. Thomas, because of his heart for the Korean people, went to China and he bided his time until it was expedient for him to go into Korea. So in 1865 the opportunity came that he had been waiting a lifetime for, and he went on an American ship called the SS General Sherman. That ship was going to steam up the Tai-dong River to the capital, Pyongyang, in the hopes of luring Koreans to the boat to trade with them - that's all the Americans were interested in. But Thomas bought a berth on that ship, hoping to meet some Korean scholars in Pyongyang who spoke Chinese, and so he brought Scriptures in the Chinese language so that he might give them to those scholars, that they might discover the truth of the gospel.

The trip of the SS General Sherman was ill-fated, because in port along the way to the capital some of the General Sherman's crew killed three Korean men in a barroom brawl. When they reached the capital in Pyongyang, the rumours had grown to such an extent that it was impossible for them to berth the ship, and the people of Pyongyang were convinced that these foreigners had come for their children to make soup out of their eyeballs! There was nothing for the ship to do but to turn around and head down the river, but they struck a sandbank. Seeing them stranded, the Korean defence lashed a series of small ships together, and set them on fire. They drifted to surround the General Sherman, which caught fire also, and everyone aboard had to leap into the river - and as they waded to shore, they pulled out their swords, but were all clubbed to death by the waiting Koreans. Thomas also jumped out of that boat to wade to shore, but before he could speak a club swung with murderous force and dashed his brains into the water. He never spoke to one Korean, but his killer noticed when his body emerged to the surface that he hadn't a cutlass in his hand, but he was brandishing a bundle of books. He wondered had he killed a good man, and he picked up a couple of the sodden books. Drying them off, he separated the leaves that he saw were nicely printed - he couldn't read Chinese, so he decided to paper the outside of his house with the pages, as was the custom of the time.

Maybe to everybody else his death was a mystery, but not to Jesus, the sower of the seed...

Now imagine a house papered on the outside with the Bible! You can imagine the astonishment as he returned from the fields day after day to find Chinese-speaking Korean scholars reading around his house God's holy word! One of those Korean scholars became a Christian by reading the gospel portions that were plastered on his house. A generation later that man's nephew assisted in the first translation of the New Testament into Korean. Thomas never lived to see the fruit, but was there fruit? Oh yes, there was fruit, because God's Word and God's honour depends on it! As that club swung toward his brow, what do you think he thought? The trip had been a waste, a tragic mistake, he dies, his life purpose unfulfilled, potential unrealised. Maybe to everybody else his death was a mystery, but not to Jesus, the sower of the seed.

Next week, in the will of the Lord, we'll look at the details of the parable, this parable on parables.

Lord, help us, like our Lord Jesus, the Servant King, to be faithful sowers irrespective of adverse response, knowing that a harvest must come. For His glory we pray and we serve, Amen.

Don't miss part 22 of our Studies In Mark: "A Parable On Parables - Part 2" Jump To Top Of Page

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Transcribed by:
Andrew Watkins
Preach The Word.
August 2007
www.preachtheword.com

This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Evangelical Church in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the twenty-first recording in his 'Studies In Mark' series, entitled "A Parable On Parables - Part 1" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.

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