Each week throughout the ReMarkAble series at First Baptist Church, we will have a guest post from various pastors, church planters, missionaries, professors, bloggers, etc. I will always post them on Tuesdays. This week, Dr. Craig Blomberg has provided his reflections on Mark's fourth chapter.
Dr. Craig Blomberg is Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary in Littleton, Colorado. Craig is the author of fifteen books and has co-authored or co-edited seven more, along with 140 journal articles and chapters in multi-author works. His books include four on the historical reliability and interpretation of parts or all of the Bible (esp. the Gospels), two on interpreting and preaching the parables, three commentaries (on Matthew, 1 Corinthians and James), a textbook on Jesus and the Gospels and another on Acts through Revelation, a handbook on exegetical method, and three books on material possessions in the Bible.
On a personal note, when I (Jeremy) was a student at Bethel Seminary, I was assigned Dr. Blomberg's book Jesus and the Gospels. It remains one of my favorite books from seminary. It has a tremendous balance of both scholarship and accessibility. If you would like to have a great resource about Jesus and the Gospels, this would be a fantastic book to acquire. You can read more about Dr. Blomberg at the bottom of the post.
The Parable of the Sower
The parable of the sower (Mark 4:3-9) is one of the more straightforward parables in the Gospels. A sower tosses seed by hand across the ground of his field and then plows it in—a first-century style of planting. Much will land on decent soil, take root, grow and produce crops but Jesus reminds his listeners of the other three options for some of the seed.
Jesus himself was not a farmer and he hardly needed to teach his largely farming audience about their business. Plenty of Old Testament texts likened God’s word to seed so many listeners would have naturally intuited that Jesus was talking about four different ways people could respond to his message about the arrival of God’s kingdom in his words and work. And for the sake of his disciples who at times seem particularly obtuse, he spells it all out in verses 14-20.
The Mystery of the Kingdom
Why then do we read the puzzling words in verses 11-12 about the mystery of the kingdom being given only to insiders and not to outsiders? Why does Jesus quote Isaiah 6:9-10 in Mark 4:12, seeming to suggest that he was deliberately hiding the truth from some people? If anything stands out in this chapter in Mark it is these two puzzling verses! The answer, I believe, lies in Isaiah.
God calls Isaiah to pronounce a message of judgment on the ancient Israelites for their numerous sins. He only “hides” the truth from them after they have repeatedly turned their back on him. In Mark, we are far enough into Jesus’ ministry for the same to be true. But Isaiah also predicts the coming salvation of a remnant—a stump in the land (Isa. 6:13). This is not predestination to eternal damnation. This is God withholding further revelation from people for a time in this life because of their repeated rejection of him. But not all will persist in their unbelief, so some will eventually be saved. Acts 6:7 reminds us of how many priests became believers after Jesus’ resurrection—probably many of the Sadducees and a few Pharisees who had previously been so hostile to him.
What does this say about Jesus?
From all this, I learn that Jesus wants all to come to know God, repent, and be his followers. I also learn that he does not plead equally or forever with all people, but, as Romans 1:24, 26 and 28 also teaches, sometimes lets folks alone to go their own way for a time.
What does it say about what it means to follow Jesus?
I also learn that to follow Jesus I need to bear fruit. The seeds that fell on the rocky soil or among thorns and thistles look like they are going to turn into true believers but never produce fruit. That is the only reason farmers plant seed—for their produce. Nothing specifies what kind of fruit and Paul teaches about the diverse gifting of believers (Eph. 4:11-12). But let us not think that any of the seeds stand for true followers of Jesus except for the last-mentioned group.
But that doesn’t have to be onerous. The end of Isaiah reminds us that as long as we have the breath of life in us there is time to repent. Of course, we don’t know when we will take our last breaths so we dare not delay!
More bio on Dr. Blomberg
Craig holds the B.A. from Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, the M.A. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and the Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.
On Sunday mornings Craig regularly preaches and teaches in a variety of churches. On Sunday evenings, he attends and is part of the leadership team of Scum of the Earth Church in urban Denver, an outreach ministry to “the right-brained and left out” young adults of the metro area.
Craig’s wife, Fran, is currently adjunct professor of Intercultural Ministries at Denver Seminary and is pursuing her Ph.D in Missiology through the International Baptist Seminary in Prague. Craig and Fran have two daughters: Elizabeth (Little), who is married and is employed as a lay student worker at her Methodist Church in Canterbury, England; and Rachel, who is majoring in biochemistry at the University of Rochester, New York.