Have you ever wondered why people reject Jesus' word?

On a human level, there are many ways we see this happen - Jesus points them out in the parable of the sower in Mark 4:1-9. All of the four groups of people mentioned hear the word, but only one accepts it. We've probably all experienced these responses in others that we know.

But there's another level to this question that we need to engage with. Last week we saw towards the end of Mark 3 how Jesus responded to rejection: there was no power struggle, He simply rejected those who rejected Him and continued building His Kingdom without them. Nevertheless, one question we didn't see answered was why there was any rejection of Jesus in the first place? After all, we saw the incredible power of Jesus' teaching in chapter 1. Does this suggest that maybe Jesus didn't have as much authority as we were led to believe? Is He really unable to convince these people of who He is?

The key answer comes in v10-12. Those of us who were taught in Sunday school that parables were nice stories that Jesus told to make it easier to understand what He was saying are in for a bit of a shock at this point. Jesus quotes from a rather confusing passage in Isaiah 6, where Isaiah is specifically instructed by God to go and preach to a people who, he was told, would not only not repent, but rather would become even more confused!

In the same way, Jesus says He is speaking in parables to those on the outside (who we saw last week in Mark 3:31-35 were those who were not listening to Jesus) so that they would not understand. Rather than making things easier to understand then, the purpose of parables is to make the Kingdom of God hidden from those who aren't listening to Jesus.

In other words, Jesus' word is still at work even when people are rejecting it, but it is working in judgement, by confusing them, and hence denying them the forgiveness that Jesus has come to bring (v12).

It's when we understand this that we can see why Jesus keeps stressing things like 'listen' (v3), 'He who has ears to hear, let Him hear' (v9, 23), 'Pay attention to what you hear' (v24). It also makes us take the warnings of the parable of the sower much more seriously.

Questions for application

  • How is this passage an encouragement to us? How does it give us confidence in the power of the word?
  • What is paying attention to Jesus' word going to look like for you in practice? What practical changes do you need to make?
  • How do you see the different temptations of the parable of the sower around you (eg. What are the particular 'desires of the world' that you most struggle with)? How can you guard against these things happening?