Day 25      Mark 4 ... Hard Soil

The story about the sower of seed summarizes well the mixed results Jesus himself got while on earth. We who live 2000 years later, with such events as Christmas and Easter marked plainly on our calendars, may easily miss the sheer incredulity that greeted Jesus in the flesh.

Neighbors. They had watched him play in the streets with their own children; Jesus was simply too familiar for them to believe he was sent from God. "Isn't this the carpenter?" they asked. "Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon?... What's this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles?" (Mark 6:3, 2).

Family. Mark casually mentions that one time Jesus' mother and brothers arrived to take charge of him because they had concluded, "He is out of his mind" (4:21) Not even his mother and brothers could easily reconcile the wondrous and ordinary.

Religious experts. The scribes and Pharisees, who pored over the prophets, should have had the clearest notion of what the Messiah would look like. But no group caused Jesus more trouble. They criticized his theology, his lifestyle, and his choice of friends. When he performed miracles, they attributed his power to Satan and demons. The crowds. Common people seemed unable to make up their minds about Jesus. One moment they judged him "demon-possessed and raving mad" (John 10:20); the next, they forcibly tried to crown him king. How could Jesus, God's Son, worker of astounding miracles in broad daylight, go unrecognized? The incident that ends this chapter may provide a clue. When a storm nearly capsized the boat transporting Jesus, he yelled into the wind and spray, "Quiet! Be still!" The disciples shrank back in terror. What kind of person could shout down the weather, as if correcting an unruly child?

That scene helped convince them Jesus was unlike anyone else on earth. Yet it may also help suggest a reason for their confusion about him. Jesus had, after all, fallen asleep in the boat from sheer fatigue, a symptom of his human frailty. And the Son of God, the creator of weather, was - but for this one instance of miracle - one of its victims.

The early church argued for three centuries about exactly what happened when God became man, but their creeds did little to dispel the sense of mystery. In a way, Jesus was just like everyone else - he had a race, an occupation, a family background, a body shape. In a way he was something entirely new in the history of the universe. In between his humanity and deity lies the mystery that never completely goes away.

Point to Ponder: In Jesus' story of the sower and the soil, what kind of "soil" best represents your own response to the gospel?