Behold…the farmer

22 Dec

Some renewed musings in Mark.

After about a month’s break from moving further in memorizing Mark (thank you Joshua – you not only took the land but also took over my life for this past month), I’m getting back into it this week. Feels wonderful. Something in the way he moves.

Mark 4.

Jesus again goes out beside the lake.

Travelling through the gospel with him you see enough set-ups like this for assorted teachings and encounters that I’m left with the clear impression that Jesus really liked that lake. I get the feeling he went into the synagogues because he had to – that’s where people were, and that’s where many things had to be said and done, where he encountered many who needed freedom’s touch.

But his heart was outside. By the water.

So I’m watching him. Opposition has been increasing, his family thinks he’s nuts, people are beginning to swarm in from all points of the compass as word about him has been spreading. The crowds are multiplied. The numbers of disciples sticking with him after the crowds have gone home is increasing. And now with a boat for a pulpit and his congregation lining the shore at water’s edge, he opens his mouth. Momentous words. Mark has had few words from Jesus. Brief snippets, really. No great sermon discourse on a mount. No renditions of Sabbath sermons that always left amazed congregants. Mark has been incredibly reticent.

But now Jesus opens his mouth.

What spellbinding revelations are in store? What deep teachings? What amazing intellectual acrobatics must lie just before us? What, what, oh, what…

Word pictures.

He gives them word pictures.


After another.

And another.

And another.

You gotta love it. And the first one has such a wonderful build up. There’s the burgeoning crowd. There he is in the boat. Okay, on the Temple steps in Jerusalem or at the Forum in Rome or at Carnegie Hall in New York or at least Lakewood Church in Texas would provide a more momentous backdrop than a rustic fishing boat out on a lake with ragged peasants thronging the shoreline. But still, I, the reader, lean forward. I anticipate the words. Leaning forward. Leaning forward (yikes, I almost fell in)…


The imperative raises the curtain. Here it comes…


This imperative doesn’t even make it into the NIV which I’m using as a memorization base (I find I wander off base frequently – no surprise there). But there it is in the text. That wonderful word ἰδού. “Look!” “Behold!” Always makes me think of the classic Superman intro: “Look! Up there, in the sky!” Leaning over the rail now, straining to see, what momentous thing is this!?

“A farmer sows his seed.”

How wonderfully…plain and dull and ordinary. Not, “Behold, the cosmic hammer” or even “Behold, the rod of iron” or “Behold, the grand temple” or “Behold, a stately white horse.” No. It’s “Behold, a farmer.” A farmer walking along a path throwing out seed from a bag hanging at his side seems hardly worth an ἰδού but there it is. There he is. The incongruity leaps out at me, the stately “behold!” and the common farmer.

Just a nice reminder in an unexpected place of how such a grand, sweeping, eternal-hued concept like the kingdom of God can be rendered down so simply into the trudging steps and scattering movements of a farmer throwing around seed. Of course, this simple picture is followed by many others – snapshots from daily life that are so humdrum and ordinary that they defy equation with eternal realities.

Which, at its root, serves notice that while we can wax on ever so eloquently about kingdom theology, filling books and shelves with our accumulated wisdom and insight and words, we still cannot improve on the sight of a gardener in his field – that, in fact, the kingdom of God is ultimately found not in brilliantly conceived and inscribed volumes but in the seeming follies and irrelevancies of our everyday lives.


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Posted by on December 22, 2011 in Gospel of Mark, musings, New Testament


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