Reflections on the Lectionary: Mark 4:26-34
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Reflections on the Lectionary: Mark 4:26-34
(June 7, 2009) 

This passage concludes with the observation “he [Jesus] did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.” Why did Jesus speak in parables? I think one important reason was that Jesus often told people things that they didn’t want to hear. He preached “blessed are the poor” in a world in which wealth conferred status and privilege. He preached “blessed are the peacemakers” in a world in which might made right. He preached, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” in a world in which people believed that sacrifice was necessary to commune with God.
For many audiences, plain and forthright speaking would likely have resulted in people dismissing him as a crank or angering them the point of murder. Indeed, he often scandalized the people with his words or actions, and on several occasions he needed to escape from the crowd. In contrast, he did not need to speak in parables to his disciples, who might be slow to understand him but were not scandalized by him.
Speaking in parables encourages people to ponder the meaning of a story, and from this indirect route people might come to question assumptions and to consider novel points-of-view. This is a feature of good literature, which encourages readers to consider new perspectives. I suggest that inferior literature merely reinforces the values and beliefs of the readers. Readers might find this briefly satisfying, but the story is quickly forgotten because they have not experienced spiritual or intellectual growth. 

Go on to: Reflections on the Lectionary: Mark 4:30-34
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