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Mark 4:21-41 explains that Jesus always used parables when he was talking to the crowds, but he explained what they meant to his disciples. And Mark includes outlines of several of these parables about the kingdom.
He says that Jesus used 'many parables' and that he told the crowds 'as much as they could understand'. The stories were not intended to hide things from his hearers, but to enable those 'with ears to hear' to grasp spiritual truth. Deep theological teaching is not the best way to reach ordinary people; that's as true today as it was two thousand years ago. But a good story grabs everyone's attention and if there's spiritual truth wrapped up in the story, some people may get it.
Even the disciples needed help, but that required face to face conversation within a small group or even individually. Jesus alone could never have reached large crowds in that way. But through us, his gathered people, he can today reach the entire world through individual and small group contact.
Not only did Jesus speak to the crowds and to the disciples about the kingdom of heaven; he demonstrated the kingdom in action as well. For the crowds this often took the form of healing the sick and throwing out demons. For the disciples different demonstrations were appropriate.
Mark describes one occasion when Jesus had finished speaking, and they headed across the lake and were caught in a fierce storm. Jesus spoke to the wind and the waves and was obeyed. This frightened the disciples but also prompted them to ask themselves, 'Who is this?'
Like Jesus, we too need to interact differently with groups of various sizes [Tweet it!]. That's why it's good to meet regularly with one or two close friends, but it's also good to meet in groups of between eight and twenty and in exciting, crowd-sized events too. And it's also why we need to demonstrate his love, his authority and the good news about the kingdom to individuals and groups of various sizes.
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