Category Archives: Gospel of Mark

Parables: Timeless Stories Mark 4:33-34

 

33 With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. 34 He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.

Mark 4:33-34 NIV

Horsham, 6th May 2024

These verses make clear that parables were really important to Jesus. We need to remember that the people he was speaking to had huge expectations of what God’s Kingdom and the coming Messiah would be like. They expected the Messiah to be a strong King of the old style, a true military leader who would restore Israel and evict the Roman occupiers. We begin to understand that when Jesus started his description of God’s kingdom as a tiny mustard seed, many people would miss the point he was making. He was trying to lead them through a transition to understand the truth of the Kingdom of God, one step at a time.

The parables are simple stories with a purpose and a meaning. I want to focus in this post on the timeless nature of them.

I’m really fascinated by the conversations which are going on right now about  a roman artefact, being called a dodecahedron. The word means ‘twelve sided object’, and very few of them have been found. It’s a fascinating and complex object, cast in bronze. The interesting thing is that we have no idea at all what it was called by the Romans, or what it was used for.

The reality is that the Roman world, and first century Palestine in particular, was rich in objects which would mean little to us today. In the same way that my grandson has no idea and little interest in what an 8 track stereo system was (very prestigious let me tell you in the late 1970’s), a story about a dodecahedron (or whatever it was called by the Romans) would have meant nothing to me today. It would have failed the test of time.

Mark offers a small selection of parables. Matthew and Luke offer several more. It’s almost certain that Jesus would have spoken dozens, hundreds even a thousand more which have not been preserved for us. The Apostle John affirms that not everything Jesus said or did was written down (John 21:25).

How incredible, then, that in those parables to which we have access, the images Jesus used make sense. For all of our technological advances, we understand the image of building your house on a rock, rather than the sand. We have a pretty good idea what an oil lamp looks like. We can get our head around the idea of a tiny mustard seed growing into a large tree.

We can still miss the point of Jesus’ parables. My point is that in spite of all the changes in culture, technology and human understanding, 2000 years later, the stories he told are still accessible. The parables of Jesus still make sense. Timeless.

Richard Jackson, West Sussex: LifePictureUK

Parable of the Mustard Seed: Mark 4:30-32

The Parable of the Mustard Seed

30 Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.” 

Horsham, 24th April 2024

Christ is again using a parable to tell us something of what the Kingdom of God is like. There’s no question that a mustard seed is pretty small, although it’s by no means the smallest seed in the world. However the phrase ‘mustard seed’ was used amongst Jewish people of the first century to refer to something really, really tiny (i). The mustard seed was a recognisable symbol, not just because everyone knew that the seed was small, but they also knew that the mustard seed has the potential to grow into a large bush (or a small tree).

There is something here to remind us of the small and insignificant. We see the ‘small and insignificant’ everywhere in Scripture, even in the life of Christ. From the vulnerability of a new born baby, to the man on the cross between two thieves. I have always sensed the vulnerability of the disciples after Christ’s death, and at the moment of his ascension (Acts 1).

Yet there is something in this image of exponential growth from small beginnings into a bush which provides nourishment and safe haven for those who find shelter there.  It reminds me of the exponential growth which we see in the early Church as God builds that part of his Kingdom on earth. There is a lesson here that in the things of God we are to celebrate and nurture the small beginnings. They are a sign of potentially good things to come. (Zechariah 4:10)

‘it would be difficult to find an emblem which more faithfully represents the history of the visible church of Christ than this mustard seed.’ (ii)

It is an image rich in Old Testament symbolism. God’s kingdom is described by Ezekiel and Daniel as a growing tree within whose shade the nations will find refuge.

We bring these images together and see a growing Kingdom where all are welcome, regardless of the artificial boundaries which are so often imposed by human hearts.

‘The Church is the family of God; and that Church which began in Palestine, small as a mustard seed, has room in it for every nation in the world. There are no barriers in the Church of God. The barriers are of our own making, and God in Christ has torn them down.’ (iii)

Richard Jackson, West Sussex: LifePictureUK

(i) Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospel, p 86
(ii) ibid
(iii) Wm Barclay, New Daily Study Bible; The Gospel of Mark, Kindle edition, Loc 2440

The Growing Seed: Mark 4:26-29

The Parable of the Growing Seed

26 He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

Mark 4: 26-29 (NIV)

Horsham: 23rd April 2024

This short parable is unusual in that it is unique to Mark’s Gospel.  We can easily pass over the opening phrase that ‘this is what the kingdom of God is like.’ (v26).  It is a parable which describes something about the establishment of God’s kingdom. It is typical of Jesus’ teaching to draw an illustration drawn from nature. As ever the image is both accessible and timeless.

I spent some time this afternoon sowing seeds. Tomatoes, beans, peas and sweetcorn. The sweetcorn seeds were small dried kernels of corn. They look completely lifeless. Having planted the seeds, I can look after them – watering them and keeping them warm, but in reality there is nothing I can do to make them grow. It is a wonder of nature that the tiny shriveled kernels of corn will grow into plants.

If all goes well, in the spring the seeds will produce a stalk, and later in the summer, those stalks will produce cobs of corn. By early autumn, I will come along and harvest the sweetcorn.

So the image is simple and straightforward, but what is the parallel with the kingdom of God which Jesus wanted the people to see here?

We’ve noticed before that the ministry of Jesus was not what people would have expected of the Messiah. Rather than confronting the Roman army of occupation and re-establishing Jewish rule, Jesus was quietly talking to people, standing up to the Jewish institutions, mixing with the needy and healing the sick. I wonder whether you can see that there is a sense in which as he deals with the community, his family, his followers and his disciples, Jesus is sowing seeds in human hearts. These are seeds which will, over time, grow and flourish as people become ready to follow and serve him, passing on the seeds of his light, love and grace to others.  No-one would ‘see’ the seeds germinate, but they would, in time, be left in no doubt that growth had taken pace.

‘People wouldn’t be able to see how God’s promised plant would grow from this seed, but grow it would and the harvest would come.’(i)

We discover in Acts 2 that God is able to create rapid dynamic growth in His Church, but that is not always the case and certainly does not reflect the ongoing experience of the early Church. In reality, his kingdom grows slowly, sometimes imperceptibly. The seeds of His kingdom are sown into human hearts and it is by His grace and in His timing that the seed will grow.

As followers of Jesus we are also privileged to scatter seeds. We do this by our teaching but more importantly by sharing and demonstrating His love. We may sometimes be disappointed not to see the fruit or even the germination of those seeds. But just now and then, we may see growth in others (often from seeds which we ourselves did not sow) which will reassure us that seeds do actually grow, and God is indeed building his kingdom here on earth, as it is in heaven.

(i) NT Wright, Mark for Everyone, p.46

Richard Jackson, West Sussex: LifePictureUK

Consider Carefully What You Hear: Mark 4:24-25

 

 

24 “Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. 25 Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”

Horsham: 17th March 2024

The context of these verses is straightforward. Jesus has just told his disciples, not for the first time, to listen and respond.

23 If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.”  (Mark 4:23)

In context, ‘consider carefully what you hear,’ (v24) means ‘pay careful attention to what I am saying.’ Jesus is telling his disciples, including you and me, to listen carefully to his voice and reflect on what we have heard. We hear his voice in Scripture. Read his words slowly and carefully. Pay careful attention. Read. Listen Reflect.

I recently heard a young man talking about his experience as a zoo keeper. During his first week, he joined the team with responsibility for looking after the gorillas. His greatest challenge came when he was introduced to the gorillas. The first response of these powerful animals was to want nothing to do with him. They largely ignored him but occasionally, and unpredictably, displayed aggression. He described their behaviour as being rather like that of a petulant toddler, but of course some of these toddlers weigh 400 – 500 pounds, and are blessed with 10 times the strength of the average fit and healthy human.

After many months of persistence, including some difficult encounters, the young zoo keeper realised that he was slowly developing a close and rewarding relationship with the animals. He learned, he said, an important life lesson. The more effort which he put in his relationship with his new animal friends, the more he gained.

It seems to me that the same principle applies to our relationship with God. The more you put in, the deeper your relationship will become.

Richard Jackson, West Sussex: LifePictureUK

The Lamp on the Stand Mark 4:21-23

 

 

21 He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? 22 For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.”

Mark 4:21-23 (NIV)

Horsham: 14th April 2023

2000 years ago, the world was a much darker place. No streetlamps. No electric lights. No light pollution. When the sun sank below the horizon, the only light came from the moon and the stars. On a cloudy evening, the darkness was intense. Those of us who have lived most of our lives in cities rarely experience that kind of darkness.

Inside a house or building there might be some flickering light from a fire, but the only other light would come from an oil lamp.  The ‘lamp’ in question would have been a rather smoky oil lamp – basically a small clay dish and  wick. These small lamps provided only a very dim light – barely enough to find your way around a room, but 2000 years ago, they were invaluable. They were a light in dark world.

The image is timeless.  A lamp is intended to give light. Even in our world of electric lights, we recognise the absurdity of covering a light with a large bucket or putting it under the bed. Some people never got past that simple image.

How are we to understand this parable?

12 When Jesus spoke to them again, he said, “I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”                                   John 8:12 (NIV)

Jesus is the light of the world. A light of such brilliance and power that it reaches into every crevice and corner, overpowering all shadow and darkness.

The light of Jesus is not to be hidden from the world. As Christians, we carry something of His light within us (2 Corinthians 4:6) and we are sent into the world with a purpose. Keeping the light of Christ to ourselves would be like hiding it under a bushel. Our very purpose is to carry the light of Christ into a darkened world.

14 “You are the light of the world.”        Matthew 5:14 (NIV)

So I’ve been reflecting on this simple, familiar parable.

It seems to me that even the smallest of lights will be amplified when it comes together with others. As we gather in our Churches, it can be like a whole bunch of clay lamps shining together. We hope and pray that together we will reflect the light of Christ into our communities, overcoming the darkness. We love those moments of encouragement – being together, worshipping together, basking in the light of Christ together. But that is only part of the story.

We live in a world which is spiritually every bit as dark as Palestine 2000 years ago. Maybe darker. This verse is a call to mission in a world in need.

He is the light of the world. Each of us carries a flickering part of his light within us as we move in His world. This light – His light – is not given to be hidden away. It needs to be brought out into the open and set on a stand where everyone can see it. That’s a challenge for all of us.

Wouldn’t it be disappointing if we shied away from the challenge. Wouldn’t it be ridiculous if we were coming together as His people, and then inadvertently keeping the light of Christ’s saving grace hidden beneath the roofs of our Churches.

Now, think on.

If anyone has ears to hear,” says Jesus, “let them hear.”

Richard Jackson, West Sussex: LifePictureUK

Three Proverbial Sayings: Mark 4:21-25

A Lamp on a Stand

21 He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? 22 For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.”

24 “Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. 25 Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”

The Parable of the Growing Seed

26 He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

Mark 4:21-29 (NIV)

31st March 2023, Paphos, Cyprus

It’s difficult to know how best to describe these verses. They are essentially three short parables (i) although many commentators  describe them as a series of ‘sayings’. I l think that ‘proverbial sayings’ is a good description (ii). They are important enough to appear in very similar form in all of the synoptic gospels. In common with Luke’s gospel, these sayings appear here as a group together, whilst in Matthew they appear separately. Some commentators believe that they are best presented and read as a group, as here in Mark, whilst others prefer to deal with them individually, as they are presented in Matthew.

NT Wright suggests that each of these sayings are individually important.

‘Here we have three sayings, each with its own warning for life.’ (iii)

Each one contains a message which is really important for us. is incredibly important. I’ve decided to deal with each of them individually.

 

(i) RC Sproul, Mark, An Expositional Commentary, p72
(ii) JC Ryle: Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Mark, p51
(iii)NT Wright, New Daily Study Bible: The Gospel According to Luke, p120

Richard Jackson, West Sussex: LifePictureUK

Stating the Obvious? Mark 4:11-22

 

 

26th March 2024, Paphos, Cyprus

As a Christian, living in the 21st Century, Christ’s explanation of this familiar parable may appear to be really straightforward. Of course, we read it from the perspective of our times and we bring our own assumptions and understanding of the Kingdom of God. For us, it may feel that in his explanation of this parable, Jesus is stating the obvious.

11 He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that,

“‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
    and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’[a]

13 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14 The farmer sows the word. 15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”

Mark4:11-20 (NIV)

Of course, if we stop and think about it, we know that our relationship to this story is going to be very different from that of those who heard it for the first time 2000 years ago.

Like so many people around us, most of the people who were in the crowd had little interest in listening to Jesus. Whilst he had told his friends that preaching was his true purpose, many people in the crowd had come from far and wide to see Jesus performing healing miracles. They had not really understood who Jesus was. Again – that sounds familiar.

Those who were interested in hearing Jesus speak, and this includes the disciples, had very specific views of what the coming Kingdom would look like. Their views are very different from ours.

‘People were expecting a great moment of renewal. They believed that Israel would be rescued lock, stock and barrel: God’s kingdom would explode on to the world stage in a blaze of glory.’ (i)

Actually, says Jesus, the Kingdom of God will not be like that at all.  In fact, there will be those who, in varying degrees, just won’t get it. Again, Jesus could be describing people in my own culture.

In fact, he says, whilst the opportunity is there, many people will simply miss the point. They will fail to ever enter His Kingdom at all. Others will fail to thrive or be successful in the Kingdom. This, he says, is the secret, or the mystery, of the Kingdom of God. You think you have understood, but his Kingdom is not what you were expecting it to be. There is something radical hidden away in Christ’s words. Something ”politically incorrect’ (ii). For the original crowd, rather than a simple explanation of what the Kingdom of God is like, there is a radical message of what it is not like. It is not like you are expecting! I think that message remains true today.

I’m reflecting on the culture within which God has placed me. We think of ourselves as intelligent and sophisticated. That’s fine, but I suspect that the people in 1st Century Palestine thought that too. Our modern world is full of people who have their own fixed views of what God is like and who Jesus is. Many have a sense of what God’s kingdom is like (many people assume that it doesn’t exist). Whatever you think, I suspect that even today, Jesus is saying to us you may have got this seriously wrong.

As I reflect on this parable, I wonder whether what Jesus was saying to the crowd, and to the disciples, and is saying to you, to me and to everyone around us is this. You can easily be deceived – your understanding of he Kingdom of God may be way off target.

The Kingdom of God is a secret, or a mystery (v11). Christ explains that mystery by using parables. Each parable lifts the veil on that mystery, just a little. Jesus has invited us to follow. He encourages us to go deeper. If we do, he will encourage us by helping us to grasp a little more of that mystery.

We may be coming to this 2000 years after that first crowd – we may be 21st Century Christians – but however much we think we understand, there is much more for us all to learn about His Kingdom. There is so much more we can achieve within it. Another reminder to all of us who think we have it all worked out. We are a work in progress.

“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” (Mark 4:9, NIV)

Richard Jackson, West Sussex: LifePictureUK

(i) NT Wright, Mark for Everyone, p42
(ii) ibid

Parables: Mark 4:10-12

10 When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11 He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that,
“‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’”

Mark 4:10-12 NIV

24th March, 2024: Paphos, Cyprus

A couple of quick points to make here. Firstly, whilst all of the Gospels refer to the twelve disciples, but there are several points where it becomes clear that there are more people following Jesus. Luke alone makes a specific reference to a much larger group of followers who were with Christ –  the 70 or 72 (i) (Luke 10:1-22). At this point in Mark’s gospel, and at this early stage of his ministry, we can easily miss a reference to a group of followers who had access to Jesus. Mark gives no indication of their identity, gender or number, but clearly there were more people around Jesus than simply the twelve. It was this larger group, from whom the 12 were probably selected. Along with the disciples, this wider group asked Jesus to explain about this and other parables.

The secondary point is this wonderful cameo scene, from which we should all learn,  of those who were closest to him asking for more explanation. Jesus was a rabbi. His role is to teach. Here he is accepting questions from and teaching, not the wider crowd, but his immediate followers.

We do well to remind ourselves that we come to the Gospel from a wholly different perspective from the crowd, and even the disciples, who were following and had the most immediate access to Jesus. Alongside the fact that we might think that we know, as it were, the end of the story, our understanding is influenced by 2000 years of reflection, interpretation and analysis of the life and works of Christ. Reflecting on the well known parable of the sower, it’s a fact that most of us have heard and been influenced by many sermons on, references to and applications of this and other parables. Yet for all that, we can often find ourselves reading Scripture but not necessarily understanding what we have read..

Quoting from Isaiah 6, Jesus makes clear that his intention at this point is to reveal the Kingdom little by little. There are those close to him who receive much more guidance and teaching and to whom much will be revealed. But there are others to whom the kingdom will be revealed through parables. When they  hear these parables, some will understand – but many will not. It is pretty much the same for us.

Lots of people who hear these stories today, come loaded with preconceptions and misinformation about Jesus and the Church. We live in a culture of soundbites, and this creates a readiness to take individual verses out of context and use them to support questionable or even false teaching. We can easily fall into this practice ourselves and need to guard against it. The practice of slow, prayerful reflection on every piece of Scripture is a one way in which we can refer back to Jesus, constantly asking him to direct our thoughts and explain the Scriptures to us.

Richard Jackson, West Sussex: LifePictureUK

(i) The earliest manuscripts variously record 70 or 72. Scholars cannot say with any certainty which is the original.

Parables – The Sower: Mark 4:2-9

 “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”  Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

Mark 4: 3-9 (NIV)

16th March, 2024: Paphos, Cyprus

This is probably one of the best known parables used by Jesus. Alongside Mark’s Gospel, it appears in Matthew and Luke in virtually identical form. It’s unusual for various reasons, not least because uniquely, at the request of the disciples, Jesus himself offers an explanation of the parable.  We have already seen Jesus use parables when speaking to the Teachers of the Law (see ‘The unforgivable sin‘ based on Mark 3:22-29). Our record of this parable is rather longer, and it demonstrates some really important aspects of parables.

Spontaneity in the telling:  The parables of Jesus are told in a fresh, spontaneous way. He uses familiar images, drawn from real life, to draw out an important point about the Kingdom of God. Unlike us, every person in that crowd knew exactly how farms worked in 1st Century Palestine. The image of the seed being sown in a particular way was accessible to everybody. People knew what a really good crop would look like (ten fold return) and what a super crop would look like (sixty of a hundred fold). One could almost imagine that there was a farmer sowing seed within sight at the moment Jesus was speaking. We see Jesus using exactly that spontaneous use of images at the temple, when he points out a poor widow putting her small offering into the plate (Luke 21:1-4).

The very essence of the parables is that they were spontaneous, of the moment and unrehearsed. Jesus just looks around seeking a point of contact with the crowd. (i)

I was walking this morning, close to where I am staying in Paphos, and noticed a field of barley which I had passed several times in recent days. Whilst the modern farming methods here in Cyprus are very different from those which were familiar to this crowd, there in front of me was the solid path,  the rough stony ground, the weeds, and beyond, the good soil of the field. The accessibility and spontaneity of these images provide an extraordinary, timeless quality.

Barley field, Paphos, March 2024

That was the essence of Jesus’ teaching. He did not bewilder people by starting with things that were strange and obstruse and involved; he started with the simplest things that even a child could understand.'(ii)

The Apostle Paul makes a similar point, saying that we can learn something about God by simply looking around ourselves.

20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. Romans 1:20, NIV

Spontaneity in the hearing: Those of us who have spent rather a long time around Church might reflect on the number of sermons we have heard on the subject of this and other parables. Too often they are treated as allegorical stories, where meaning has to be found for each character, action and every word. I don’t think that’s how we were supposed to approach parables. Jesus spoke with a wonderful directness. His words were either heard and understood immediately by his hearers, or they were not. The crowd took no notes away with them to review later.  When given, Christ’s parables were not intended to be subjected to detailed study and interpretation.

The point is that these images simply don’t need detailed explanation for those who hear them. They provide a simple, accessible and worldly point of reference, which enables the hearer to spontaneously catch a glimpse of something of God’s Kingdom. Today, as when Jesus first spoke the parables, some people catch it. Others don’t.

“Whoever has ears to hear” He says, “let them hear.”

Richard Jackson, West Sussex: LifePictureUK

(i) Wm Barclay, Mark for Everyone, (Kindle Edition, Loc 1981) Mark 4:3-9,
(ii) Wm Barclay, ibid.

 

 

 

The perfect place to preach: Mark 4:1-2

Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered round him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge.

Mark 4:1-2, NIV

15th March, 2024: Paphos, Cyprus

Jesus is still living and working in Capernaum, next to Lake Galilee. The nature of the geography means that the large crowds who were following Jesus would gather on the edge of the town, next to the lake. We know of one previous instance where this happened, and there was the risk of Jesus and the disciples being literally pushed into the lake by the crush of the crowd. On that occasion, ‘[Jesus] told the disciples to have a boat ready for him.’ (Mark 3:9). It is unclear whether that first time, Jesus actually resorted to using the boat. We need to remember that most of the people in the crowd have come to seek or witness dramatic healings, although Christ’s declared intention is to preach (Mark 1:38).

Last Christmas I ran a large event in the town centre in the middle of a busy market,  which involved a stage, a band and a likely crowd of about 300 people. I had recruited a wonderful team of about a dozen stewards. Before the event, I needed to brief the stewards, so we gathered at the back of the stage for me to talk to them. It was a slightly breezy day, and there were lots of distractions. They all wanted to know what I had to say, and I have lots of experience of ‘throwing my voice’, but it was a challenge to make these few people hear me. Our ready access to megaphones, microphones and portable PA systems can make us forget just how difficult it is to make yourself heard by large groups of people.

Whilst the actual location referred to here is open to discussion, there are several places beside the lake where the land rises quite quickly.  This time, Jesus uses the boat (which, incidentally, Luke tells us belonged to Simon – Luke 5:1-3). By selecting the right place, and by placing himself on the water a few yards off shore, Jesus is able to address a large crowd of people standing on that rising ground, his voice amplified by the landscape and reflecting off the water (For a study of how this might work, click here (link to Bible Affirming Truth website)).

The separation from the people allows Jesus to remain the centre of their attention. The boat allows Jesus to maintain distance from those who have come looking for the opportunity to touch him and receive healing, yet it seems that now, they are ready to remain and listen to what he has to say. This, then, is the perfect place to preach.

Richard Jackson, West Sussex: LifePictureUK