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Words Define Pictures

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. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: (NIVUK)

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words.  Many possible interpretations can be invented to describe a scene.  Although the artist has constructed the image, it is the viewers who are in control of the meaning to them … through previous experiences and associations.  Many people think like that about faith.  They like to be able to construe mystical images and rituals in their own way so that they 'own' or feel comfortable with a philosophy which suits themselves.  Many take that route to avoid submitting to the Saviour, not caring that they will have no defence against God's wrath when Jesus returns (2 Thessalonians 1:8-10).  That includes those who started trusting in Christ but have either added to, or subtracted from, the gospel to suit what they want to think (Luke 8:11-15).

Although Jesus did many miracles, they could never, by themselves, be His story.  They could not define the reason for His presence on earth nor adequately explain His death, resurrection, ascension or future return in glory.  The miracles displayed His power and authority over demons, sickness and nature; the teaching explained why He had the authority and how people could be included in His eternal family.  In the previous chapter, religious experts wrongly thought that Satan was the source of His power (Mark 3:20-22) - so even His miracles could not describe Jesus, nor bring them to faith (John 12:37).  Despite all the miracles even His own half-brothers did not believe in Him (John 7:5), and His disciples did not understand properly until after the resurrection (John 12:16).

It was never enough for Jesus to do miracles; it was only through His teaching that the crowd could understand the 'reason to believe' in Him.  The messages (including parables) had three great defining purposes. First, He was recognised as speaking with authority. Secondly, He did not just say what was right, but He was the only person who always did what was right - the only righteous person who could legitimately invite personal faith.  Thirdly, His teaching explained why and how we must follow Him.  The crowds wanted to see and hear: the disciples needed to be taught. It was the 12 picked men who were to play such a special role after Christ's travelling ministry - Judas to betray and disappear, and the 11 others to be filled with the Spirit and lead the church after Pentecost.

Truth must be taught in words.  That is why the Bible was written, so that we might be quite sure what God means.  The gospel [good news] must be communicated in words.  We can never 'show' the gospel: we can show people the effect of the gospel in our lives, but unless we explain why we behave as we do they cannot believe and be saved (Romans 10:14).  Clear definition requires a verbal explanation.  Bible teaching is critical to the growth of the church.   But many still prefer not to accept what God has said; instead they make up what they think and share that with others to the downfall of all (Galatians 1:6-9).  Let Jesus, the Word of God, be your teacher, let the Bible be your text and let the Holy Spirit help you to do what God has said.  Then you can share it with others. 

Father in Heaven. Thank You for wanting to instruct me. Forgive me for wanting to invent a gospel which suits me but blasphemes You. Help me to eagerly learn from Your Word and have the courage to share it with others. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams