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For Your Weekend: Private Lessons and Mustard Sandwiches

Laura Phelps

Dig Deeper into Sunday’s Gospel: Read Mark 4:26–34

I was a co-catechist for first graders twelve years ago with my friend Kathy. We had our boys in our class, and after that experience, I never taught my kid again. We can save that story for another blog—or family therapy. But I digress…

We had been teaching about the parable of seeds. We brought in visuals: plants and seed packets; we sang songs and colored pictures—we nailed that lesson. When the class returned the following week, we asked, “So, who can remember what we talked about?” Not a single hand went up, so we thought we’d help them out a little. “Remember, it was a parable…?”

Still no memory, we helped a little more: “A parable about a mustard…?”

And immediately, my friend’s sweet son shot his hand up in the air as he proudly shouted, “The mustard sandwich!”

Yes, that is exactly what we talked about—the parable of the mustard sandwich.

You can imagine the smile on my face when I opened to Sunday’s gospel. It is Mark 4:26–34: The parable of the mustard seed. Seed, sandwich…close enough. I can’t say for sure that Jesus loves mustard sandwiches, but He sure loves to teach in parables, not because they are easy to understand but because they make us think. They are riddles that draw us into Jesus’ most preached-about message: the kingdom of God. They reveal something but not all things. They make us work, and let’s be honest, it can be a little annoying.

Why doesn’t Jesus just say it like it is? 

Parables are the way that Jesus sparks interest in His listeners. He’s not about unpacking dense theological theories; there’s no PowerPoint presentation. A parable acts as the bait He dangles to see who is ready to bite. Those who are hungry for more will ask more questions, listen harder, maybe leave everything and follow Him. Speaking in parables acts as a sieve, separating those who willingly shut their eyes and close their ears (Mark 4:12) from those who desire a deeper relationship with Jesus.

Do you desire a deeper relationship with the Lord?

I do. But I’ve been having trouble hearing Him. To be more accurate, I don’t understand what He is saying. My mind has been overwhelmed, and I have been highly distracted. There’s so much to do and get done—you know—I am busy, so busy that I make Martha look like a sloth! I know you get it. We women love to be busy. But busy women miss out on the one thing that is necessary (Luke 10:41–42): resting at the feet of Jesus. Oh, make no mistake, we want to rest at His feet—we just need to solve the world's problems, orchestrate peace in our homes, control everyone around us, and vacuum the rug before lying down. 

Practically speaking, how do we do this? How do we hand over the cares of the world, the stress of our loved ones, and everything else we were never meant to carry and be with God?

There’s a word in verse 34 that gives us a hint. Privately.

“But to his own disciples he explained everything in private” (Mark 4:34).

If you’ve been listening to Hope For Right Now: A Walking with Purpose Podcast, you’ve heard me talk about mental prayer—quietly sitting in the presence of God and conversing with Him in my heart. I talk about it so much that one might believe I am good at it. The truth is, I am terrible. Maybe even the worst. After 30 seconds of sitting, I start to wiggle, and after about two minutes of what feels like nothing is happening, the distractions start marching through my mind, waving flags, blowing trumpets, and doing their best to pull me back to earth. And yet, despite the difficulty of remaining silent, I continue to persevere. Why? Because it is here, in the interior and private conversation with the Lord, He reveals Himself to me. Little by little, I experience the effect of His love on my soul, expanding my heart and making me long for more. 

It’s easy to glance at this gospel and think that Jesus is unfair—maybe even exclusive. If He really wants a relationship with everyone, why not lose the tricky language and explain to everyone what He is talking about? But that is not how He works. Like a tiny seed that grows into the greatest of all shrubs, Jesus works in hidden and mysterious ways (Mark 4:31–32). But if we remain patient in the stillness and open to receiving, it will become clear: the question isn’t why won’t He tell everyone, but rather, why doesn’t everyone seek to know? Remember, the disciples didn’t get the private lesson because they were favored; they got it because they asked for it.

Are you seeking to understand God? Do you long to hear His voice? Set yourself apart from the noise of the world and rest at His feet. God wants to speak to your heart, but it’s up to you to show up. 

Food for thought or journaling...

Do you struggle to know what the Lord is asking of you?
Are you uncertain of the next step?
Do you wonder what God might be inviting you to?
Where is the Lord asking you to lean in, step up, or let go?
Take these questions to Him in private. He will explain everything.

Oh, my Jesus, Help me make private time with You non-negotiable. Free me from my addiction to busyness. And thank You for the mustard seeds and sandwiches. Amen.

P.S. If intimacy with God is an area you’d like to grow in, but you are too anxious to sit still, grab your Discovering Our Dignity study guide and revisit Lesson 19 on Martha of Bethany.

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