As I studied the Gospel of Mark, I was puzzled with Mark 4:11-12. Jesus said this to His disciples when they asked to explain the parable of the sower: “You have been given the secret of the Kingdom of God” (Mark 4:11, GNB). The secret of the Kingdom of God? What secret?
The word “secret” is the same as “mystery” in other translations. In the New Testament, secret or mystery meant something previously hidden which God had now revealed. But what is the secret or mystery of the Kingdom? It is like the no. 1 best-selling book The Secret edited by Rhonda Byrne? Or is it like the secret of Malaysia’s Internal Security Act (ISA) operations?
As I read through the Gospel stories, some commentaries and Bible Study notes, I find that there are three main possibilities of meaning:
First, the secret is God’s kingly power and rule revealed in the life and teaching of Jesus that can only be recognized by those who had faith in Him. The secret was the secret of Jesus’ Messiahship and divine Sonship and yet it was partly hidden and partly seen. I remember how Jesus manifested His Sonship in His authoritative teaching, His miracles and casting out of demons; but on the other hand Jesus asked people to keep quiet about His miracles not to reveal His true identity. Believers would see the truth but unbelievers will “not see”, “not understand” (Mark 4:12) it.
Second, the secret could also refer to the humility and suffering of Jesus. This was a “mystery” because everyone expected the Kingdom of God to be full of power and glory. But, unfortunately Jesus’ life and His first coming was not full of power and glory in the way people of His time expected. On the contrary, it was full of humility and suffering.
Third, the secret could also refer to the fact that all the expectations concerning the coming of the Kingdom of God were not all fulfilled at once. The Jews expected that the coming of the Kingdom would mean judgment for God’s enemies (particularly, Rome) and deliverance and power for God’s people. They expected the Messiah to rule as a great King (read John 12) but this did not happen in the ministry of Jesus (However Jesus was saying that the Kingdom of God really had come in His life and ministry even though the expected signs could not be seen).
After that Jesus continued, “But the others, who are on the outside, hear all things by means of parables, so that, ‘They may look and look, yet not see; they may listen and listen, yet not understand. For if they did, they would turn to God, and he would forgive them’” (Mark 4:12, GNB). Jesus was quoting Isaiah 6:9 when He said this because, I think, He wanted to compare His unresponsive listeners with the hard-hearted people in Isaiah’s day who rejected God’s message. Now I understand the ministry of Isaiah as told in Isaiah 6:9. Now I understand why there was many people want to become Jesus’ followers but not His disciples. The parable – all parables – are “the secret of the Kingdom of God” revealed to the believers and sincere seekers, but it is the “the secret” hidden to the unbelievers and hard-hearted listeners. Which one are you?
Do you know the Secret?
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.