Everyone loves a good story, right? Did you hear the one about the raccoon climbing up the outside of a skyscraper in St. Paul Minnesota? It was first reported by Minnesota Public Radio News and quickly became an internet sensation. The raccoon's story began trending on social media with the hashtag #mprraccoon. Some people were reported as following the story until 2:30 in the morning when the raccoon was finally captured. Why were so many people captivated by this story and how does it apply to this week's Gospel?
Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”
He said, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private. Mark 4:26-34
In 46 different instances, Jesus uses parables to deliver His message. In these particular ones, Jesus speaks to the growth cycle of the Kingdom of God. As is typical, there is dual meaning in Jesus' stories. The literal meaning of the message is meant for the "general" consumption of the crowds. The symbolic or deeper meaning was saved for the disciples.
What were the crowds seeking as they listened to Jesus? We never really know. What we do know is that it is a part of human nature to be captivated by a "good" story. Here is a photo of people who stopped to watch the raccoon in Minnesota.
With their eyes turned upward they wait to find out whether or not the raccoon will make it. Is that why we follow these stories, with hope for a happy ending? Or is there something deeper at work? Jesus understood that not everyone sought the deeper meaning that His "stories" contained. The bottom line for you and me as His followers is that we need to seek to understand Jesus' message. This is true as we observe and live life. With our eyes turned upwards we look to the Kingdom of God and the happy ending that awaits us.