Earlier in the Gospel of Mark we witnessed a series of controversies that Jesus had with the scribes and Pharisees. One arose as a result of Jesus’ failure to instruct his disciples to fast for the return of Israel from Exile and the restoration of God’s presence to the land. When asked about this, Jesus is quite blunt with the Pharisees. “Why would I fast for God to act,” He essentially asks, “when God is in the middle of acting?” I am the Bridegroom come to the wedding, the Bridegroom predicted long ago by the prophet Isaiah, come to rescue my bride from her exile. So why would my disciples fast while the bridegroom is with them? This is the time for celebration not contrition.

While announcing He has come as the Bridegroom of Isaiah, as the One appointed by God to rescue His people from exile and bring them back into fellowship with God and with the land, He introduces a subtle twist that no doubt put the disciples in somewhat of a quandary – asking themselves – “Huh? What does that mean?” Jesus remarked – “The time will come when the bridegroom is taken away, and then my disciples will fast in those days.”

The bridegroom taken away? Such a comment would have thrown Jesus’ hearers into a tizzy. What does that mean? What does he mean taken away? When the bridegroom comes, he just comes! The Kingdom comes, the enemies of God are routed, Jerusalem is exalted. It all happens lickety-split.

But Jesus clearly rejects this understanding of the Kingdom and implies that everything does not happen lickety-split. Well, how then does it happen? What is the nature of the Kingdom of God? How should we understand it? It is these questions that Jesus sets out to answer today in the two parables of the growing seed and the mustard seed.