That evening, as Mark was engaged in quiet conversation with Simeon, he looked up to see Yiftach and a companion enter the courtyard, and immediately thought of his brother when he saw it was just the two of them. “Perhaps Daniel has more influence than he believes,” he thought to himself. He had not told his mother about Daniel’s visit. He had considered doing so, but decided against it. “It will just upset her, and to what end?” he had thought. As he looked around the courtyard at those assembled, Jesus’ words once again came to mind: “Behold my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, that one is my brother and sister and mother.” But on this particular night, he found that those words brought a measure of sadness. Taking one final date from the dish before him, he rose to his feet, and the courtyard soon grew quiet as the members of the Way leaned forward to hear what he had to say to them.
“Jesus began to teach again by the sea. And such a very great multitude gathered to him that he got into a boat close to shore and sat down; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land. And he was teaching them many things in parables. As he taught he spoke these words,
‘Listen! Behold, the sower went out to sow; and it came about that as he was sowing, some seed fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate it up. And other seed fell on the rocky ground where it did not have much soil; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil. And after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. And other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. And other seeds fell into the good soil, and as they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.’ Then Jesus said, ‘The one who has ears to hear, let that one hear.’”
Several of those gathered greeted the end of the parable with a low whistle, or a quiet exclamation. “I’d like to know where that soil is,” called out Yiftach’s companion. “I can tell you now – it’s not in the hills of Galilee.” “Nor in our family’s most fertile fields,” said another. “A tenfold return would be welcome. We typically get somewhere like a sevenfold return on the grain we sow. But thirty? Sixty? A hundredfold? That’s impossible!”
Yiftach spoke up. “Let me tell you, my family are more familiar with those first three soils.” Many nodded their heads in bitter agreement. “And when that harvested grain represents your ability to feed your family, pay the rent on the land and the tithes to the priests, if you’ve got enough left to sow the following year, then that was a good harvest.” His companion rose to his feet. “And in those rare years when we did harvest a bumper crop, well, you can be sure the landlord found some way to extract more of that grain from us so we remained indentured to his land, taking away any shred of hope for economic security we might entertain, let alone buying back our family’s land.” His voice took on an almost mystical tone. “But a thirtyfold return? Sixtyfold? A hundredfold? Well, that would break the yoke of the landlord from our necks once and for all. With that we could pay off our debts, pay all our tithes and then finally buy back our land.” He turned to Yiftach. “We wouldn’t have to hide out in the hills stealing from the landlords to get by. To return to our family’s land and not fear losing it again – isn’t that what we were fighting for?” Yiftach offered his companion a wry smile. “In part, yes,” he said. “But let’s face it: that kind of harvest is beyond all understanding – beyond all prayer.” His companion’s face fell as the brutal truth of Yiftach’s words hit him right in the center of what little hope he had momentarily been able to summon. He sat down, dejected.
“Listen!” said Mark. “For Jesus is speaking of the Kingdom of God, the overflowing of God’s generosity, which indeed does surpass all our understanding. And which surpasses all our dreams – such as they might be – for the future. From the dreary, fallow land that has endured all that nature has to throw at it grows a field of waving grain!”
“But what does that mean?” asked a man, throwing up the rough hands of a farmer in exasperation. Mark responded, “That is what his followers asked after hearing the parables…”