Interpreting the parables

Tue, 09/06/2009 - 10:46 -- James Oakley

Mark 4:10-12 falls between the telling of the parable of the sower (Mark 4:1-9) and its explanation (Mark 4:13-20).

In these verses, Jesus explains why he used parables to teach. Parables act as a filter, because the amount gleaned varies according to whether the hearer wishes to put the teaching into practice or not. Merely listened to with disinterest, they will remain at arms length; however, the person who wishes to live out what Jesus teaches will understand them enough to do so.

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Parable of the sower: A bumper crop

Mon, 08/06/2009 - 10:45 -- James Oakley

The parable of the sower, whilst cautioning that the responses to the word will vary, is overall designed to encourage us to expect a good response.

I've noted before that the word for "seed" in Mark 4 is singular in verses 4, 5 and 7, but plural in verse 8. This is all the more striking when you consider that "seed" is a collective noun in Greek as much as in English, "seeds" is bad grammar. Seed may fall on the path. Seed may wither in shallow soil. Seed may be choked by weeds. But seeds will flourish.

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The use of Psalm 69 in John 2:17

Wed, 11/03/2009 - 16:37 -- James Oakley

Psalm 69 is David praying to God about his enemies that are more numerous than the hairs on his head. He is fearful lest others who love God suffer because David is known to love God and is in disrepute. It is because of his zeal for God that he suffers.

Verse 9, quoted in John 2, comes in that context. David has zeal for God’s house, and because of that zeal he is suffering as he is. So, “consume” does not just mean “absorb”, in the sense that he is consumed with passion for God’s house. Rather, his zeal for God’s house is eating him up; it is leading to his mistreatment.

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Jesus' Fathers house a house of trade

Wed, 11/03/2009 - 11:37 -- James Oakley

John 2:16 reads, "Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade."

In the parallel incident in Mark 11:15-19, Jesus says “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” He quotes Isaiah 56:7, but the cross references in my ESV point me to Jeremiah 7:11 for the latter half of that verse, “Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes?”

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Who thanks whom?

Sun, 09/11/2008 - 09:50 -- James Oakley

Just spotted this for the first time: Luke 17:6-10 and Luke 17:11-19 are deliberately juxtaposed.

17:6-10 establishes that the right way to relate to God is as his servants. When we serve him, he doesn't “thank” us, because we recognise that we are merely giving him (a tiny part of) what he is due. As the commentaries point out, this is really about the fact that God does not owe us anything because of the service we have given him. Our service never puts us in his debt.

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