Posts Tagged ‘Parables’

Mark  4:21-25

And he said to them, xIs a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? 22 yFor nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. 23 zIf anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” 24 And he said to them, Pay attention to what you hear: awith the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. 25 bFor to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” 



The parable of the ‘lamp’ is also found in Luke 11,33 18:16 and Matthew 5:15. It is also, and I particularly like it when this happens is found in the Gospel of Thomas.

Gospel of Thomas

33. Jesus said, “What you will hear in your ear, in the other ear proclaim from your rooftops.

After all, no one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, nor does one put it in a hidden place. Rather, one puts it on a lampstand so that all who come and go will see its light.”


The variation between the texts on this saying can be explained through translation or by recognizing that Jesus no doubt taught his parables again and again has he went around preaching. But what is this parable about?


I remember the old gospel song ‘This little light of mine I’m gonna let it shine’. This song indicates an individualistic reading of this parable. Jesus has had an affect on my life, and I need to shine for him, witness for him in words and praxis. This is simply good theology.


Yet we need to understand this individualistic reading in its larger historical context.  What is the symbolism of light.

  “Lamp” serves as a metaphor in a number of ways in the OT and Judaism (for God—2 Sam 22:29; David—2 Sam 21:17; Messiah—Zech 4:2; Torah—Ps 119:105; Israel, Jerusalem, Temple—cf. Wis 18:4)


Guelich, Robert A.: Word Biblical Commentary : Mark 1-8:26. Dallas : Word, Incorporated, 2002 (Word Biblical Commentary 34A), S. 229



I suggest, and I do this tentatively, that Jesus is making reference to the task of Israel as being a light to the nations. Israel were called to be a witness to the nations, they did not exist for themselves and a 1:1 relationship with God. They were a missional community whose task was to be a blessing and a light to the world.



I am the Lord; oI have called you in righteousness;

I will take you by the hand and keep you;

          I will give you pas a covenant for the people,

qa light for the nations,

     7     rto open the eyes that are blind,

          to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,

sfrom the prison those who sit in darkness.

     8     I am the Lord; that is my name;

tmy glory I give to no other,

nor my praise to carved idols.

     9     Behold, the former things have come to pass,

uand new things I now declare;

          before they spring forth

I tell you of them.”


See also Matt 15:14, 23:16,24 and also Romans 2:19


Israel had fallen short of its calling, it was pursuing lines which would lead to a violent confrontation with Rome. Jesus ministry is one of reconstituting Israel around himself (choosing 12 disciples hows this), and this community would be a light tot he nations, a casue of blessing to others. Yes Jesus and his followers are being secret at the moment in that the message is coded in parables, but the manifestation will come. The ‘new Israel’ will succeed where others have failed.

The church today needs to take up this call, it is to be a light to the nations. We can’t hide the church in liturgy, culture or in theology. Instead as an institution, and as members of the covenant family, we need to let this light shine in all of life, everu sqare inch, in our families, in art, culture, sports, sciences, schools, hospitals…… I think you catch my drift



Read Full Post »

 Jesus spoke in parables. What are parables? How do we interpret them? On a popular level parables are sometimes described as ‘earthly stories with heavenly meanings.’ We need to be careful with this understanding of parables as it can lead us to spiritualising all of the parables, thus making them have more to do with Plato than the reign and rule of God on this earth.

Other might say that parables are ways of telling theological truths in a simple way so that everyone can understand. However, Jesus states that his parables have been designed to keep the kingdom of God a secret to those who are outsiders, but to make it revealed to those who are followers of Jesus. Parables function more like ‘revolutionary tracts’ which call people to a new way of life, but tracts which cannot be understood if people do not realise that revolution is in the air.  These ‘revolutionary stories’ call people, and challenge them, they create the possibility of taking up ones cross and joining this new movement.


Jesus parables require deciphering for those who have ears to hear. In Marks gospel

we have 11 such stories.

Markan Parables




Bridegroom’s Guests




Unshrunk Cloth




New Wine




Strong Man Bound





4:1–9, 13–20

13:1–9, 18-23

8:4–8, 11–15

Lamp and Measure



Seed Growing Secretly


Mustard Seed




Wicked Tenants




Budding Fig Tree







This table taken from Green, Joel B. ; McKnight, Scot ; Marshall, I. Howard: Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Downers Grove, Ill. : InterVarsity Press, 1992, S. 596


The parable of the sower is often interpreted as if Jesus is a modern evangelical preacher. The preacher like the sower spreads the gospel message. People respond to the gospel message in differant ways. 

N.T Wright though prefers to see this parable functioning as a ‘mini apocalypse’  as ‘the parable tells the story of Israel, particularly the return from exile, with a paradoxical conclusion, and it tells the story of Jesus’ ministry, as the fulfilment of the larger story’ (Wright, J&VOG pg 230.). We need to move away from individualising and spiritualising the stories and instead look how the parables function as ways of telling Israel’s story and the arrival to Israel of the kingdom of God. Once we understand the parables at this level we can more authentically give them relevance to us today. If we cut out the middle man (Israel) we are in danger of making the parables simply an exercise in reader response.

Parables have to do with meta-narratives and worldviews.

This parable, like Daniel 2 and Mark 12:1-12, tells the story of the triumph of the kingdom of God over anti-kingdom forces.  Israel, as the seed of God, as the word of God, are being sown at different points in history.  At last though Israel is being sown and a harvest is coming. The exile is over, the kingdom of God has arrived. Listeners are invited in this story to join the kingdom movement, providing of course they have ears to hear.


I have been puzzled by Wrights explanation for some years now given that this parable comes with an interpretation (Mark 4:13-20). I simply did not read it as the story of Israel. Yet Wright makes some interesting points regerading this parable which must be at least listened to. I now tentatively agree with Wright but most definetly agree with him that the parables need to be understood within the larger Judaic metanarrative and not just simply be ‘evangelicalised’.


  I can’t begin to explain his reasons in depth but can only refer you to J&VOG (Jesus and the Victory of God,  pages 230-235). http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jesus-Victory-God-Christian-Question/dp/0281047170/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=gateway&qid=1201511910&sr=8-1


If we are to model Jesus in our proclamation we should look at telling stories which evoke meta-narratives and offer challenges. The stories will critique, rebuke and summon those who have ears to hear. A good friend of mine Mark Roques http://www.markroques.com/ seems more gifted than most in this department, as he uses worldview stories to challenge and inspire.


Read Full Post »