here is the link for today’s reading: http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=323776246
Today’s readings is a collections of quick parables and commentary, I think its important to separate them out, as Luke may have been acting as an editor here, with Jesus maybe never saying these things in this order. The Parable of the Sower section echoes Matthew 13, while the similarities to Mark 4 also include the parable about the lamp.
Parable of Sower I 8:4-8
We have already heard a number of parables, this is like the others, there could be many ways to interpret it, and if you had not heard many of the other parables, or didn’t understand the context of Jesus’ teaching (usually in direct response to some sort of question from the pharisees) it would be hard to understand what he might be talking about. This particular parable was not prefaced by a question to Jesus, which makes its context more difficult to understand.
Pay attention to how many parables deal with agrarian themes.
- Although this parable is explained a few verses later, what are other ways to interpret this parable, who could be the seed, the rocky place, the fertile soil, the sower? Where do you fit in the parable?
- Why do you think Jesus spoke in so many agrarian themed parables.
Purpose of the Parables 8:9-10
Verse 10 has Jesus quoting Isaiah 6:9 and/or Ezekiel 12:2.
This is one of the places in the gospels if I have to wonder if the writers are actually reporting on something Jesus said, or if they include it for convenience’s sake. There is no way to know for sure, and the implication is at least a little sacrilegious, particularly considering the fact that this appears in all three of the synoptic gospels certainly gives it some weight, but the explanation doesn’t seem to fit in particularly well with the rest of Jesus’ mission, or at least it does to me.
The wonderful thing about parables is that there is rarely one way to interpret them, they are not usually intended to be allegorical (telling a story with a specific moral in mind, like many fairy tales and children’s stories do). Rather parables are great for generating discussion, letting people sort it out. This, to me, seems like a strong reason as to why Jesus spoke in parables. If he meant to speak in allegory, you’d think we would have more than one parable explained in detail.
As a result, i have to wonder if this was some sort of fabrication on the part of a gospel writer, that got taken on as fact, that Jesus was speaking in parables so folks wouldn’t understand, but would explain things to the disciples later. The way it is explained here makes Jesus seem a little exclusionary, as if he intentionally wanted to confuse folks, or that he told the parables only for some to understand and other to never understand, to always remain on the outside looking in.
The Jesus I find in the Gospels can certainly be a little gruff at times (as we see in the next pericope), but he comes across as someone who was really trying to welcome and transform as many people as possible, particularly the crowds that gathered to see him, probably made of primarily of the disenfranchised. That he is intentionally trying to confuse people doesn’t seem to gel with that Jesus. Or that he would explain things to the disciples and not to anyone else, as if only the disciples held the keys to understanding.
Of course, following Jesus’ death, if some of the disciples, who were far from perfect, wanted to make it seem as though they were the Key to understanding, it doesn’t seem that hard to imagine them making up a story like this, saying to those they met “well, jesus told us what the parables meant, so you have to listen to us”.
Maybe the truth of it all is somewhere in-between, maybe Jesus did explain the parables to the disciples, in hopes that they would be able to help as teachers, maybe with the notion that after Jesus was crucified and resurrected, the parable would start to become clearer. The disciples, clearly concerned with their worldly place on a regular basis, could have misunderstood and misreported the way Jesus described his use of parables.
The bottom line is, we, today are left with only an explanation to this parable. What happened to the other explanations that were said to be made to the disciples? What are we to do with all these parables, that have a myriad of possible meanings and explanations?
- what do you think? Is this account accurate? Has it shifted its meaning like a game of telephone? Was it added later?
- What role might this passage outline for the disciples and all the future leaders of the church?
Parable of the Sower II 8:11-15
The explanation outlines the agrarian nature of Jesus’ approach to speaking to the crowds of Galilee. Each idea would make sense to pretty much anyone that has ever had a garden. What’s amazing to me is the way each of these illustrations still echo to a certain point today. The image of the devil is something i think needs some clarifications though. In the modern world, the devil is not some external actor, but rather something much more subtle and insidious. When i think of a modern devil the first thing that comes to mind is Addiction, whether substance addiction or shopping addiction or sex addiction. Through medicine and psychology, we have come to learn that addiction can not be blamed wholly on the person who is addicted, but it is still not entirely external. Some thinkers today think that addiction is the result of poor emotional health of a system of people larger than the individual, often times a family, but potentially also a group of friends, a workplace or even a church. If this is true, all are accountable to some extent in the “devil” being present in someone’s life, and pointing fingers is not particularly useful.
The bottom line, although I feel this parable, as explained, is incredibly instructional, it can still lead to misinterpretation, or the belief that some are seeds safely in the good soil, with nothing to worry about, or that are lots are casts the moment we, as seeds, are thrown. Yes this parable speaks to what is so often present in a church’s pews, and certainly can ease our anxiety towards those that seem to drift away from the church, or just never come through the doors in the first place. But if we are to take this parable a step further, gardens are dynamic places, and if Jesus is the gardener, then Jesus can transform the entirety of the garden, and sometimes the good soil can dry out, or be damaged by a weather event. I just don’t think that life is that static.
- What do you think of the explanation? How does it inform your faith?
- Where do you think you’ve been cast? What might that mean? Has your location in the garden changed?
Lamp Under a Bushel I 8:16-18
This is one of those passages that paints Jesus as someone who truly intends his message of love to be intended for all, not just a chosen few. This passage almost seems to stand in direct contrast with everything else that came before this passage. It should be noted, the order of these particular pericopes is different between Matthew, Luke and Mark, each chose their own ways to highlight the parables, and surely their order says something about what each evangelist wanted to highlight.
Part of me has to wonder, that as Luke did his research, that if he encounter the same concern I have. Maybe as he heard all the different accounts he was sure that they had to be included, but worried that they seemed to contradict each other at times. By including this passage, one of the intended universality of the Word, it almost seems to be saying, these last verses, they are not intended to be exclusionary, Jesus still wanted everyone to see the light, the parable of the sower and its explanation mean something different than exclusion. Maybe, maybe not, but regardless, this is still a powerful passage in favor of a Jesus that wants his light shown to all.
- What secrets do you think Jesus is talking about? What will be disclosed?
- For those who listen, what is it that they have?
Jesus’ True Relatives 8:19-21
In talking with someone the other day about her understanding of Jesus, she often imagined Jesus as someone without a whole lot of social grace. Here he is, his family wants to see him, and although he is making a good point, that his true family is something bigger than blood, it still must have sounded awfully offensive to his mother and brother. As I mentioned earlier, Jesus as presented in Luke can be a little rough around the edges.
- For the Son of God, he doesn’t come off particularly graceful in this passage. What does this mean to church? What does this say about Jesus’ role as both fully human and fully divine?
- Why place this right after the previous passages, is it purposeful on Luke’s part or just the way the story had to be told?
Calming the Storm 8:22-25
Right off the bat, as I read this, how did Jesus stay asleep through a storm, only to be woken up by the others. This makes me think two things. One, that Jesus must have been really really tired. Second, were the disciples over reacting? Maybe the storm wasn’t really that bad.
Jesus’ reaction to them almost seems like he is frustrated, and just trying to sleep, almost as if he is saying “seriously? fine, i’ll take care of it, because i need some rest, but come on guys, its me, you really don’t have to worry so much!”
Whatever the context of the passage, it certainly is a powerful statement about having faith, and the abilities of God.
- Do you read the story the same way I do? Do you read it differently? Does something else jump out?
- Does this story affect the way you live your everyday life? If so, how?