Sunday 16 July 2017

Bible Book:

“Let anyone with ears listen.” (v. 9)

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 Sunday 16 July 2017

Psalm: Psalm65


This passage is usually entitled 'TheParable of the Sower' in English Bibles. However, in some otherlanguages it is known as 'The Parable of the Four Types of Ground'.This is, arguably, a much better description of the passage as itseems to be the receiving ground that determines the differingoutcomes here, not the sower or the seed.

Whatever title we use for the parable,though, most scholars agree that it begins the third of fivedistinct blocks of teaching within the Gospel of Matthew. Manycommentators see this as a deliberate decision by Matthew aseditor. It could suggest that Jesus is the 'new Moses' and that histeaching parallels, or even surpasses, the five books of the Law(or Torah) attributed to the great prophet. This particular blockcovers most of chapter 13 (Matthew 13:1-52) and is given by Jesus to thecrowds beside the sea of Galilee, in the north of modern-dayIsrael.

Jesus' teaching in this chapter isnearly entirely given in parables and even includes a discussion ofwhy Jesus uses them (verses10-17). The word comes from the Greek 'parabole' and it is notstraightforward to translate. In the Bible, parables can act like aproverb, a riddle, a conundrum, or even a prophecy. They useeveryday objects and people (a mustard seed, a farmer, etc) butoften in unusual or shocking ways (eg someone selling everythingthey have to possess a pearl (Matthew 13:45-46)). Importantly, while thestories may appear simple on the surface, they actually challengetheir listeners' perceptions and are open to a number of differentinterpretations, depending on the context in which they areused.

Interestingly, here Jesus himself givesan explanation of what this particular parable means (verses18-23), something he does not usually do in the Gospels.Previously, scholars thought that these verses had been added laterbut most now argue that this interpretation, like the others inthis section (Matthew 13:37-43, 49-50), originated withJesus.

To Ponder

  • This parable relies on at least some familiarity with farming,a world which would have been very familiar to Jesus' firstaudience. In a modern, urbanised world, to what extent is suchlanguage now a barrier to understanding?
  • Where are the rocky ground and the fertile soil for the goodnews of the kingdom of God in today's world?
  • Jesus interpreted this parable in a particular way (verses18-23). Are we entitled to interpret it in different ways, toreflect our own contemporary experiences of the world? Why, or whynot?

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