Friday 18 July 2014

Pentecost 3 Mark 4v26-34 The parable of the weeds and wheat and the mustard seed

There are two types of parables: there are teaching parables  (often using metaphors or similes) and there are kingdom parables. The kingdom parables usually begin with  The kingdom of God/heaven...Jesus' words are about these kind of parables. The kingdom parables are "designed to capture the listener and make him a participant, overturning his world-view and leading him to call in question his most basic values." They teach the presentness of the kingdom and the immediacy of the kingdom of God. In the Old Testament in the Hebrew masal, they were an obscure saying or riddle. The crowds will hear the riddle, the hidden things and go home entertained - they hear and do not understand. Those who want to follow God will want to know what it means.

Speaking with the crowds, Jesus proclaims that the coming of the kingdom of heaven can be compared to that of a farmer who has completed his planting and now waits for the harvest.

An enemy (or hostile person) has planted bearded darnel, a poisonous weed which, in the early stages of growth, looks like wheat. As the heads of grain appear on the wheat, the servants can identify the weeds, now intertwined with the wheat. The farmer (or master) tells his workers to leave both weeds and wheat together. At the harvest, separate the two, burning the weeds.

Jesus leaves the mystery with the crowd and withdraws. The disciples are also mystified. So Jesus explains the parable to them. The Son of Man, sows the seed and directs the harvest. This takes place in the field, which is the world.(reminds me of Antony Gormley's Field)  From the Early Church Fathers, through Augustine, and up to the Reformers, the field was seen as the church. Jesus is saying the field is the inhabited earth, the world, the kingdom is somewhere in it. The holy ones are alongside the lawless, but only for a time.

Jesus says, He who has ears, let him hear, and  identifies those who face judgment as the ones who cause offence (stumbling-blocks- a trap, something that causes a trip or fall.) and who are lawless (those who defy God's law). In the world they have much in common with the wheat, but they are children of darkness. In the present time they coexist with believers, but the day is coming when they will be weeded out and cast into the fiery furnace, Jer:29:22, Dan.3:6, Rev.20:15. This is a place of tears and bitter regret.

Those who are blessed are the righteous ones. They are the light of the kingdom of God. 

What is Jesus teaching in this parable?
The kingdom has burst in upon us and its effects are here and now although its presence is diluted by powers of darkness which confuse us. The kingdom of God is made of up of wheat and weeds, true believers and frauds. The frauds should not be removed, as God will deal with them in the day of judgment.

This parable reminds us that the fields are white for harvest. It is time to repent and believe. The parable of the Weeds and the Wheat, like all kingdom parables, confronts us with the gospel of the coming kingdom. Kingdom parables are designed to captivate us and encourage us to challenge our deepest held world-view and our values. 

The parable of the mustard seed follows. The seed becomes the mustard bush. This is what the kingdom of God is like. From something as small as a mustard seed something large grows that becomes the biggest of all kitchen herb and the birds of the air can perch in its shade, nest, settle, live, dwell, camp under its shade. 

The riddle of the parable has roots in Old Testament theology in  Ps. 104:12, Ezk.17:23, the day when Israel will find shelter is at hand.

The kingdom of God references the messiah's establishment of the reign of God over Israel, in defiance of all secular powers.
And so it is with us. Great events often have small beginnings. So we are encouraged to keep sowing however small the seed.
In this skeptical age this is encouragement, to hope and be patient because however insignificant we may be, we can have great influence!



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