Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives. The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version. At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture. To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.
Questions & Observations
Q. (Matthew 13:10-23): I’m guessing that the Israelites hearts are hardened and disbelieving because they have been taught that way by many, many generations. Their ancestors heard all the prophecies and chose to ignore them, a sentiment which would have been carried down from generation to generation.
A. The image of a stiff-necked people who ignore God appears to still be an apt one. It is worth noting, however, that many of the common Jews of this day (especially the poor and needy) eagerly accepted the message Jesus proclaimed. It was the leadership and the wealthy (notably the priesthood that was in cahoots with Rome) that rejected what Jesus came to do.
Q. (Matthew 13:16-17): What is it that they have been seeing and hearing? The prophecies? The Messiah?
A. Jesus is talking about Himself here, and the arrival of the Kingdom of God with His presence. As we have noted, Jesus is proclaiming that the Prophets have spoken of Him, and so He is declaring that these men would surely have been envious of the disciples, who have the privilege of seeing their own words come true.
Q. (Luke 8:17-18, Mark 24-25): What? Actually, after reading the second one, I had an epiphany. Understanding means listening or being in tune to the Holy Spirit. If you listen with your heart and not your ears, you will receive messages from the Holy Spirit. How is that?
A. Sounds pretty good. I would only add that those who were truly listening to Jesus were the ones who had faith in Him. As with the message of salvation, faith is the foundation of hearing God’s word.
Q. (Mark 4:26-29): The Kingdom of God refers to the nation of believers? I get from this scripture that once the seed (Word) is planted, it grows in ways unexpected and unexplained.
A. I’m not sure I would use the word nation, but you have the idea. The Kingdom of God — something Jesus will continue to discuss is the place where God is rightly recognized as King and Lord. This is the central idea: if we do the will of the King (Jesus — God in human form), we are subjects of God’s Kingdom.
Q. (Matthew 13:24-30): This one is easy: the wheat (believers) are good, the weeds (non-believers) will be burned.
A. I would call that close, but be careful about making assumptions that Jesus does not make in this story. Jesus does NOT say that only believers are the good wheat, or that non-believers are evil, just that there is good and evil, and it is impossible to separate them properly at this time.
This parable is actually an incredibly profound insight into part of the problem of evil (called the theodicy problem from the Greek words for “god” and “justice”). The central question of theodicy is this: if God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good, then how can evil exist? This parable provides part of the answer to two different aspects of this difficult theology. First, the parable tells us that there is another force at work in the world: the evil one or “enemy” in the story. So even the presence of a good God does NOT negate the existence of other powers. The other question theodicy wrestles with is why does God not deal with evil as it happens? Why does God allow injustice and evil (the Holocaust, the killing fields, etc.) and not do anything about it. This parable answers this as well: God WILL achieve justice, but in the current age, the roots of “good” and “evil” are so intertwined that they cannot be separated without harm to the “good” roots. So why does God not intervene RIGHT NOW? Because He understands that there will be justice in the age to come, and though it might not make sense to us at the moment, God understands that there is too much at risk now to fully intervene against evil. You can see why I find this parable to be so insightful and fascinating.
Q. (Mark 4:35-41): Just wondering. Is it actually a sin to worry, to not hand over your burdens to Jesus?
A. Worry ultimately has its origin in a lack of trust in God. Now that doesn’t mean we NEVER worry, but as we grow to more and more intuned with the will of God, I believe that the things we worry about will change and decrease. Don’t forget Jesus’ reminder in Matthew 6:27: worrying does not add a single moment to our lives. So how does it help?