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Yeshua in Context » Aims of Yeshua, Applying the Gospels, Besorah/Gospel/Good News, Discipleship - Formation, Gospel Genres, Kingdom Future, Kingdom Present, Literary Features, Parables, Paradox, Teaching of Yeshua » Applying Messiah’s Kingdom Parables, Part 2

Applying Messiah’s Kingdom Parables, Part 2

. . . birds came along and devoured it . . . it withered away . . . it yielded no grain . . .”
-Mark 4:4, 6, 7.

Parables are usually connected to a scripture text or several of them. They often explain something puzzling about God and his relation to his people, or something unstated or mysterious in a text.

Yeshua understood a startling truth found in Isaiah 6, one that naturally leads any thoughtful reader to ask questions. Modern readers of the Sower parable (Mk 4; Mt 13; Lk 8) tend not to realize that the parable is commenting on a text. The text is Isaiah 6. It is not a randomly chosen or obscure passage. It is the chapter in which Isaiah saw God’s Throne above with his kingly robes coming down and filling the Temple (Isa 6:1). It is the “holy, holy, holy” passage with the Seraphim (the burning ones). It is the commission of the prophet Isaiah.

Yeshua, prophet and Messiah, has a mission which can be compared to Isaiah’s. Yet the puzzling thing about Isaiah’s commission is that he was sent to tell the people about God’s desire for them in that moment in history and yet his words would paradoxically cause greater judgment. God said to Isaiah:

Go, say to that people: ‘Hear, indeed, but do not understand; see, indeed, but do not grasp.’ Dull that people’s mind, stop its ears, and seal its eyes — lest, seeing with its eyes and hearing with its ears, it also grasp with its mind, and repent and save itself.
-Isaiah 6:9-10, JPS.

These words are so surprising, so ironic, many readers need to give them multiple readings to understand what they are saying.

Isaiah was a kingdom prophet. Yeshua was a kingdom prophet. The kingdom is God’s rule over his people and all the cosmos. Isn’t telling people about the kingdom good news? On the contrary, in many cases it is bad news. The simple in understanding think that true instruction will be easily recognized and that great promises will be believed and acted upon.

The easiest criticism of Yeshua is that his message was so little heeded. If he was Messiah, or even a true prophet, why didn’t he bring about the renewal of Israel? Why wasn’t the earth redeemed? Why didn’t the world to come start in his day? Where is the messianic redemption with all the promises of every person under their vine and fig tree?

Parables, according to the early rabbis in the land of Israel, were especially founded in Israel as a way of teaching by Solomon (see Song of Songs Rabbah, first chapter). They interpreted Mishlei (Proverbs) and Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) as illustrations of Torah truths. They saw Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs/Solomon) as figures of God’s dealings with Israel at the Exodus and Sinai. The figure or simile or parable (mashal) explains something about a scripture text.

The Sower parable is about good news that is bad news. It explains first and foremost how a true prophet (Isaiah, Yeshua) can speak what is good and yet he will not be heard. It explains how a generation can be so close to devastation (Isaiah’s in the Assyrian and Babylonian crises and Yeshua’s in the coming war with Rome) even though the kingdom is proclaimed. It explains how disciple circles can form and preserve the teaching for the future.

Isaiah’s words did not prevent Israel and Judah from collapsing, nor did Yeshua’s. But Isaiah’s words and Yeshua’s words did lead to the formation of disciple circles. They were passed down generation to generation.

The Sower parable is rich. To begin to understand it, realize it is a commentary on Isaiah 6. Realize first that it is about our human tendency not to receive the message. It is not our responsibility to bring the messianic era. The king will bring the kingdom. But he who has ears to hear will understand why it is delayed. We bear fruit while we wait.

If you would like to follow this series, here is Part 1.

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Filed under: Aims of Yeshua, Applying the Gospels, Besorah/Gospel/Good News, Discipleship - Formation, Gospel Genres, Kingdom Future, Kingdom Present, Literary Features, Parables, Paradox, Teaching of Yeshua

One Response to "Applying Messiah’s Kingdom Parables, Part 2"

  1. benicho says:

    “The easiest criticism of Yeshua is that his message was so little heeded. If he was Messiah, or even a true prophet, why didn’t he bring about the renewal of Israel?”

    Paul:
    “I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!”…

    Paul:
    “For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.”

    It’s interesting to see in hindsight how Gd planned to bring a renewal to Israel all while bringing gentiles into the understanding so that they may be saved, too.

    “Why wasn’t the earth redeemed? Why didn’t the world to come start in his day?”

    Yeshua (Gospel of Thomas quote)
    “Men think, perhaps, that it is peace which I have come to cast upon the world. They do not know that it is dissension which I have come to cast upon the earth: fire, sword, and war. For there will be five in a house: three will be against two, and two against three, the father against the son, and the son against the father. And they will stand solitary.”…

    Yeshua (Gospel of Thomas quote)
    “Whoever does not hate his father and his mother cannot become a disciple to me. And whoever does not hate his brothers and sisters and take up his cross in my way will not be worthy of me.”

    Yeshua, like HaShem, is looking for people who want to dwell with Him more than they want to breathe.

    “Where is the messianic redemption with all the promises of every person under their vine and fig tree?”

    Yeshua was training disciples in Israel to bring in the gentiles, it would lead to the conflict that we see between Jewish followers of Yeshua and their brothers who weren’t followers. Whoever preferred to side with their family rather than believe the Messiah were not worthy to be followers, we know that Yeshua employed this technique on many occasions (that I can think of off the top of my head), they can be learned here:

    “Then another of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father. But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

    “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day …. On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

    The ones who accepted and understood it will be called greatest in the kingdom because they rejected their brothers in order to follow the difficult teachings out of faith.

    Sorry for the long post.

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