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Finding the Word in the Words

• Osheta Moore

Osheta continues our look at ‘loose ends’ of scripture that often get overlooked or dismissed because of their seeming exclusiveness and contradiction. This week’s installment examines Jesus’ comments about parables and why they were one of his key methods of teaching. At the heart of it all is the question of who the Kingdom of God is for, and what is being asked of us to enter in to it.

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As an analogy introduction, Osheta explained the idea of an artistic interlude found in many musical albums. As an artist matures and wishes to express some of the behind the scenes reasons for this transformation, this often takes the form of an interlude. From the outside listener point of view these sections may seems like a distraction, but from the artist it’s a critical part of his or her development. Viewing the bible as a whole and not skipping sections because they’re not convenient or easy to understand is kind of like embracing these interludes. To understand them, they need further intentional examination.

It is helpful to constantly be looking for where Jesus is in the scripture, whether the passage is specifically about him or not. He is the word within the words. In Mark 4, Jesus is explaining part of the purpose of parables and then references a section of Isaiah in relation to what he’s experiencing. At first read Jesus’ words come across very harsh and almost seem to be intentionally exclusionary of certain peoples in entering the Kingdom of God and finding forgiveness. It takes a closer read to understand the heart behind Jesus’ teaching. We know that God desires all to be part of his family and has went to incredible lengths to provide that opportunity, so if we come across a section of scripture that seems to contradict that we should dig deeper.

There were several contextual reasons why Jesus says what he did and they are helpful to examine:

  1. Jesus used parables because he was under a lot of scrutiny from the Jewish and Roman authorities. Before Mark 4:10-12, he had just got in a boat to speak to a large audience using the lake acoustics. Jesus knew there were many people there who had a variety of different motivations, some pure and some not at all. Part of the reason he taught in parables was to stay under the radar of the religious authority. This alternative allowed him to preach longer to a larger group of people to share his message of the Kingdom of God before being arrested.
  2. He told the parable of the sower and the seed which is important context for his subsequent words. In the parable the word is falling on differing states of soil health. Jesus’ caution is to constantly be examining your own heart to make sure it is the type of soil that could receive the word of God and be transformed by it.
  3. It’s also important to note Jesus’ quoting of Isaiah. In the quoted passage God was prompting Isaiah to go out and speak a message to people with different motivations similar to the situation of Jesus. There were people in both audiences who would refuse to listen and hear the teaching. Speaking in parables works to expose these unhealthy motivations in the audience.

Jesus’ parables invite us to ask questions of ourselves and of God. What type of Kingdom is this and what type of person am I becoming. Scripture like this displays what it means to engage and love God with all our mind. He invites and encourages us to ask questions and wrestle with him to gain understanding. In this wrestling and softening of our hearts comes our transformation.

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Topics: Controversial Issues, God's Will, Kingdom of God

Sermon Series: Loose Ends

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Focus Scripture:

  • Mark 4:10-12

    When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you." But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, “they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!”

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