Who is this Jesus? God’s campaign of shock and awe

parable of sower

Parable of Sower. An icon depicting the Sower. In Sts. Konstantine and Helen Orthodox Church, Cluj, Romania.

In Jesus, God came into the world as a baby. Who doesn’t like babies? Even the non-Christian world likes Jesus the baby. The modern church always seems comfortable with Jesus the baby, Jesus the kind man who was nice to children, Jesus the story teller, even Jesus the corpse taken down from the cross.

But Jesus’ birth as a baby was the beginning of God’s sneak attack against sin, evil, the devil, and death itself. The supernatural Jesus makes everyone uncomfortable, even the church, even his closest friends.… Read the rest

Three parables of the kingdom of heaven

According to Matthew 6:33, “Seek first kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things [material needs] will be added to you.” Simple enough in principle, but just what is this kingdom, and what does it mean to seek it first? Jesus explained the kingdom in a number of parables. Here are three from Matthew 13:24-33.

The kingdom of heaven can be compared to a man

Kingdom of heaven, man planting wheat

Wheat plant: notice the bending stalk.

A man sowed good seed in his field. Now, this parable comes right after Jesus’ explanation of the parable of the sower. It seems safe to conclude that the seed in both cases is the word of God.… Read the rest

The parable of the rich fool

When Jesus told a parable, the story concerned familiar situations of his time. Sometimes we must translate it from his culture to ours. Other times we can find its familiarity downright embarrassing. Such is the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:16-21).

A farmer has produced such an abundance of crops that his success has outgrown his barns. He decides to tear them down and have bigger ones built in their place. With careful planning and sharp business practices, he should never have to work again, and he intends to relax and enjoy what he has provided for himself.

Jesus’ parable did not end well for the farmer.… Read the rest

What is the Kingdom of God like?

44The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
45Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. – Matthew 13:44-46

These three verses comprise two different parables, but neither can stand without the other. The first says the kingdom of God is like a treasure, the second that it is like a merchant.… Read the rest

Fear of God: the wrong way

Superficially, the Parable of the Ten Minas resembles the Parable of the Ten Talents, but the differences are probably more important than the similarities. Jesus told the parable right before his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. His followers thought he was going there to claim his kingdom. In fact, he intended to go to his Father to receive it. In the parable, he traveled to a far country.

Mina, like talents, is a unit of money. In this parable, though, the minas represent spiritual gifts. The nobleman gave a mina to each of ten servants. (In the parable of the talents, he gave three men different amounts according to their differing ability.) Then he returned, having received the kingdom, and called the servants to find out how they had done.… Read the rest

Seed sown in rocky places: the dangers of shallow faith

In gardening or farming, sun gives life to well-rooted plants, but death to others. That is why, in Jesus’ parable of the sower, seedlings in rocky places and scorched by the sun represent people who hear the word of God and fall away in times of trouble and persecution.

American Christians may not suffer persecution, or at least not to the extent that Christians in other places and times have, but no one gets through life without trouble and affliction. I don’t suppose that many would compare persecution, trouble, and affliction to the sun, but Jesus did.

The sun is good; it gives power and light.… Read the rest