God commanded Ezekiel to pose a riddle and speak a parable to his people, which comprises Ezekiel 17. At the time, it was a commentary on current events. For us, it’s ancient history. Many people these days have trouble grasping why ancient history matters today. In fact, the difference between Ezekiel’s time and ours is no more than window dressing. Today’s societies all exhibit the same sins as his.
The parable concerns two eagles and a vine, which all behave like humans in both their glory and shame. We don’t have to guess what it means for ancient Israel. The chapter explains the allegory in detail.… Read the rest
The kingdom of heaven is a major theme of Matthew’s gospel, including most of the parables in Matthew 13. The chapter begins with the parable of the sower (or the four soils) and its explanation. All the other parables in the chapter compare the kingdom of heaven to something or someone. Four other chapters include parables that illustrate what the kingdom of heaven is like.
This post will examine the short parables at the end of Matthew 13. He spoke these parables to the disciples alone, not to a crowd.
The Parable of the Sower appears in all three synoptic gospels. Jesus implied it is the key to understanding his other parables. Today, thinking of it as the parable of the four soils might make it easier to grasp. After all, the sower went out to sow seed, and the parable never mentions him again. It doesn’t really say much about the seed, either, except that it’s apparently some kind of grain. But the soils? They’re crucially important.
The three accounts are a little different, but the differences don’t alter the basic points.
A sower went out to sow seed. In those days, that meant taking a bag of seed and throwing it on the ground.… Read the rest
It’s easy to think that Jesus ministered for three years and then the Holy Spirit showed up on Pentecost. In fact, Jesus’ earthly ministry could not have happened without the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit empowered Jesus the same way he empowers believers today. In part, that means mostly operating in the background.
The first time recorded in Scripture that John the Baptist ever saw Jesus, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, CSB). The next day, he said the same thing to two of his disciples, Andrew and John, when Jesus passed by them. The two left him to follow Jesus.
The scene has become so familiar that it’s easy to fail to notice how little John’s society was prepared to hear it. Not to mention ours.
Christians have been awaiting the return of Jesus Christ since the very beginning of the church. In fact, as early as Amos (almost 800 years before Christ), people were looking forward to the Day of the Lord. And beginning with Amos, the prophets and apostles have warned us it won’t be a pleasant time.
The coming wrath of God is not a pleasant thought. Many Christians recoil because they can’t reconcile it with his love. But we must remember that every syllable of the Bible perfectly describes God’s love. Even the parts we don’t like. With that in mind, let’s take a careful look at 2 Peter 3.… Read the rest
The church celebrates Christmas and Easter in a big way. Many churches at least devote a sermon to Pentecost, the birthday of the church. How many Christians know about Ascension Day? It’s exactly forty days after Easter, which means it always falls on a Thursday. It’s easy for it to come and go without notice. So why is Jesus’ ascension important?
Christians can probably quote some Bible verses about how Christ has redeemed us. Otherwise, we don’t use “redeem” much anymore these days. When we do use it, it has two basic meanings.
It used to be that we could take books of stamps to a redemption center and exchange them for a toaster. That is, we redeemed the toaster by presenting the stamps. We can still redeem something we’ve taken to a pawn shop. And we talk about redeeming a coupon, although we don’t say we redeem our discount by presenting the coupon.
Or second, when we fail somehow, we can do something to redeem ourselves.… Read the rest
Jesus is Lord. That’s the claim at the heart of Christianity. But “lord” is a term that long predates Jesus’ earthly ministry. The Greek kurios has several meanings.
Jesus’ conduct hardly ever looked like the most important ones.
Kurios can mean nothing more than “sir,” a term of respect addressed to social equals or superiors.
It can also mean owner. Owners have certain rights over what they own. The owner of a farm, for example, has exclusive rights to what grows in it. He has the expectation of profiting from it. He can choose to sell it. No one else has those rights over that same property.… Read the rest
John the Baptist burst on the scene with such power that people wondered if he could be the Messiah. He identified Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah.
In explaining what the Messiah would do, he didn’t refer to anything Jesus did in his earthly ministry. He pointed to Jesus’ post-resurrection work and used an agricultural image to do so. The message was plain to those who heard John, but it’s obscure to us today.