Friday, November 17, 2017

69 - Fat Hearts

And the disciples approached and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?" 

He answered and said to them, "To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 

For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he shall be in abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. 

Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 

And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which says: 'Hearing you shall hear and by no means understand, and seeing you shall see and by no means perceive. 

For the heart of this people has become dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes have closed, lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn back, that I should heal them.' 

But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears, because they hear.
Mat 13:10-16.

Dull Hearted People

To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more shall be given.  It is easy to read this as though God has called some to know the mysteries and others have not been given that opportunity.  However, that is not what is meant.   About the Jewish people, Isaiah said their eyes have they closed. 6:10. The choice is always the human's; they chose to live with their eyes and minds closed.  Christ's disciples, right from the start, were willing to accept His teachings and consequently to the disciples more shall be given.

but to them it has not been given.  In this case, He was probably speaking of the Pharisees because they were totally against the Messiah's doctrines.  The Pharisees are by no means the only people with closed minds; we run into this in any church setting; people who know their church's statement of faith will cling to it without ever studying what it actually means or why the creed designers chose the words they did; even what they have shall be taken away from them.

For the heart of this people has become dull (in place of dull the KJV has is waxed gross which means, to fatten (figuratively stupefy or render callous). [Strong G3975] and their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes have closed, lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn back, that I should heal them. 

They purposely did not listen to any new doctrine brought by Christ; they closed their eyes to the truth; they did this because they were afraid they might change their minds and finally see the truth. The status quo is much more comfortable and easier than thinking and rearranging one's beliefs.  

Believe what you believe is right but not without studying what you say you believe.  If it is buried, I must search. The gold is not going to un-dig itself. [Focus on the Kingdom; Nov. 2017]  A simple look at church theology shows us that theologians have a knack for being wrong.  Why do you believe that your own pastor is doctrinally faultless?  Study the Bible to check out what he/she preaches.  If you do, Christ will say to you blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears, because they hear.

A Change of Scene

Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the region of the Gadarenes. Mark 5:1 
And when He got out of the boat, immediately there met Him from the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs. 5:2-3
But seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran and worshipped Him,and crying out with a great voice he said, "What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? 5:6-7
And he was imploring Him many times that He would not send them out of the region. 5:10-13
Then they began to implore Him to go away from their region. 5:17  

The Demon's Request

But seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran and worshipped Him, and crying out with a great voice he said, "What have I to do with You, Jesus, (the name Jesus is omitted in many manuscripts), Son of the Most High God?

Demons know their place and they know that Jesus is the Son of the Most High God.  The demon did not like it that Christ came to his territory.  It sounds as if the demon is saying, I did not come to bother you in your country so why did you come to bother me in mine?

When Israel captured Palestine, after wandering in the desert for 40 years, half of the tribe of Jacob's grandson, Mannessah, took possession of the land East of the Sea of Galilee.  Later when the Assyrians conquered the northern tribes of Israel some of the Assyrians moved into that part where half the tribe of Mannessah had been at home. 

The Jews of that area had already left the worship of Jehovah in exchange for foreign gods but the arrival of the Gentiles made it official that they were a heathen nation.  The people of that area were called "The Gadarenes". 

We had that short look at history to set the stage.  Christ went across the Sea of Galilee into Gadara and immediately He met a demon-possessed man and he cast a demon out of that person.

However, it was not quite that straight-forward.  The demon requested Christ not to send him out of that country.   It seems strange that a demon would care where he lives.  It has been suggested that the demon felt more at home among the Gentiles than he would have in the land where people still worshipped Jehovah. 

We, North Americans, on the whole, have left off worshipping Jehovah.  We have no qualms with jesting about evil spirits; we love to watch movies about them; We think they are a joke.  That will change when the presence of God's spirit is even more diminished in our society than it is now.  The demons will feel at home and move right in and inhabit humans.

When we hear of those individuals who purposely slaughter as many people as possible it is hard not to believe that they are demon-possessed.

Then they began to implore Him to go away from their region.  When the people of Gadara heard that the man who had been demon possessed had been cured they came to see Jesus and while they were there they asked Him to leave their country.  People then, as well as people now, must either accept the teachings of Christ or they will feel very uncomfortable in His presence and they will tell Him to leave.

Friday, November 10, 2017

68 - The Wheat and the Darnel

Here is the parable of the wheat and tares as the masses heard it:

Another parable He set before them, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man sowing good seed in his field.
But while the men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went away.
But when the stalk had sprouted and produced fruit, then the tares also appeared.
So the servants of the master of the house approached and said to him, 'Sir, was it not good seed you sowed in your field? From where then does it have tares?'
"He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' So the servants said to him, 'Do you wish then that we should go and gather them up?'
"But he said, 'No, lest gathering up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.
Leave both to grow together until the harvest; and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather together the tares, and bind them into bundles to burn them, but gather together the wheat into my barn. 
Mat 13:24-30.
See also Mat. 13:37-43.

The Wheat and the Darnel

Pale red is from Mat. 13:24-30; Dark red is from Mat. 13:37-43.

Here is the same parable as it was explained to the disciples:

The man in the parable is the Son of Man - Christ, our Redeemer. 
his field - is the world.  Bible scholars tend to limit this to the worldwide Church but Christ did not limit it like that.  He said that His field is the world.
good seed are the sons of the kingdom.  People who live righteous lives.
the tares are the sons of the evil one.  People who live unrighteous lives, or, as Christ said, those who work iniquity. 13:41 
the enemy - is the devil
the harvest is the end of the age
the servants - are the angels

Some Bible translations use the word darnel in place of tares.  Darnel is a species of rye-grass, the seeds of which are a strong soporific poison. It bears the closest resemblance to wheat till the ear appears, and only then the difference is discovered. It grows plentifully in Syria and Palestine. [Easton Bible Dictionary]

The Good Seed

One idea expressed is that at nighttime (spiritual drowsiness) when preachers and other Christians were sleeping God's enemy came and sowed tares (evil thoughts and lifestyles) into the hearts of the good people.  However, in opposition to that idea, Christ said, the tares are the sons of the evil one (evil people in the ranks of the Church).  Guzik writes, the seed represents the word and in the previous parable this was true, but in this parable Christ said, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom.

After the wheat had started to grow the tares also grew among the wheat. Some Christians noticed this and they said to their master Do you wish then that we should go and get those evil people out of our church? he said, 'No, lest gathering up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.

“A zeal for the extirpation (extirpate implies extinction of ... an idea or doctrine by destruction or removal of its means of propagation, [Webster] of heretics and wicked men,” said a pious Papist, “not regulated by these words of our blessed Savior, allows no time for the one (the not so spiritual brother or sister) to grow strong in goodness, or to the other to forsake their evil courses. They are of a spirit very opposite to his (Christ's), who care not if they root up the wheat, provided they can but gather up the tares.” The zeal which leads persons to persecute others for religious opinions is not less a seed of the devil than a bad opinion itself is. [Clarke]

This is happening continually to people, in the church community, who dare to express ideas or beliefs different than the "statement of faith" their church holds.  Some church members are much too eager to condemn and oust "those unbelievers".

False doctrines are against God - he alone is the judge and punisher of them - man has no right to interfere in this matter. They who burnt Vanini for atheism usurped the seat of judgment, and thus proved themselves to be not less a diabolical seed than the person they thus, without God’s leave, hurried into eternity. [Clarke]

A short note on the very interesting story of Vanini. ... in 1619, Italian freethinker Lucilio Vanini was adorned with a placard reading ‘Ateiste et blasphemateur du nom de Dieu’ (Atheist and blasphemer of the name of God) and taken to Toulouse’s Place du Salin where he had his blasphemous tongue cut out, then was strangled and burned at the stake.  The so-called Christians in the so-called "Christian church" were much more eager to insist on what they thought was doctrinally right than they were on showing Christian love to a fellow human being.  This man, according to his own writings, denied that he was an atheist.

To Thy Ownself Be True

Fortunately, for us, the church is no longer in control of civil laws or of what a person believes.  Because of what I have written in my blogs I have been "condemned to hell" numerous times already.  Not because what I write disagrees with what the Bible teaches but because it disagrees with their church's creed.

As applied to the kingdom community, this parable teaches us that it is not our job to sort the tares from the wheat. That is only done at the time of harvest. Among God’s people, there may be some who are not genuine Christians, but it is God’s job to sort out false professors.[Guzik]

Throughout our studies of the life of Christ we have seen, time and again, that Christ emphasised a person's manner of life above religious rules or beliefs.  He did not say, You will know whether or not they are Christians by how well they adhere to the church's "statement of faith".  He said, By their fruits, you shall know them.  

The New Testament makes it very clear that the end of this age will happen at the return of Christ.  That is the time of harvest when The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who work iniquity.    He did not say, All those who have not joined themselves to the Christian church.

Then the righteous (by their lifestyle you shall know them) will shine forth like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.  

Friday, November 3, 2017

67 - A Sower Went Out To Sow.

It is probably not right to assume that Christ preached all of "the sermon on the mount" in one setting. Matthew's paraphrase of it is much longer than Luke's is so it is logical that Matthew gathered more material from Christ's various sermons, than Luke did, and laced them together into what appears to be one continuous lecture.

Christ was an itinerant preacher and He preached wherever He went and no doubt He repeated the same thoughts many times because He continuously had a new audience.

The reason I repeated this now is to show that what was said about Christ's various sermons can probably also be said about His parables.  It seems unlikely that Christ would have given the same audience all eight "object lessons" at one sitting but it does make sense that Matthew gathered them together and put them as one segment in his writings just as, some say, he had done with the sermons.

Christ's Parables

On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 

And great crowds were gathered together to Him, so that He got into the boat and sat; and the crowd stood on the shore. 
And He spoke to them many things in parables. Mat 13:1

Those of us who dare to Think Again repeatedly run into the likes of the following scenario.  

When Jesus taught from a boat, surely that was a new thing. We can imagine some critic saying, “You can’t do that! Teaching belongs in the synagogue or in some other appropriate place.” It would be easy to come up with objections: “The damp air might make people sick” or “There are a lot of mosquitoes down at the shore” or “Someone might drown.” [Guzik]

Whatever ideas we postulate that "rock the boat" are thoughtlessly condemned by others not because they do their own thinking but because of what they grew up believing.  About them Christ said For the heart of this people has become dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes have closed, lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn back, that I should heal them. Mat 13:15.  They will not, or cannot, accept any new ideas. 

In studying parables one must always remember that not every detail that seems apparent needs to represent an important lesson.  Only those things that the speaker emphasizes are to be taken as having meaning.

The Sower and The Seed

Here is the parable of the sower as the masses heard it:

Behold, a sower went out to sow.

And as he sowed, some seed fell alongside the road; and the birds came and devoured them. 
But others fell on the stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth. 
But when the sun rose, it was scorched, and because it had no root, it withered away. 
But others fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them out.
But others fell on good ground and it was yielding fruit: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 
He who has ears to hear, let him hear! Mat 13:3-9 

Here is the same parable as it was explained to the disciples:

According to this parable, there are at least three things that conspire against a preacher when he preaches the word of the kingdom:

1. some seed fell alongside the road - soil along the roadside has not been cultivated; it is hard and the seed just lies on top so the birds eat it.  This uncultivated roadside represents the people who will not dare do their own thinking.

In the spiritual sense: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand, then the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. 13:19.  If he has not taken the trouble to open The Book and think how can he possibly understand the lesson?  The evil one will make sure the message is removed from the heart.

2.  others fell on the stony ground but when the sun rose, it was scorched, and because it had no root, it withered away - between the stones there might be some soil; possibly some seeds could survive for a little while but the soil is not deep enough to sustain them in times of drought.

In the spiritual sense: the seed sown on stony ground.  The stony ground is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but is short-lived. For when tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he falls away. Mat 13:20-21.  He hears a new teaching, immediately snatches it up, does not do his own studying to prove its validity and when people ridicule him for what he believes he "ditches" the new teaching whether or not it was right.

3.  others fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them out.  Thistles have a way of choking out desired plants.  The thorns are those who have so many earthly "things on their plate" that they do not have the time to listen to the word.

In the spiritual sense: the seed sown in the thorns.  The thorn is he who hears the word, and the anxiety of this age, and the deceitfulness of riches chokes out the word, and it becomes fruitless. Mat 13:22 

Christ zeros in on two very prevalent, up to date, problems:
  • the anxiety of this age - it seems we would rather worry than trust.  We are much too wound up in temporal things.  Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares about you. 1 Peter 5:6-7.  
In this setting verse seven is almost always quoted by itself, and consequently, out of context.  Have you ever noticed that in most translations there is no period between verses 6 and 7?  With that punctuation change, the meaning changes from our anxiety should not be about temporal problems to our thrill should be on the fact that God will exalt us in due time.
  • The deceitfulness of riches chokes out the word, and it becomes fruitless. - Paul wrote it like this: For the love of money is a root of all evils, of which some by aspiring have strayed away from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 1 Tim. 6:10.  Can we even imagine that we will live godly, Christ pleasing lives if the word has been crowded out of our lives by temporal riches?

But the seed sown on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Mat. 13:23.  Christ did not intimate that all of us have to produce 100 fold (100 times as much).  Some of us have been blessed with only enough to produce 30 fold, but then, that much is expected from us. 

Christ tells us exactly what He means by those words - You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grape clusters from thorns, or figs from thistles? Thus every good tree produces good fruit, but a rotten tree produces evil (ill, that is, diseased; but especially (morally) culpable) [Strong G4190], fruit. 

Consequently, by their fruits you shall know them.

"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Mat 7:16-21.