Pray (Lk 18:1-18:1)

“Then Jesus told them

A parable

About the need

To pray always.

Do not grow weary!”

 

Ἔλεγεν δὲ παραβολὴν αὐτοῖς πρὸς τὸ δεῖν πάντοτε προσεύχεσθαι αὐτοὺς καὶ μὴ ἐνκακεῖν,

 

Luke is the only synoptic writer with this parable about the widow and the judge to emphasize the importance of prayer.  Right from the beginning, he had Jesus tell them the purpose of the parable, rather than a secret that they would have to figure out.  Then Jesus told them a parable (Ἔλεγεν δὲ παραβολὴν αὐτοῖς) about the need or duty to always pray (πρὸς τὸ δεῖν πάντοτε προσεύχεσθαι αὐτοὺς).  They were not to lose heart or grow weary (καὶ μὴ ἐνκακεῖν).  Do you remember to always pray?

The growth to harvest time (Mk 4:28-4:29)

“The earth produces of itself.

First, there is the stalk.

Then comes the head.

Then there is

The full grain

In the head.

But when the grain

Is ripe,

At once,

He goes in

With his sickle,

Because the harvest

Has come.”

 

αὐτομάτη ἡ γῆ καρποφορεῖ, πρῶτον χόρτον, εἶτεν στάχυν, εἶτεν πλήρης σῖτος ἐν τῷ στάχυϊ.

ὅταν δὲ παραδοῖ ὁ καρπός, εὐθὺς ἀποστέλλει τὸ δρέπανον, ὅτι παρέστηκεν ὁ θερισμός.

 

Jesus, via this unique parable of Mark, explored the life of a farmer and the wonder of growth until the harvest time came.  The earth bore fruit by itself (αὐτομάτη ἡ γῆ καρποφορεῖ) without the help of any humans.  First, there was the stalk plant (πρῶτον χόρτον), then the head (εἶτεν στάχυν) and then finally the full grain in the head or ear (εἶτεν πλήρης σῖτος ἐν τῷ στάχυϊ).  However, when the grain was ripe or the fruit appeared (ὅταν δὲ παραδοῖ ὁ καρπός), at once (εὐθὺς), he went with his sickle (ἀποστέλλει τὸ δρέπανον), because harvest time had arrived (ὅτι παρέστηκεν ὁ θερισμός).  The kingdom of God was like a farmer who watched his crop grow and waited for the harvest time, before he gathered in his crop.

 

Fourth narrative

The fourth narrative section revealed the increasing opposition to Jesus.  Thus, his disciples had to prepare for his absence.  These instructions emphasized responsibility and humility.  Simon was renamed Peter, the rock upon which he was going to build his church, especially the mystery of the kingdom of heaven.

While Jesus was preaching in the various towns, John the Baptist was put in prison.  The disciples of John questioned Jesus and Jesus responded.  Jesus then asked questions about John.  Was John more than a prophet?  Then Matthew had a series of Old Testament scriptural quotations about John.  How great was John the Baptist?  Was John Elijah?

Jesus warned that this was a childish generation that was indifferent as they kept on eating and drinking, as if nothing important was happening.  Jesus was against the various Galilean cities and towns, especially Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum.  Jesus explained that there were hidden things from the wise ones, especially the relationship of the Father with the Son, but that the disciples had an easy yoke to bear.

Next came the question of eating on the Sabbath.  The Pharisees reacted against Jesus, but he used the example of David and the priests in the Temple to respond to them.  God was the Lord of the Sabbath.  Thus, when Jesus went into the synagogue, they asked him if he would heal anyone on the Sabbath?  Jesus compared sheep to human beings and then healed the man’s hand.  Thus, the Pharisees conspired against Jesus, while he took a low profile.

Jesus said that the fulfillment of the prophesy of Isaiah was at hand in the servant of Yahweh.  Jesus cured the blind and mute man as the crowds were amazed.  However, the Pharisees compared Jesus to Beelzebul, the devil.  Jesus responded that a divided kingdom would not stand.  The Spirit of God was with Jesus.  The bandits tied up people before stealing from them.  You were either for or against Jesus.  They should be aware of the sin against the Holy Spirit.

Jesus then issued a series of sayings about a tree and its fruit.  He compared the Pharisees to a brood of vipers.  There could be good and bad treasures.  Words would either save or condemn them.

Jesus told them about the sign for this evil generation that was always seeking signs.  He was only going to give them the sign of Jonah.  Notice how the men of Nineveh reacted.  The Queen of Sheba brought gifts to Solomon.  The unclean spirit would return with other evil spirits.  The relatives of Jesus, his mother and brothers showed up, but Jesus said that he had a new family.

Then Jesus spoke in parables siting in a boat by the sea.  There was the parable of the sower with his lost seeds, where only a few of the seeds fell on good soil.  His disciples wanted to know why he was speaking in parables, so that Jesus explained why he used parables.  Once again, he referred to a prophecy of Isaiah.  He explained about the seeds on the rocky ground and the seeds among the thorns.  Finally, he explained the meaning of the seeds on good ground or path since they were the blessed ones.

Then there was the parable about the weeds among the wheat.  The slaves let the weeds grow and then separated them at harvest time.  There were other parables about the mustard seed and the yeast.  Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, but he explained these parables to his disciples, especially the sower, the field, and the seeds.  He explained the enemy and the burning of the weeds.  The punishment for the weeds came at the harvest end times.  Thus, the reward for the righteous will be at the end times.

The kingdom of heaven was like a treasure, like pearls, and like a fishing net.  Jesus explained the parables because the disciples did not understand them.  They were like new and old treasures.

Jesus was an astonishment in his own home town.  They all knew the family of Jesus.  Thus, he was a prophet without honor in his own country.

Herod thought that Jesus was a resurrected John the Baptist, but he was afraid of John the Baptist.  At his birthday party, Herod granted the wish to have the head of John the Baptist on a platter.  Meanwhile, John the Baptist’s disciples buried him.

Jesus was worried as he was healing the sick people.  The disciples complained about the crowds, so that Jesus told them to give them something to eat.  However, they only had five loaves and two fish.  Then Jesus blessed the five loaves of bread and distributed them to the crowd.  There were even leftovers from this crowd of five thousand people.

The disciples left in a boat, so that Jesus prayed alone.  The boat was in the middle of the sea when Jesus walked on water to come to them.   Peter talked to Jesus and then attempted to walk on the water.  Jesus then saved Peter who recognized Jesus as the Son of God.  Then there were the healings at Gennesaret, where Jesus cured the sick.

The Pharisees from Jerusalem came to Jesus to ask him why his disciples did not wash their hands before eating.  Jesus responded by telling them to honor their parents since there was hypocrisy in their traditions.  He cited Isaiah about vain worship.  He told them to hear and understand.  They should watch what came out of their mouth rather than what went into their mouth as defilement.  The Pharisees were offended, but Jesus called them blind guides.  Peter wanted to understand more so that Jesus explained the mouth should speak from the heart.

Jesus went to the coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon where he met a Canaanite woman.  He said that he was only going to the lost sheep of Israel, but this Canaanite woman persistently asked for help.  Jesus refused again saying that he could not feed the dogs.  However, she responded that dogs eat crumbs from the table.  Jesus said that she had great faith and healed her.

As Jesus healed the crowds of people in the mountain near the Sea of Galilee, he had compassion for them.  Where will they get food?  His disciples said that they had seven loaves.  Jesus then gave thanks over them and distributed the bread to four thousand men as there was a second multiplication of bread loaves.

Jesus went to Magadan.  There the Pharisees asked for a sign from heaven.  Once again, Jesus said that there are weather signs, but he would only give this evil generation the sign of Jonah.

The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, but Jesus warned them about the yeast of the Pharisees.  He reprimanded his disciples for their lack of faith as he reminded them about the multiplication of the loaves of bread.  They should be worried about the Pharisees not food.

What was the role of Peter?  Jesus asked about the Son of Man as the disciples responded.  Then Jesus asked them about himself.  Peter gave a very positive response, so that Jesus rewarded him.  The Messianic secret was tied to the future of Jesus in this conversation between Peter and Jesus.  He would have to take up his cross if wanted to save his life because the Son of Man in his kingdom would be coming soon.

Jesus took three of his apostles up a mountain where he was transfigured before them.  Moses and Elijah appeared with him.  Peter wanted to set up three tents for them.  A voice from the cloud came as the three apostles adored him.  Jesus asked them to be silent about this.  What was the role of Elijah and John the Baptist?

An epileptic man knelt before Jesus that his disciples were unable to heal.  Jesus then healed him, so that his disciples wondered why they were unable to heal this epileptic?  Jesus spoke about the future of the Son of Man.  Should they pay the Temple tax?  Jesus responded that the son of the king did not pay taxes, but he told Peter to pay them anyway.

Finally, we have the ecclesiastical discourse about who is the greatest.  A child is the greatest because when you welcome a little child, you welcome Jesus.  They were not to cause children to sin.  They were not to tempt people.  It would be better to be maimed and blind than suffer eternal fire.  They were not to despise the little ones.  Jesus explained the parable of the lost sheep and fraternal correction.  What were you to do with a sinning brother.  Let him become a gentile, if he does not listen.  Common prayer was important so that they should gather in his name.  How often should they forgive?  The response was the seventy times seven.

Then there was the parable of the unforgiving servant slave.  The master settled accounts with servant slaves.  One owed ten thousand talents, so that the king forgave him his debt.  However, this servant slave would not forgive the debt of his fellow slaves, who were angry.  Thus, this unforgiving slave was tortured.  This parable explanation was simple, forgive your brothers.

Punishment for the weeds at the harvest end times (Mt 13:41-13:42)

“The Son of Man

Will send his angels.

They will collect out

Of his kingdom

All causes of sin

And all evildoers.

They will throw them

Into the furnace of fire.

There will be weeping

And gnashing of teeth.”

 

ἀποστελεῖ ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου τοὺς ἀγγέλους αὐτοῦ, καὶ συλλέξουσιν ἐκ τῆς βασιλείας αὐτοῦ πάντα τὰ σκάνδαλα καὶ τοὺς ποιοῦντας τὴν ἀνομίαν,

καὶ βαλοῦσιν αὐτοὺς εἰς τὴν κάμινον τοῦ πυρός· ἐκεῖ ἔσται ὁ κλαυθμὸς καὶ ὁ βρυγμὸς τῶν ὀδόντων.

 

Only Matthew has this explanation about the parable of the weeds, in chapter 13:24-30.  Here it is the harvest time, the end times, when the Son of Man would send out his angel reapers or messengers (ἀποστελεῖ ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου τοὺς ἀγγέλους αὐτοῦ).  These angels or harvesters would collect and gather out of his kingdom (καὶ συλλέξουσιν ἐκ τῆς βασιλείας αὐτοῦ) all the snares or causes of sin (πάντα τὰ σκάνδαλα), the sinners, and those practicing unlawfulness (καὶ τοὺς ποιοῦντας τὴν ἀνομίαν), the evil ones.  Then these angel reapers would burn them like the weeds in the parable.  They would throw them into the furnace of fire (καὶ βαλοῦσιν αὐτοὺς εἰς τὴν κάμινον τοῦ πυρός), where there would be weeping or lamenting and gnashing or grinding of teeth (ἐκεῖ ἔσται ὁ κλαυθμὸς καὶ ὁ βρυγμὸς τῶν ὀδόντων).  This later was the normal form of mourning or behavior of those who were upset or frustrated.  The evil weeds would be allowed to grow with the good grain until the end times of the harvest.  However, the evil weeds or the evil doers would suffer in fire and frustration as their final reward at the harvest end times.

The parable of the mustard seed (Mt 13:31-13:32)

“Jesus presented them

Another parable.

‘The kingdom of heaven is

Like a mustard seed.

Someone took it.

He sowed in his field.

It is the smallest of all seeds.

But when it has grown,

It is the greatest of shrubs.

It becomes a tree,

So that the birds of the air

Come.

They make nests

In its branches.’”

 

Ἄλλην παραβολὴν παρέθηκεν αὐτοῖς λέγων Ὁμοία ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν κόκκῳ σινάπεως, ὃν λαβὼν ἄνθρωπος ἔσπειρεν ἐν τῷ ἀγρῷ αὐτοῦ·

ὃ μικρότερον μέν ἐστιν πάντων τῶν σπερμάτων, ὅταν δὲ αὐξηθῇ, μεῖζον τῶν λαχάνων ἐστὶν καὶ γίνεται δένδρον, ὥστε ἐλθεῖν τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καὶ κατασκηνοῖν ἐν τοῖς κλάδοις αὐτοῦ.

 

This parable of the mustard seed can be found in all 3 synoptic gospels, Mark, chapter 4:30-32, and Luke, chapter 13:18-19.  The mustard seed was the symbol of small things.  However, it could grow to become a tree or shrub where birds could nest.  There is no explanation of this parable except the clear indication that the kingdom of heaven may start out small but would grow to hold many people.  Jesus, via Matthew, explicitly presented them with another short parable (Ἄλλην παραβολὴν παρέθηκεν αὐτοῖς λέγων).  He said that the kingdom of heaven was like a mustard seed (Ὁμοία ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν κόκκῳ σινάπεως).  A man planted this seed in his field (ὃν λαβὼν ἄνθρωπος ἔσπειρεν ἐν τῷ ἀγρῷ αὐτοῦ).  When planted, it is the smallest of all seeds (ὃ μικρότερον μέν ἐστιν πάντων τῶν σπερμάτων).  But when it has grown, it is the greatest of garden plants or shrubs (ὅταν δὲ αὐξηθῇ, μεῖζον τῶν λαχάνων).   It then becomes a tree (καὶ γίνεται δένδρον).  Thus, the birds of the air could come and perch or build nests in its branches (ὥστε ἐλθεῖν τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καὶ κατασκηνοῖν ἐν τοῖς κλάδοις αὐτοῦ).  What starts out small can become quite large.

Lilies of the field (Mt 6:28-6:28)

“Why do you worry

About clothing?

Consider the lilies

Of the field!

How do they grow?

They do not toil.

They do not spin.”

 

καὶ περὶ ἐνδύματος τί μεριμνᾶτε; καταμάθετε τὰ κρίνα τοῦ ἀγροῦ πῶς αὐξάνουσιν· οὐ κοπιῶσιν οὐδὲ νήθουσιν·

 

Once again, Luke, chapter 12:27, has a similar Jesus saying, almost word for word, indicating a common Q source, about the lilies.  Jesus wanted to know why they were worried about their clothes (καὶ περὶ ἐνδύματος τί μεριμνᾶτε).  He wanted them to look and consider the lilies of the field (καταμάθετε τὰ κρίνα τοῦ ἀγροῦ).  This is the only time that the word “καταμάθετε” appears in the New Testament writings.  It means to understand, take in a fact, consider carefully.  These lilies grew without any weary work in the field or any spinning (πῶς αὐξάνουσιν· οὐ κοπιῶσιν οὐδὲ νήθουσιν).  The verb to spin, “νήθουσιν” is unique to Matthew among all the New Testament writings.  Thus, the lilies of the field looked great without any work or cares.

American Fundamentalists

From 1930 to 1970, American Fundamentalists worked within their churches.  President Nixon’s silent majority became the Moral Majority in 1979 and a more active political movement.  The Christian Coalition with Pat Robertson (1930 -) and Ralph E. Reed (1961-) stressed family values.  Although most Protestant Churches are declining about 1% a year, Fundamentalist Protestant Churches grow by 1% a year.  Television has spanned a whole set of TV fundamental evangelists such as Jerry Falwell (1933-2007), Jimmy Swaggart (1935 -) among many others.