Meanwhile, I've read the surrounding passages. Inrig in his preface to The Parables makes three important points:
- These are not isolated stories
a. almost always came in answer to a question or situation
b. therefore, need to be understood in context
- They are parables not allegories
a. intended to teach one main point
b. therefore, avoid secondary speculations
- They draw on common daily life of first-century Palestine
a. use research, our imaginations, and all our senses to penetrate that world!
b. This is going to be the most difficult for me.
Jesus is in the middle of his ministry on earth and has been revealing his identity mostly through actions. The parables move him into revelation through words, images that are meant to open the understanding of some and hide the truth from those who will to not believe.
Healings and deliverances had drawn such crowds that Jesus tried to withdraw, still they thronged him. His family worried and questioned his sanity. The religious leaders proclaimed him to be possessed, working for the evil one.
"So [this is why] Jesus called them and spoke to them in parables: 'How can Satan drive out Satan?'...
He said this because they were saying, "He has an evil spirit." Mark 3:23 & 30
In this context He comments that a kingdom or a house divided against itself cannot stand, and later dismisses his earthly relations and claims true kinship with whosoever does God's will.
Here is the sequence of stories meant to show what God's Kingdom is like:
- the seed is sown with varied results "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
- a lamp on a stand is meant for shedding light "If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear."
[These repeated exhortations tell us not everyone is willing to understand and apply.]
- the seed sprouts and grows continually, little by little till ripe for harvest!
- the smallest seed grows into the hugest tree!
The highlighted line is the the parable illustrated by the batik by Sara van Alkemade. (Read my SIL's comment also as part of this conversation.)
What it says to me:
Its application to our own situation jumped out at me the very first time. We are sowing seeds in lives; the natural processes are ongoing and unexplainable whether we sleep or get up. It is a God thing! I see it every spring when out of the ground amazing plants and flowers spring forth. How can so much potential be contained in such minute packages?
Only heaven will reveal the whole of the huge tree, the absolutely astonishing, amazing, unbelievably wondrous results from one little seed!
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” I Corinthians 2:9
"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21