July 11, 2017
“The Way”- a weekly devotional
Gospel Lesson for
July 16, 2017, 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 13: 1-9 [18-23]
That day Jesus went out of the house and sat down beside the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he climbed into a boat and sat down. The whole crowd was standing on the shore.
3 He said many things to them in parables: “A farmer went out to scatter seed. 4 As he was scattering seed, some fell on the path, and birds came and ate it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground where the soil was shallow. They sprouted immediately because the soil wasn’t deep. 6 But when the sun came up, it scorched the plants, and they dried up because they had no roots. 7 Other seed fell among thorny plants. The thorny plants grew and choked them. 8 Other seed fell on good soil and bore fruit, in one case a yield of one hundred to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of thirty to one. 9 Everyone who has ears should pay attention.”
Jesus said that his story was a parable…not an analogy, not a metaphor, not an allegory or a fable.
Yet the church has treated it as anything but a parable. I intentionally did not include verse 18 to 23 because they are an allegorical interpretation of the parable. Even in Matthew’s community there was such a desire to have it speak to a problem the church faced, the interpretation was included.
Obviously, the interpretation was a comfort to them and it made it into the text. They were confounded about why everyone didn’t believe in Jesus’ teachings. This was an answer for their disappointment.
Parables, as I understand them, create an internal conundrum within the believer. If I “pay attention” I will sense that this parable is about me. It is safer to think it is about “them” who don’t believe, but what of my unbelief? What about my interpretation of Jesus that lives among thorns of condemnation of others or of ideas like loving your enemy that I have no intentions of adhering to? What of ideas about love and care that I apply just to those people I like or who return the favor- can I be so shallow rooted? Unfortunately, yes.
Historically, the church has used parables to explain a problem or bring comfort to believers which is all well and good. My sense is that Jesus, if push came to shove, intended to unsettle us.
Peace and unrest to you, Keith
P.S. One might argue that I have interpreted this allegorically and simply internalize the allegory. A parable has layers upon layers of interpretation. For example, “thorns” can be many things in parable, not only the way I have used it here. Do not let an allegory limit the value of a parable, not even my interpretation!