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Jesus Creed

Friday is for Friends

Perhaps the most significant parable in the Gospel arsenal is the parable of the sower (Mark 4:3-20 and parallels). Why? Because it is the kingdom parable and a parable that ultimately explains what parables are all about! So says Klyne Snodgrass in his Stories with Intent.
Again, what we find here is rock solid common sense, sketching of all the evidence, a display of interpretations, and judicious comments that will help in interpretation. Some observations:
1. In all three accounts of the parable of the sower the dominant idea is hearing. The verb “hear” occurs 13x in Mark’s account of this parable. Thus, Klyne is right and we need to dig in our heels right here: “The parable of the Sower is a parable about hearing the message of the kingdom” (152).
2. The 100-fold is a “prosperous harvest, not an exaggerated one” and he appeals to Gen 26:12.
3. Interpretations are shaped by where one focuses: sower, soil, seed or harvest.
4. Failure and success in sowing and responding are central to this parable.
5. The parables hide in order to reveal — Klyne doesn’t think Mark is out to say that the parables are simply riddles no one can grasp. Instead, they parabolic but the long-term intent is revelation. They are prophetic instruments.
6. This parable is rooted in Isaiah 6:9-13.


9 He said, ?Go and tell this people:
? ?Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.? 10 Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes.Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.? 11 Then I said, ?For how long, O Lord?? And he answered: ?Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, 12 until the Lord has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken. 13 And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.?


7. These words are irony and provoke in order to foster understanding.
8. The parable is about God sowing people in Israel (restoring Israel, ending exile) and having individuals respond to the gospel/word in various ways. The emphasis is on receptivity and the soils.
9. From this parable: the kingdom is a word-kingdom; the kingdom challenges to reorient all of life; the kingdom is now at work among those who respond to the word.

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posted April 4, 2008 at 8:08 am

Good thoughts here. #2 is something worth considering. I like the connection back to Gen. 26:12. I would love to read in what ways Klyne “appeals” the 100 fold in Mark 4 back to Gen. 26. I guess I’ll have to get the book!
The quote referring to this being a prosperous but not exagerated harvest is good food for thought. In looking back to Gen. 26 I noticed that it says that Isaac received this 100 fold harvest because the Lord blessed him. That seems to put the harvest in God’s hands. He chose to make it a great harvest. However, in reading how Jesus explains the parable of the sower and the seeds in Mark 4 He seems to place a large bit of the reponsibility for harvest on the hearer (how he/she receives teh word). Does this rob the connection back to Genesis 26 of some of its legitimacy? As I said, I haven’t read how Klyne connects them so I may be missing his point completely.

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posted April 4, 2008 at 11:58 am

more on sowing…

[…] I mentioned at the close of my last post some self-examination questions regarding how I might be “sowing” into the relationship of the Jesus relationship and kingdom of God. I found some more food for thought at the JesusCreed Blog (Scot McKnight) and thought I would point you to that conversation as well: Klyne Snodgrass and Stories with Intent […]

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posted April 4, 2008 at 12:31 pm

I love the Gospel of Mark….and one of his trademarks is this emphasis on hearing — and then going out immediately to do!
It is so important to carry with us the understanding that to hear means to understand and then to do….

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Mark Grapengater

posted April 4, 2008 at 6:27 pm

As a current student of Klyne’s, I wish he would be more practical in his interpretations. And I mean that with my tongue firmly in my cheek.
I’ve been blessed to have had more than a few classes with Klyne and fully recommend all to pick this book up.

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Bob Smallman

posted April 4, 2008 at 6:36 pm

I’ve always been fascinated by Mark’s comment that for “outsiders” everything Jesus said was a parable and his subsequent reference to that difficult Isaiah quote.
I wonder if something like this might be at work there: Jesus would tell one of his stories (which only seem “obvious” to us because we’re so familiar with them). His disciples would be puzzled and ask for more; but those disinterested in Jesus would just shake their heads and walk off, muttering, “Dumb story-teller! Why doesn’t he ever say something that makes sense?!”

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Michelle Van Loon

posted April 4, 2008 at 7:02 pm

This parable seems to ask us to hear and respond to each element as well as the whole.

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