Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Gospel of Mark: A Serving Savior 2015-2016 / Lesson 5 --“Teaching with Parables”-- Mark 4:1-34

Lesson 5 --“Teaching with Parables”-- Mark 4:1-34
ID: Inductive Questions (Asking the text questions like who, what, where, when, why, & how?”)
CR: Cross References (Comparing Scripture to Scripture, understanding the vague by the clear.)
WS: Word Study (Understanding definition, theological meaning, and usages in other passages.)

The WORD: What does the Bible say?
Context:  Read Mark 3:31-4:41 to help understand the context of this passage.  Read Mark 4:1-34 in a more literal or more dynamic translation than you usually use.  Also, read Isaiah 6:9-10.
Context: Chapter three highlights a variety of responses to Christ’s ministry ranging from the disciples to the scribes.  How do they color our understanding of the Parable of the Soils? 
(Also, before you begin to study the five parables in this lesson it would be helpful to scan through the ten principles for interpreting parables in the article below.)
1.      ID: (4:1-8)  Who/what are the main characters/items in this story?  What occurs at the end?  (Make a visual summary.)
2.      WS/CR: (4:9-12)  Why did Jesus say He was telling parables (parabolē)?  What does “hear” mean in this context?  How did that fulfill Isaiah 6: 10? (Matthew 13:10-17)
3.      ID: (4:14-20)  After identifying what the elements of this parable meant, what do you think is the main focus or application of this parable?  What does it mean to bear fruit?
4.      ID: (4:21-32)  Identify these things in each of these four parables.  1. Who are the main characters/items?  2. What occurs at the end?  3. What is the main focus of this illustration?  (mustard seed)
5. ID: (4:1-34)  Make a list of repeated words, phrases, or ideas?  What do you make of this?

The WALK: What should I do?
1. What soil are you tempted to revert back to?
2. How does Satan snatch away the Word?  How does he attempt to snatch the Word from you?
3. Do you only experience joy and growth in the good times?  How do we sink down roots to sustain us during difficult times?
4. What are the specific things in your life that tend to choke out the Word?
5. What makes soil good for bearing fruit?

6.     Where in this passage do we see Gospel truths about God, Man, Christ, and our response?  Have your sins been forgiven?
Going Beyond:  1. What areas of theology are touched on in this passage?
q The Bible   q God  q God the Father   q Jesus Christ    q The Holy Spirit    q Man   q Salvation   q The Church         q Angels & Satan   q Future Things

By Kevin Halloran  © Unlocking the Bible 2014
1. Understand the nature of the parables.
Parables are tools to compare something physical to something spiritual. Jesus begins several parables by saying “The Kingdom of God is like…” so he could tie an abstract concept (the Kingdom of God) to something more concrete and visible (like a mustard seed in Matthew 13:31-32).
Jesus chose to teach in story form because stories engage the mind and emotions of listeners like no other form of teaching. One great example of this is when Jesus painted a beautiful picture of what “loving your neighbor as yourself” meant when he told the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37).
2. Understand the purpose of parables.
Jesus taught with parables for two main purposes: to explain truth to some (see Luke 10:36-37) and to keep truth hidden from others (see Mark 4:10-12 below). For those eager to follow God, parables were memorable illustrations of a kingdom principle. For those opposed to God’s plans, the meaning of the parables would be hidden in a form of judgment.
And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.  Mark 4:10-12
3. See the parable in its proper context.
Often times a parable has a brief introduction that will greatly affect its meaning and interpretation. Luke 18:1 shares a key for interpreting the parable that followed when it said, “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. Other times, a parable’s context will inform us that it is directed toward a certain group of people (for example the Pharisees in Luke 15).
Parables are often grouped thematically, and understanding the main thread that ties related parables together can shed light on their overall meaning and interpretation. Luke 15 groups three parables together (the Parable of the Lost Sheep, the Parable of the Lost Coin, and the Parable of the Prodigal Son) to respond to the Pharisees and scribes who were hypocrites that did not understand the grace of God.
4. Remember the cultural gap.
Some of the images and metaphors have rich meaning to people in Jesus’ time that are not as easy to recognize for those living in the 21st century. The Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) makes much more sense when one understands the Jewish marriage customs present at the time of Jesus. A good study Bible will likely have helpful notes to aid you in your study.
5. Parables usually have one main point.
Our understanding of a parable and its details should all flow from the main point (or points). This is a crucial step, because the main point of the parable is the reason Jesus said it in the first place!
Some recommended questions for finding the main point are:
1. Who are the main characters?
2. What occurs at the end?
3. What occurs in quotation marks?
4. Who/What is the focus of the story?  [1]
6. Take notice of surprise details.
Certain parables have shocking and unexpected twists in the story that help us understand the point Jesus was trying to make. Although a careful reading will usually expose the special details, sometimes these details are hard to pick up on due to cultural differences and our familiarity with the parables.
An example of an important and surprising detail is found in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:23-35). The surprise detail of this parable is the difference in the amounts of money forgiven by the king and by the servant (thousands of dollars compared with millions of dollars), which shows the great magnitude of God’s forgiveness of us and how that should lead us to forgive others.
7. Not every minor detail has significant meaning.
Because parables are stories, they sometimes need supporting information in order for the main idea of the parable to make sense and have its power.
For example, in the Parable of the Ten Virgins, the story shares that five virgins were wise and the other five foolish. It would be wrong to conclude that 50% of people are wise and 50% of people are foolish. The fact that there were ten virgins total with five wise and five foolish is an inconsequential detail that merely helps the story progress. Often times pressing on insignificant details can make the story unravel and make one miss the entire point of the story.
8. Notice “stock imagery” in the parables.
“Stock imagery” is a term coined by Robert Plummer for many of the images used repeatedly throughout the parables. Many times repeated images are paralleled in the Old Testament and would have been common spiritual ideas understood by Jesus’ original hearers.
For example, whenever there is a Master/Judge/King figure in the parables, that signifies God, while sheep/servants/workers illustrate followers of God.
9. The ending of parables is very important.
While longer parables share a lot of important details along the way, the key to understanding the implications of the parable is often found in its conclusion. In the parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30), the ending reveals what happens to the wheat and tares respectively and shows the ultimate purpose of the parable which is to indicate that God will judge who is really part of the church at the final judgment.
10. Be careful with allegorical interpretations of parables.
There have been some throughout church history who have thought that the meaning of parables was hidden and unable to be explained without applying special meanings to the text. The problem with this is that they normally disregarded the plain reading of Scripture and offered confusing ideas from the mind of the interpreter.
An example of this is Origen’s interpretation of the Good Samaritan. He reads several details into the text: the man walking down the road signifying Adam, the priest signifying the Law, the Levite signifying the Prophets, the donkey signifying the body of Christ that bore our sins, and the Samaritan signifying what Christ did for us.
There is no basis for such an interpretation. It is much easier to understand when you remember the context: Jesus used the parable to answer a man’s question, “Who is my neighbor?” The Great Reformer Martin Luther called some allegorical interpretations of the parables “amazing twaddle” and “altogether useless.” Avoid these types of interpretations!
As you dig into the deep riches of Christ’s parables, it is our prayer that you develop a deeper grasp on the grace of God, an amplified experience of the Kingdom of God , and a hunger to follow hard after Christ.
[1] A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible: Playing by the Rules, Robert Stein
The ESV Study Bible | 10 Reasons to Read the ESV Study Bible
Plummer, Robert:  40 Questions about Interpreting the Bible
Snodgrass, Klyne: Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus

Also check out: Interpreting Parables by Michael Vlach /
Lesson 5 – Mark 4:1-35
·        This is probably a good time in your study to check with your men to see how they think the study is going.  Sometimes a small adjustment in format or focus can make a significant difference. 
·        Context:  Where did Mark place these parables in his narrative?  Reflecting on the responses to Jesus in chapter three could be helpful in understanding the parables in chapter four. 
·        Make note of the principles for interpreting parables and try not to over think or make things more complicated than they are.
·        2. It is probably significant that this reference to Isaiah’s ministry (who was commissioned to go to a people who had firmly rejected God and were destined to judgment) follows some Scribes deliberate, resolute, and unforgivable blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.  
·        I chose to go deep with the parable of the soils, so the questions primarily focus on that.
·        This is a helpful article on interpreting parables.  You should encourage the men to at least read the headings.
·        There is also a link to another helpful article.

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