Summary: In God's Kingdom, growth comes from small beginnings

Mk 4:26-34

Illustration: There’s a traditional saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin which says,

" For the want of a nail, the shoe was lost;

For the want of a shoe the horse was lost; and

For the want of a horse the rider was lost,

being overtaken and slain by the enemy,

all for the want of care about a horseshoe nail.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus touches on a similar theme. Small beginnings lead to large endings

But before we touch on that theme, I would like to say a few words of introduction about how we should read the Bible

1. Plain Meaning

When we read the Bible, I believe it is important that we give the Bible its plain meaning.

In other words, if you presented the passage to a judge in a Court of Law, how would he interpret it.

I want to say that plain meaning doesn’t always mean its literal meaning to us.

2. The Original Text

My fictional judge would first look to see what the original text said.

This has been done by many scholars and is called “textual criticism”

And out of textual criticism we have a large number of English translations of the Bible.

Interestingly, although there are different translations, there are no clashes on the main doctrine that come from more widely accepted versions of the Bible

So the best way to try and understand what the original text says is to take a look at a few different translations of the Bible to see the meaning

3. Literary Genre

Then the judge would look at the literary Genre and there are at least 14 different Genres in the Bible.

The 66 books of the Bible have different genres.

Genres like History, Poetry, Revelation, Parables and even Hyperbole.

I’d like to make a comment on hyperbole:

In Matthew 7:3-5 we read this

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye /and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?

5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Clearly this isn’t meant to be taken literall

Why do I say that?

Because I am sure Jesus wasn’t just speaking to people in Jerusalem walking around with a 15 foot plank sticking out of their eye!!

4. What was the meaning of the passage to the first recipients of the text

My hypothetical judge would then ask “ What was the meaning of the passage /to the first recipients of the text”

And he would take into account

i) their culture and

ii) what would be assumed by the hearers.

What do I mean by assumed by the hearers.

Imagine 3000 years from now. And imagine I had written down that children under 18 should be allowed to drink.

Someone not knowing what was “assumed in our culture” by this statement would think:

What a nasty vicar saying that children should be denied/drinking water.

But if you read it in the here and now you would assume I am not talking about water!!

For what is implicit in today’s culture -isn’t always assumed in other cultures.

Story: When I was at University , we had a Wycliffe translator came to speak to the Christian Union.

He told us how difficult translating the Bible can be when you want to make it understandable in a different culture

Take Psalm 56 verse 3 which says:

”When I am afraid, I put my trust in you”.

However a straight translation meant nothing to the tribe for which he was translating.

In that culture if you trusted someone, you would turn your back on him when you left him.

And the Wycliffe translator went on to explain

In that culture stabbing a man from a different tribe in the back was seen to be good as it showed cunning.

So if you met a man from a different tribe you had to be careful when you took your leave.

When you left him, you would walk backwards from him - having him in your eye - so he couldn’t stab you in the back.

The height of trust was to turn your back on him

So the best way to translate the verse was

“When I am afraid, I turn my back on you”

Quite a different meaning in our culture

It is only after asking these questions that we can start to try to apply the passage to our every day lives.

5. The Parable of the growing seed and the Mustard seed

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