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1 Commentary

1.1 Ezekiel 17:22-24


Ezekiel 17:22 I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of a cedar – In this
image, the L ORD is responsible for the growth of trees.
This passage from Ezekiel differs dramatically from the mustard seed para-
ble found in Mark because the cedar is a strong powerful tree that is not
found in Israel while the mustard refers to a common plant/weed.
Ezekiel 17:23 On the mountain height of Israel I will plant it – It appears to be a
transplant – a non-native plant put in a new environment.
Ezekiel 17:24 I bring low the high tree, I make high the low tree – Does the refer
to the transplanted tree or the mustard seed?

1.2 Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15


Psalm 92:1 It is good to give thanks to the L ORD – This statement forms the
bases for the worship in the temple, synagogue, and church. We offer up
praise for what we have been first given.
Psalm 92:2 to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness
by night – All of our existence is due to the work of the L ORD.
Psalm 92:3 to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre – Our
praise includes the gift of music.
Psalm 92:4 For you, O L ORD, have made me glad by your work – Our attitude
of praise has been given to us by the L ORD.
. . . Note that all the words of destruction for those who do not walk in the way of
the L ORD has been removed.
Psalm 92:12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in
Lebanon. – How does one rectify what this verse asserts and the life of the
Messiah? Making true life occur sometime in the great by and by is nothing
more than transforming this tradition into a placebo that promises healing
some time later. Asserting that the faithful receive these gifts ignores the
fact that the most Holy One dies on the tree. But there is something good
about following the L ORD.

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Psalm 92:13 They are planted in the house of the L ORD; they flourish in the
courts of our God. – The same issues in verse 12 appear here. What does it
mean that you are flourishing when the Son of God died for you?

Psalm 92:14

Psalm 92:15

1.3 2 Corinthians 5:6-17


2 Corinthians 5:6 even though we know that while we are at home in the body
we are away from the Lord – The author asserts that there is a separation
from God when one is in the body (ςῶμα). On one level, we could speak of
the division between the profane and the sacred. But that distinction would
have us find places where God is not. This is an impossibility. Perhaps the
author is referring to physicality being with God. This interpretation makes
more sense when you consider the idea that our journey throughout life is
one of uncertainty.

2 Corinthians 5:7 for we walk by faith, not by sight – The path from one place
to another happens because we trust that the One is with us here and at the
end.

2 Corinthians 5:8 we would rather be away from the body and at home with the
Lord. – Given the choice between the current existence (σῶμα) and what is
possible, the author would rather have what might be.

2 Corinthians 5:9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to


please him. – Drawing on the imagery of the journey, the author reminds us
that our work is to please God and not one another.

2 Corinthians 5:10 For all of us must appear before the judgement seat of Christ
– Each of us are responsible for our lives.

2 Corinthians 5:11 we try to persuade others – Since we know what will happen,
it is only logical that we inform others about reality.

2 Corinthians 5:12 We are not commending ourselves to you again – Now Paul
returns to the issue of the other teachers.

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2 Corinthians 5:13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God – If we are outside
(ἐξίστημι) our normal way of acting (that is insane), then so be it.

2 Corinthians 5:14 For the love of Christ urges us on – It is not the law that is
forcing the author onward.
we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died – The
universality of death of Christ meaning that all must die also is surprising
since the inverse is normally encountered. Christ died for all so that every-
one may live. The inversion speaks of suffering. If God can die, then so can
you.

2 Corinthians 5:15 he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer
for themselves – The reason why Jesus died is simply this. Our deaths no
longer count for anything and neither do our lives. Because of this fact, we
can focus on the existence of the other.

2 Corinthians 5:16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human
point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of
view, we know him no longer in that way. – The application of universality
even includes not seeing people as they are. The world has passed away and
in its place is another. On one level, this is gnostic. On another plane, it is
not. Everyone has access to this knowledge.

2 Corinthians 5:17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything


old has passed away; see, everything has become new! – The problem with
this statement is the universal realization that the old human is still with us.

1.4 Mark 4:26-34


It appears that we are to recall the Hebrew word mashal, which means a riddle.1
This idea is from Ezekiel 17:2 (“Son of man, propound a riddle, and speak an
allegory to the house of Israel” RSV)
In these two parables, we have the hidden nature of Jesus.2 He teaches with
power but is powerless on the cross. The seed seems to be small but it brings forth
1
Douglas R. A. Hare; James Luther Mays, Jr. Patrick D. Miller and Paul J. Achtemeier, editors,
Matthew Interpretation, (Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press, 1993), Interpretation: A Bible
Commentary for Preaching and Teaching, p. 146-147.
2
John R. Donahue, S.J. and Daniel J. Harrington, S.J.; Idem, editor, The Gospel of Mark,
Volume 2, Sacra Pagina, (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2002), p. 154.

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a great harvest. This is hope for the community since in the end, a rich bounty will
be reaped.3
The first parable is only found in the Gospel according to St. Mark.

Mark 4:26 He also said – The Greek reads καὶ ἔλεγεν, which should be translated
as “he would say” since the imperfect indicates customary action.4
kingdom of God – Previous uses of this phrase include Mark 1:14, 1:15,
and 4:11. These references do not explain what “kingdom of God” means.
This and the following parable are the only ones in Mark that “explain” the
Kingdom of God.
is as if – This is only an incomplete example.
someone – The Greek has ἄνθρωπος.
scatter seed on the ground – This appears to happen without any thought or
planning.

Mark 4:27 and would sleep and rise night and day – The word order gives us the
impression that the farmer does absolutely nothing to help the crop grow,
including selecting the soil. This is not the case in the earlier parable of
planting (Mark 4:3-9).5
he does not know how – It appears that the person has no understanding.
Hultgren argues that life is full of examples where a person starts something
and then expects it to come to fruition without knowing how it occurs.6

Mark 4:28 of itself – The Greek reads here αὐτομάτη, which we have as auto-
matic. This adjective used adverbially describes actions that just occur and
its use implies that God is the force.7

Mark 4:29 he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come – This is
almost a word for word quote of Joel 3:13.8
3
Donahue and Harrington, Mark, p. 154.
4
Ibid., p. 150.
5
Ibid., p. 151.
6
Arland J. Hultgren, Chap. Parables of the Kingdom In ‘The Parables of Jesus: A Commen-
tary’, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000), p. 386.
7
Donahue and Harrington, Mark, p. 151.
8
Ibid.

4
Mark 4:30 With what can we compare the kingdom of God – Here Jesus asks
a question of comparison. What is the Kingdom of God like (Mark 4:30)?
The answer is rather surprising. Rather than selecting something strong and
noble like the cedars that grow year after year (Ezekiel 17:22-23), Jesus
identifies the kingdom of God with an insignificant annual plant, the mus-
tard (Mark 4:31).9 This answer by Jesus might give us some insight on the
way that the church is to function here on earth.

Mark 4:31 It is like a mustard seed – This is the plant whose seed we make
mustard.10 It grows in the area around the Sea of Galilee to a height of 2 to
6 feet.11 Historically, Pliny (Natural History 19.170-171) stated that it is a
strong plant, that grows quickly, and will overrun a garden.12
In other words, the Kingdom of God is strong and it grows where it is not
wanted.
is the smallest of all the seeds on earth – Other Greek and rabbinic sources
make the same assertion.13

Mark 4:32 greatest of all shrubs – This is an exaggeration and it also contains a
trace of irony.14
so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade – In the Old Tes-
tament, trees are often seen as images of nations and their power (Daniel
4:20-21; Ezekiel 17:22-23). Under the mustard, the world will find a place
to live. When this is compared to Ezekiel 17:23, their is irony since God’s
Kingdom is not a tall and powerful tree but instead a small shrub.15
The phrase “birds of the air” is literally “birds of heaven” πετεινὰ τοῦ
οὐρανοῦ. It is translated as “birds of the air” so that it does not indicate
birds that come from heaven.16
9
Kathryn Vitalis Hoffman and Mark Vitalis Hoffman, ‘Question Marks and Turning Points:
Following the Gospel of Mark to Surprising Places’, Word & World, 26 (2006):1, p. 72.
10
Donahue and Harrington, Mark, p. 151.
11
Ibid.
12
Ibid.
13
Hultgren, ‘The Parables of Jesus’, p. 395.
14
Donahue and Harrington, Mark, p. 152.
15
Ibid.
16
Hultgren, ‘The Parables of Jesus’, p. 392.

5
Mark 4:33 he spoke – The Greek reads ἐλάλει which is the imperfect of λαλέω
and it indicates customary action.17

Mark 4:34 he explained everything in private to his disciples – What are we to do


since we now believe that interpretation can occur outside the community
of disciples who were taught by Jesus?

References
Donahue, S.J., John R. and Harrington, S.J., Daniel J.; Idem, editor, The Gospel
of Mark, Volume 2, Sacra Pagina, (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press,
2002).

Hare, Douglas R. A.; Mays, James Luther, Patrick D. Miller, Jr. and Achtemeier,
Paul J., editors, Matthew Interpretation, (Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox
Press, 1993), Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Preaching and Teach-
ing.

Hoffman, Kathryn Vitalis and Hoffman, Mark Vitalis, ‘Question Marks and Turn-
ing Points: Following the Gospel of Mark to Surprising Places’, Word &
World, 26 (2006):1, pp. 69–76.

Hultgren, Arland J., Chap. Parables of the Kingdom In ‘The Parables of Jesus: A
Commentary’, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000), pp. 383–
423.

17
Donahue and Harrington, Mark, p. 152.