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First Teaching in Parables

The same day. He left His house and sat by the sea- Matt. xiii. 1-52.

side, and as the multitudes gathered to Him, He entered Mark iv. 1-34.

a ship and taught them in parables. At the close of the Luke viii. 4-15.

day He gives commandment to depart to the other side. Matt. viii. 18-27.

As they were preparing to go, He holds a conversation Luke ix. 57-60.

with a scribe, and with one of His disciples about fol- Mark iv. 35-41.

lowing Him. He enters the ship with the disciples, and Luke viii. 22-25. crosses the sea. Upon the way a violent tempest arises; Jesus rebukes the wind and waves, and there is a great calm.

There is no reason why the language of Matthew " in the same day," cv ^epa Ckclvy)—should not here be taken strictly, although sometimes used indefinitely, (Acts viii. 1.) It was the same day as that on which His mother and brethren visited Him, and on which He healed the blind and dumb possessed. Mark (iv. 1) has the same order. Luke (viii. 4-19) narrates the teaching in parables before His mother's visit. The similarity of statement is so marked in Matt. viii. 19-22, and Luke ix. 57-60, that we can scarce doubt that they are describing the same incidents. Their repetition is indeed possible, as affirmed by Stier, but improbable. They seem most fittingly arranged in the order in which they are placed by Matthew.

It is a question whether all the parables given by Matthew (xiii.) were spoken at once; and if not, when and where? Mark, although he gives only those of the Sower and the mustard seed, implies that there were others, (iv. 2,) "And

He taught them many things by parables;" language almost the same as that of Matthew, (xiii. 3,) "And He spake many things unto them in parables." After He had spoken the parable of the Sower, it is said (Matt. xiii. 10) that His disciples came to ask Him why He spake in parables. Mark (iv. 10) says : " When He was alone," they asked of Him the parable. Whether He was yet in the ship, or had gone to the shore, does not appear. Greswell attempts to show that the disciples did not ask any explanation of the parable of the Sower at this time, but only why He spake in parables at all. Afterward, when He had gone into the house, (Matt. xiii. 36,) they asked Him the meaning of this particular parable, and also of the tares. This involves more difficulties than it removes. Krafft makes the teaching in parables to have occupied at least two days. (See Luke viii. 22, who makes a distinction between the day of the visit of His mother and brethren, and that when He spake the parable of the Sower.) In this case, Mark (iv. 35) refers not to the day when He went down to the sea-side, but to the day following. Stier supposes the seven parables of Matthew to have been spoken on one day; the first four to the people on the shore, the last three to the disciples in the house. After several parables had been spoken, there was a pause, (Mark iv. 10; Matt. xiii. 10,) and then the questions following were asked.

It must remain doubtful whether this teaching in parables did not occupy more than one day. If, however, we limit it to one, we may give the following order of events as a probable one. After Jesus had spoken the parable of the Sower, He paused for a while, perhaps to give His hearers time to reflect upon it. During this interval, the Twelve and other disciples asked Him, first, why He taught in parables, and second, what this parable was ? Where these questions were asked, is uncertain. Two circumstances only (lefme it: that " He was alone," (Mark iv. 10,) or separated from the multitude ; and that " the disciples came to Him," (Matt. xiii. 10.) All this may have taken place while He was still in the boat, in which with Him were doubtless the Twelve, and others may have joined them. By withdrawing a little way from the shore, they would be strictly alone. Greswell (ii. 440) objects that the multitude could not be called " those that are without," (Mark iv. 11,) unless Jesus and the disciples were somewhere within, that is, in a house ; but the distinction is more subtle than solid. After His explanations to the disciples, Jesus again teaches the people, and adds the parables of the tares and wheat, the mustard seed, and the leaven. At this point, dismissing the multitude, He returns to His house, and His disciples coming to Him, He expounds to them the tares and wheat, and adds the parables of the hid treasure, the pearl, and the net. Going again at even to the shore, and the multitudes gathering around Him, He gives order to pass to the other side. The disciples, therefore, send away the people, and take Him as He was in the ship.1

This teaching in parables plainly marks an onward step in the Lord's ministry. He had now testified of Himself both in word and deed, had manifested Himself as the Messiah ; and it was becoming apparent to Him that the great body of the people had no discernment of His divine character and mission, and would not receive Him, however they might for a time be personally attracted to Him, and marvel at His words and works. The Pharisees, the spiritual leaders both at Jerusalem and in Galilee, had taken decided steps against Him; and though with the common people His popularity seemed now at its height, He discerned that there was no root of faith, and that most followed Him through motives of wonder, or idle curiosity.

* See Newcome, Har. 256.

He could, therefore, well speak of them (Matt. xiii. 13-15) as hearing His words, and yet not understanding them, as seeing His works and not perceiving their significance. To them He could not explain the mysteries of the Kingdom. He must use the form of the parable which, hiding its meaning from the careless and foolish, opened it to the diligent and wise seeker after truth.

The motive of the Lord in crossing the lake is not stated, but apparently it was to escape the crowds never satisfied with hearing Him, and to find rest, (Matt. viii. 18.) His disciples " took Him as He was in the ship," or without any preparation for the journey ; which implies that it was not premeditated, but suddenly determined on, (Mark iv. 36.) It was " even," probably near sundown, when they left the shore, and wearied by the labors of the day the Lord soon fell asleep. Whilst thus sleeping a fierce storm burst upon them. How exposed is the Sea of Galilee, from its peculiar position, to these storms, all travellers have remarked, but few have had any personal experience of their fury. Thomson, (ii. 32,) however, was for several days upon its shores during one of them, the character of which he thus describes : " To understand the causes of these sudden and violent tempests we must remember that the lake lies low, six hundred feet lower than the ocean; that the vast and naked plateaus of the Jaulan rise to a great height, spreading backward to the wilds of the Hauran, and upward to snowy Hermon; that the water-courses have cut out profound ravines, and wild gorges converging to the head of the lake, and that these act like gigantic funnels to draw down the cold winds from the mountains. And moreover, these winds are not only violent, but they come down suddenly, and often when the sky is perfectly clear. I once went in to swim near the hot baths, and before I was aware a wind came rushing over the cliffs with such force that it was with great difficulty I could regain the shore." Of another storm, when on the eastern side, he says: " The sun had scarcely set when the wind began to rush down toward the lake, and it continued all night long with constantly increasing violence, so that when we reached the shore next morning, the face of the lake was like a huge boiling caldron."—" We had to double-pin all the tent ropes, and frequently were obliged to hang with our whole weight upon them to keep the quivering tabernacle from being carried off bodily into the air."

The attempts to determine at what season of the year the parables were spoken, through the natural analogies upon which they are based, as Newton inferred that it was seed-time, or about November, because of the reference to the sowing of seed, lead to no substantial result. So also the storm does not, as said by Newton, define the time as winter; or as an equinoctial quarter of the year, as said by Greswell. That it was during the late autumn or early winter is upon other grounds probable.