Jesus and his stories

January 30, 2009

As I’m trying to make my series on the historical Jesus a reality, it might be a good idea to say something of why I became to intrigued with the human Jesus and historical studies on this person. I illustrate this with some references to Jesus’s parables, since that’s what I’m currently preaching from.

It all started way back in 2005. I was buying about 60 books from a pastor who went out of ministry. Now, I must admit, most of the books was a waste, I’ve never used them, and for a lot of them I am becoming more and more convinced that i never will (so if you are interested in Dutch Reformed theology, let me know, I have a lot of Berkhouwer and Bavinck), but one little book changed my life. It was called Jesus and the Revolutionaries by Oscar Cullman. This is the same Oscar Cullman that David Bosch later studied under, and the argument in the little book was used extensively by Bosch. What Cullman argued for was that there was a lot of correlation between Jesus and the zealots, but that, although some might have thought so, Jesus was definitely not a zealot. He opened up a world for me! In this world, understanding the world of Jesus, a world which the authors of the gospels took for granted, brought Jesus to life!

Suddenly I felt completely different about historical criticism, because I found Jesus in a new and very real way through the help of this tool. It took another 2 years before I got introduced to the Quest for the Historical Jesus, started thinking about the possibilities of a low Christology, and another to coem round to the work of Bosch and making Jesus’s alternative way part of my everyday thinking as well as professional theology.

So, when I start preaching about the parables of Jesus, it’s to the historical Jesus researchers that I turn, and I discover Jesus anew time and again. Last week I was preaching about the parable of the sower who sowed in all the different places. Have you ever thought that the guy must have been stupid? I mean, why throw seed on the road? As a child I thought that must have been the way they sowed in those days, and I think some preachers helped that view along. But understanding the world in which Jesus lived yourealize this can’t be, since seed was a scarcity! Read this together with some of the other parables about seed, and you realize that Jesus consider himself to be the sower, and sowing means preaching. But  he is not the stupid sower that randomly throws around seed and most of it goes to waste, Jesus is the sower who, contrary to farmers of his time, sows everywhere! Everywhere, not just on the fertile ground, and it must have been intentional! We had a large paper where the youth could write and paint interpretations of the passage before the sermon started, in a time of worship, and one of the people wrote this questions about why the guy didn’t just prepare a field. So I’m not the only one asking questions.

Another one: I’ve always been bothered about the fact that Jesus use these dishonest people in his stories? The kingdom is like a treasure buried in the field, and this guy finds it, and in stead of doing the Christian thing and telling the owner about the fact that he actually has a treasure, he then hides it and buys the land. But how could Jesus compare the kingdom to being dishonest? But reading Buttrick it opens up, because the laws of land said that should it come out that he found treasure in the land he bought, the treasure must go to the original owner.

Somethings was always wrong. If the guy had bought the land after selling everything, and had the treasure, what would he have done with it? He couldn’t quite tell anyone about it, or they would have known. So, he would have lost everything!!! The message? We always had it as: Do everything to get the kingdom. But now I would say: The kingdom can’t be bought, if you try it, you’ll gain nothing, no, rather the kingdom is sown into your life, the kingdom must be lived, it is a treasure, but not a treasure that you can gain for yourself!

Jesus is still talking about dishonest rascals, but it makes sense now. That’s largely why I enjoy historical Jesus literature: Because it brings Jesus to life in a way that makes much more sense to me…

2 Responses to “Jesus and his stories”

  1. […] Then Cobus preached, very well, I thought, on the two parables that had been written on the table. He did a kind of postmodern deconstruction job on them, which is best explained in his own words on his own blog in his post on Jesus and his stories. […]

  2. The Scylding Says:

    Interesting. Of course, the interesting thing to contemplate about Jesus sowing everywhere is what that means for the Church and its ministry: Trying to boil things down to “effective marketing”, like the whole megachurch thing, is missing the point. Don’t change the seed. It should so be scattered everywhere. It will not be accepted everywhere.

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