The Synoptic Gospels

Topics: Gospel of Mark, Gospel of Luke, Gospel of Matthew Pages: 5 (1562 words) Published: August 28, 2013
Outline the nature of the Kingdom of God as preached by Jesus, using examples from the parables in the Synoptic Gospels. [pic]

Sanders and Davies (1989) make clear that ‘The Synoptic Gospels’; The Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke are so similar to each other that, they view Jesus with the same eye (syn-optic), this draws a distinction between them and to the different view of Jesus presented in the Fourth Gospel (John). However, there are also many significant differences between the three Synoptic Gospels. The most important part of the synoptic gospels is Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of God.  Jesus’ primary mission to his people was to offer them the possibility of eschatological salvation, which, for the most part, he expressed by the terms ‘Kingdom of God’ and ‘Kingdom of Heaven.’  A significant amount of Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom of God is contained in the Parables attributed to Matthew, Mark and Luke, which use metaphors and similes to describe the nature of the Kingdom of God.

A parable is drawn from the familiar, from the common life. Jesus lived among the common people. He observed his environment; the birds of the air, the flowers in the meadow, the children in the market place, the women in their houses and the farmers in the field. So he was able to speak to the people in a language which they understood. He drew their attention to what was happening in nature and in their everyday life and told them that the Kingdom of God was like that.

Some parables can be interpreted as having the same or similar meaning. The Parable of The Sower, The Parable of the Leaven, The Parable of the Mustard Seed and The Parable of the Farmer who Sews all bear the same message as to the nature of the Kingdom of God. The first three parables are found in all the synoptic gospels, whereas the parable of the Farmer who Sews can only be found in Mark.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed can be seen within Mark 4:30-32; Matthew 13:31-32 and Luke 13:18-19: “And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it” (Mark 4:30-32). “Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof” (Matthew 13:31-32). “Then said he, unto what is the kingdom of God like? And whereunto shall I resemble it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it” (Luke 13:18-19).

In these parables Sanders and Davies (1989) suggest that Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed or, more accurately, to what happens to a mustard seed. The mustard plant begins as inconspicuous, ‘the smallest of all seeds,’ but becomes obvious; a large shrub or tree. The emphasis of the parable is on the contrast between beginning and end. Jeremias (1966) believes that all four parables tell us that though things may have a small beginning, the end is great; though everything may seem to be a failure at the beginning; the end is fruitful and successful. Though the mustard seed is small, it grows into a big bush and the birds of the air find shelter in it. It is often suggested that the depiction of the mustard plant as a tree, large enough to support birds on its branches, is a metaphor of the Kingdom of God as offering protection to those within it. A tree as metaphorical of a kingdom also occurs in...

Bibliography: Donahue, J. (1990) The Gospel in Parable: Metaphor, Narrative and Theology in the Synoptic Gospels, Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Publishers.
Harkness, G. (1974) Understanding The Kingdom Of God, New York: Abingdon Press.
Jeremias, J. (1966) Rediscovering the Parables, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
Philip, T. (2003) The Kingdom of God Is Like This [Online], Available from URL: [Accessed September 18th 2005]
Sanders, E., P. & Davies, M (1989) Studying The Synoptic Gospels, Canterbury: SCM Press.
Scott, B. (1991) Hear the Parable: Commentary of the Parables of Jesus, Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Publishers
The Holy Bible (1883) Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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