A story’s title can prompt the reader to focus on certain aspects of the tale at the expense others, potentially masking its actual meaning. And when the author of the story is not the person who names it—as is the case with Jesus’ parables—the risk of misinterpretation increases. A careful reading of The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard reveals that its title is, indeed, a misnomer:
For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard.
The full meaning of an event chronicled in the scriptures will sometimes elude us if we are not acquainted with the historical, political, chronological, and geographical setting in which it unfolds. Such is the case with the story of “The Woman Taken in Adultery” found in the eighth chapter of John.
While in Jerusalem near the end of his ministry, Christ came early in the morning to the temple. Disciples and curiosity seekers soon gathered round to listen to expound on the scriptures. In the middle of his sermon Jesus was rudely interrupted by some scribes and Pharisees who came with a woman in tow. Depositing her at his feet they said: “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”
Healing the blind was one of the most frequent miracles performed by Christ during his earthly ministry. But one of those divine interventions sets itself apart from the rest: The Healing of the Blind Man at Bethsaida, which can only be found in the Gospel of St. Mark.
Bethsaida was a town located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. When Jesus arrived there, the locals brought to him a blind man and asked the Savior to heal his affliction. Christ first led him out of the village and then put saliva on his eyes after which he laid his hands on him. Then he asked, “Do you see anything?” The man replied, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again. This time when the man opened his eyes, he saw everything clearly.
Towards the end of October 1702, the prominent New England Puritan Minister, Cotton Mather, was worried. His preoccupation was not with the ghosts and goblins associated with Halloween, as one might have suspected given his role in the Salem witch trials a decade earlier. Rather, his mind was focused on another invisible purveyor of death: smallpox.