Parables - The Mysteries of God's kingdom revealed through the stories Jesus told

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Introduction - Why did Jesus teach in parables, and how can we interpret them rightly?

Jesus’ parables were ingeniously simple word pictures with profound spiritual lessons. His teaching was full of these everyday stories.

“The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”
it contains a profound lesson.

Sloppy Thinking About the Parables

Many assume, for example, that Jesus told parables for one reason only: to make His teaching as easy, accessible, and comfortable as possible.
Stories, they say, “pack more punch than sermons. Want to make a point or raise an issue? Tell a story. Jesus did it.”
“With many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it. But without a parable He did not speak to them.”

The parable helps explain a truth; history gives a factual account of what happened.
reader-response criticism: the recipient, not the author, is the one who creates the meaning of any text or narrative.

Why Parables?

the common belief that the sole reason Jesus used parables was to make hard truths as clear, familiar, and easy to grasp as possible.
When Jesus Himself explained why He spoke in parables, He gave practically the opposite reason:

“Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah [6:9–10] is fulfilled, which says:

‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,
And seeing you will see and not perceive;
For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.’” (Matt. 13:10–15)

While the parables do illustrate and clarify truth for those with ears to hear, they have precisely the opposite effect on those who oppose and reject Christ.
The symbolism hides the truth from anyone without the discipline or desire to seek out Christ’s meaning. That’s why Jesus adopted that style of teaching.

No doubt the parables had the effect of awakening the minds of many such people who were struck by the simplicity of Jesus’ parables and therefore became eager to discover the underlying meanings.

Richard Trench, a nineteenth-century Anglican bishop, wrote one of the most widely read works on Jesus’ parables. He highlights the mnemonic value of these stories:
Had our Lord spoken naked spiritual truth, how many of his words, partly from his hearers’ lack of interest in them, partly from their lack of insight, would have passed away from their hearts and memories, and left no trace behind them. But being imparted to them in this form, under some lively image, in some short and perhaps seemingly paradoxical sentence, or in some brief but interesting narrative, they aroused attention, excited inquiry, and even if the truth did not at the moment, by the help of the illustration used, find an entrance into the mind, yet the words must thus often have fixed themselves in their memories and remained by them.

They hid the truth from self-righteous or self-satisfied people, while the same parables revealed truth to eager souls with childlike faith.
“I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight” (Matt. 11:25–26).

Our Lord did not always speak in parables. Most of the Sermon on the Mount is precisely the kind of straightforward sermonic.
a courtroom and prison scene (5:25); the amputation of offending eyes or hands (5:29–30); the eye as the lamp of the body (6:22); lilies arrayed in finery that surpasses Solomon in all his glory (6:28–29); the plank in the eye (7:3–5); and so on. But these aren’t parables.

“Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch?” (Luke 6:39).
Jesus’ best-known public discourse is simply not an example of narrative discourse. It is a classic sermon, dominated by doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness.

faith, prompted and enabled by the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, is the necessary prerequisite for understanding the parables.

Some Definitions and Details

In the chapters that follow, we’ll examine a dozen of Jesus’ most notable parables. It would require multiple volumes to cover all the parables in sufficient depth.
There are roughly forty of them woven into the gospel record.
My basic comments on any of Jesus’ parables can be found in the corresponding volumes of The MacArthur New Testament Commentary series.
Although the parable of the prodigal son is one of the most rich, memorable, and important of all Jesus’ stories, it is not included in this book.

The aim of this book is to unfold the depth of meaning in a representative sampling of Jesus’ parables, and to analyze the ingenious way He illustrated vital truths with everyday stories.

Parable comes from two Greek roots: para (“beside”) and ballō (“throw”). Literally, it means “to place alongside.” It suggests a comparison between two things that are alike in some way.
parabola, which describes a curve where one side precisely mirrors the other.
being drawn between some commonplace reality and a profound spiritual truth. That juxtaposition of common things alongside transcendental truth is what’s most distinctive about a parable.
it always makes a comparison that applies to some truth in the spiritual realm.
they never feature elements of myth or fantasy. They are nothing whatsoever like Aesop’s fables, where personified forest creatures teach moral lessons.
They could in fact all be true.
a parable is an ingeniously simple word picture illuminating a profound spiritual lesson.

Matthew tells the stories with as much brevity as possible and just the facts.
Luke’s accounts tend to give the characters in the stories more life and personality.
It almost seems as if Matthew is taking his pictures on film that is black-and-white while Luke uses color.

As we study Jesus’ parables together in the pages to come, let’s commit ourselves to being true disciples, carefully seeking wisdom and understanding with obedient hearts. The lessons Christ has built into His word pictures are truly profound and well worth our close attention. As Jesus said privately to those first disciples, “Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it” (Luke 10:23–24).

Some people, when they speak, do not know what they mean; and, when a man does not make you understand what he means, it generally is because he does not himself know the meaning of what he says. Indistinct speaking is usually the result of indistinct thinking. If men think clouds, they will preach clouds;
in all Christ’s teaching. He was the clearest, most straightforward, and most outspoken of all speakers. He knew what he meant to say, and he meant his hearers also to know.

1- One Ominous Day in Galilee

It has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.

-- MATTHEW 13:11

The Pharisees and the Sabbath