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Why Jesus Spoke in Parables, Part 1

People learn best through stories. At least stories are easier to remember than a series of facts. I think this is why we remember the Old Testament stories or specifics of movies so easily. Jesus used narrative teaching, hyperbole and other methods but one of his favorites was the use of parables.

    Parable is a form of communication that does not give information but breaches the defense of the listener. It allows the listener (more difficult with a reader!) to experience something so new and different that it would otherwise be rejected out of hand. Parable permits entry into a new and different world, a world called the “kingdom” or “reign” of God and, sometimes, the “aha” of the Spirit. Though parable calls for a “yes” decision, it permits rejection of that new world.” (Siverns, Ted, Parabolas, Parables, Prodigals and Pouty People. Presbyterian Record, March 1, 2001)

As in biblical narrative, interpreters of parables sometimes seek to attach some significant meaning to a text that was never meant. The lack of historical context and literary understanding seem to be at least two of the primary reasons for this problem. The problems associated with the misinterpretation of the parables of the Bible are secondary only to those problems interpreters have with Revelation. In Revelation, “Instead of narratives and letters containing plain statements of fact and imperatives, one comes to a book full of angels, trumpets, and earthquakes; of beasts, dragons, and bottomless pits.” (Fee, Gordon D. and Stuart, Douglas How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, page 249) In the parables, Jesus uses stories to evoke a response, which to the casual reader makes no sense at all except the story applies to the point the orator is attempting to make. This is partially because the parables were meant to be heard, and not read, by Jesus’ contemporaries. The parables are meant to prompt the hearers to a different understanding of their true nature. Once the hearer understands the parable in light of the response Jesus was intending, a person is stuck with a decision; to continue to live in the dark selfish nature or to change to conformity in Jesus’ likeness. They are meant for us to take a deep look inside ourselves! “Considered as a self-help-manual, Jesus’ parables suggest there’s no helping the self – the self cannot help itself because it’s blind to its own good, the slave appetites and the stooge of a perverse ego.” (Fickett, Harold, Conversations with Jesus, page 87) Part 2 next week…

Creed Branson, Executive Guy

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