Sunday, March 06, 2016

The Parables of Jesus

I came across a couple of good tweets today about parables that I want to discuss. Mark does not have a lot of parables; in fact, I think it has just the parable of the sower and the parable of the tenants (chapter 12). But, since I just read the parable of the sower, these tweets are particularly relevant.

@DerekVreeland wrote
 "Truth needs to seep into your soul like a gentle rain…and that takes time. This is precisely why Jesus told stories."  
Wow. isn't that great? We don't easily remember propositional statements, but we do remember stories. And as we ponder and consider those stories, what they mean gradually becomes clear and it does "seep into" our souls.

I think this is also why reading fiction is important. And not trashy fiction (although a little junk food for the brain isn't a bad thing on occasion). I'm talking about real stories. C.S. Lewis' Narnia stories and JK Rowling's Harry Potter series both take us into different worlds and give us characters to care about and conflicts to mull over. I just realized that those are both children's book series, but many adults love them as well. But, consider To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee or Orwell's Animal Farm or anything by Jane Austen. These are all adult reads that get into your soul.

@Derek Vreeland also tweeted
"Some of Jesus’ parables do not make things clear. They make us think."
Think back to the parable of the sower. The listeners didn't get it at first. Were they meant to? I'm not sure I know now that I think about it.

I grew up learning that Jesus told parables so that people would have an easier time understanding his message. What if the stories were actually not to make things clear, but to make us use our brains? I think that Vreeland has hit on something important here.

The underlying message of the parable of the sower (Mark 4) is not inherently clear. His disciples didn't get it immediately so Jesus had to explain it to them. So, Jesus was probably using the parable to make us think and figure the story out. Of course, we get the meaning with the disciples, right from Jesus' mouth. But, the others who heard it that day, ended up going home and talking it over and working through it. I think they may have a better understanding than those of us who had it spoon fed to us.

I have had a pretty simplistic view of Jesus' use of parables. I was taught that Jesus used them as a teaching tool to help the illiterate crowds of people to understand the truths he was preaching. I agree with Derek Vreeland, though, that Jesus told stories to allow our souls to gently drink in their truth and to make us think. And we need to give these parables more time and energy and not just skip over them as Jesus "teaching tool for the masses". We're not "too educated" for them. Jesus' parables are filled with his love and truth for all the ages.

What are your thoughts on parables?

P.S. Pardon the formatting. I'll figure blogger out someday. I've only been doing this for eight years!

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