Monday, October 10, 2016

Parables of Jesus, Part 1

Parables of Jesus, Part 1

Primary Sources:

1.The Parables of Jesus, James Montgomery Boice, Moody Publishers, 1983
2.The Parables of Jesus, R. C. Sproul, video series and Study Guide, Ligonier Ministries, 2013

Introduction: Jesus the Teacher

The recurring description/praise of Jesus’ teaching is that he spoke with authority.

And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching,  for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. (Matt. 7:28-29)

Even his enemies admired his teaching:

The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?”  The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? (John 7:45-47)

Jesus explains the source of his remarkable teaching ability
For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. (John 12:49)

And yet Jesus rarely (if ever) taught without using a parable:

All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.” (Matt 13:34-35)
Of course, Jesus didn’t invent the parable. The Pharisees used them to teach the Law. And parables can be found in the OT (along with an inability to understand!)
Nathan [came] to David and said “There were two men, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had many flocks, but the poor man had but one lamb. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock to prepare for the guest, but he took the poor man's lamb and prepared it for the traveler.” Then David's anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die. (1 Sam. 12:1-5)

But Jesus used the parable differently. Jesus did not use the parable to illustrate the meaning of the Mosaic Law or the Old Testament, Jesus used parables to give new revelation: The Kingdom of Heaven is like

Why did Jesus use parables? Well, Charles Spurgeon (as usual) pretty much nails it:
He stood in the midst of Scribes and Pharisees, and sinners, and preached the glad tidings…His preaching was full of parables, plain to those who had understanding, but often dark and mysterious even to His own followers, for it was a judgment from the Lord upon that evil generation that seeing they should not see and hearing they should not perceive. (Charles Spurgeon)
Of course, Spurgeon is only reiterating what Jesus said when asked, point-blank, why did he teach in parables:
Then the disciples [asked], “Why do you teach in parables?” [He] answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled:

‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ (Matt. 13:10-15)

Jesus’ statement sorta/kinda indicates that he taught in parables so that some would not understand, because if they did understand they would be saved! That interpretation is contrary to everything else in scripture, which teaches of a universal call to salvation and that God is not malicious. It also is a gnostic-like misconception, in that it implies that special “hidden” knowledge is the key to salvation. Finally, as we’ll explore, it mixes up cause and effect. Let's have a pop quiz about what is the cause and what is the effect:

Quiz--which statement is correct regarding Jesus' use of parables and how it relates to salvation:
A) Condemned  (cause); therefore you cannot  understand  the parables (effect)
B)  Cannot understand the parables  (cause);  therefore you are condemned (effect)
C)  A or D
D) A is the correct answer

The answer, as always (though not usually this contrived) is C. Which really means A. The condemned cannot understand the parables, not that a failure to understand leads to condemnation. And the condemned not understanding the parables was not meant to say that they cannot "get it." It means that while they might get it, they will not find the parable instructive and profound as a believer might.


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