“Then the disciples came and said to him, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’ And he answered them… ‘This is why I speak in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.’” – Matthew 13:10-11,13
If you’ve ever read through the gospels, then no doubt you’ve encountered the parables of Jesus. Jesus often spoke through these stories, many of which were well known to those who were listening to him. But many people were confused by what Jesus was trying to say through these stories. And indeed, many of us today are still confused by some of these stories.
What good is it to try to have the faith of a mustard seed when most of us have never even seen a mustard seed? Why would we identify with a shepherd who went looking for one sheep when most of us have never had to watch sheep? And even the parables that we remember and identify with tend to stay frozen in their own culture. We still call people Good Samaritans, even though Samaritans don’t hold a hated place in our culture.
Yet most of the gospels are comprised of Jesus’ parables. And in Matthew 13, Jesus tells us why he speaks in parables. “This is why I speak in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” Matt. 13:13. Jesus was telling his disciples that he spoke in parables so that his listener would not be able to walk away with a simple nugget of truth. Rather, his listeners would leave thinking about what he said and what it could mean.
That’s still the call that Jesus extends to us today. We shouldn’t read the parables simply to pull out the nugget of truth that we think the story contains and walk away happy. Parables should be something that keep coming around to disturb us anew. Parables require us to continue chewing on the story, thinking about the story and learning how we can enact the truth behind the story.
Starting June 3, we are going to be starting a series of exploration on some of Jesus’ parables. If you are wanting to explore Jesus’ stories and teachings in a way that makes you keep thinking about what Jesus said, come join us at the Bell Branch Seventh-day Adventist Church!