10 July 2011

"Then the disciples came and asked him, 'Why do you speak to them in parables?'" (v. 10)


Have you heard the one about the TV programme controller commissioning 100 new programmes? Some were gobbled up by the critics and never seen again. Some were too hopeless to live long. Some were scheduled to compete with the most popular soaps and didn't stand a chance. But some were so good they sold worldwide and produced endless spin-offs.

Heard it? Thought not! Not surprised. It's brand new. But we know it happens and it echoes the story Jesus told.

That's why Jesus taught in parables - earthly stories with heavenly meanings, the old definition goes. He took things from everyday life, made them into stories and people remembered them. They took those tales home and passed them on. It became part of their culture. And they passed on their history like that too.

Characters were familiar as well. The farmer knowing not all his seed would grow; the father with one wayward and one obedient son; robbers on a lonely road. They were part of the fabric of life, so the stories were familiar.

Whether the real meaning ever got through is debatable. That's what bothered the disciples. They couldn't see it was also the whole point of this story. So they asked Jesus: "Why do you speak to them in parables?"

You can imagine Jesus shaking his head and smiling to himself. He realised that they weren't quite sure. Many of them were fishermen and, as far as we know, there wasn't a farmer among them. So Jesus explained the meaning of this story, but reminded them that this was a special privilege. Most people had to go home and work it out for themselves.

We've lost the art of storytelling today. But there are stories all around us. We each have our own. They ring true because they are rooted in reality. And people remember them because they relate to them.

"Why do you speak to them in parables?" could easily turn into the question, "Why don't we?"

Tell a memorable meaningful tale and leave it in the mind of the listener. Who knows what the result may be?

To Ponder

What subjects do you think Jesus would use for his parables if he had been born into our time?

What methods can be used to tell stories of faith today?

To what extent are the parables of Jesus as relevant today as they were then?

What kind of stories have made a personal impact on you? Why?

Bible notes author: Marjorie Dobson

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