Summary: Through the use of parables Jesus was able to explain difficult subject matters in plain, simple terms. By referring to common, every day occurrences people of all ages, from the youngest to the oldest, could readily grasp what Jesus was saying to them.
Sermon Preached at Grace Community Church (EPC)
Sun City Grand, Surprise, AZ
Sunday, January 31, 2010
by the Reverend Cooper McWhirter
“In a Manner of Speaking” [Introduction]
Did you ever wonder why Jesus spoke so often in parables? Why didn’t He just come right out and say what was on His mind? And why use such a clever ruse? Was it to keep things hidden from us? No, of course not! “” … “May it never be!” Jesus made frequent use of parables so that we might better understand “the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” [Matthew 13:11]. But in the interest of fairness, Jesus’ disciples were also curious for they, too, asked: “Why do You speak to them (meaning the multitudes) in parables?” [Matthew 13:10; Mark 4:10].
Through the use of parables Jesus was able to explain difficult subject matters in plain, simple terms. By referring to common, every day occurrences people of all ages, from the youngest to the oldest, could readily grasp what Jesus was saying to them. Thus, they could identify themselves with the storyline. Concerns such as: health, wealth and relationships were of particular importance to His audiences. However, the Lord also emphasized matters of eternal significance such as: life and death, heaven and hell, forgiveness and condemnation.
The word “parable” in the Greek [ pronounced para-bu-lays] is a compound word which literally means “to put things side by side.” And so a parable is when one story is placed alongside that of another story in such a way that the two stories run “parallel” to each other. But the key to understanding all forty-four of Jesus parables, of which four are repetitious, is grasping the “hidden” message behind the story; “the message behind the message” as it were!
As one carefully reads these forty-four parables, it becomes evident that Jesus used heightened allegory to bring clarity not confusion; illumination not cloudiness to unveil the underlying meaning. In fact Jesus used this stratagem so effectively that the Synoptic Gospels make frequent references to them. For instance, “Fourteen percent of Matthew’s entire gospel narrative is composed of Jesus’ parables, Mark contains seven percent, and the parables in Luke comprise eighteen percent.”
In these few verses Jesus reveals why … “In a Manner of Speaking” … He spoke in this way: And the first reason has to do with THE FULFILLMENT
OF PROPHECY (repeat).
Jesus’ use of storytelling was perhaps due in part to His humble upbringing. For He, too, became familiar with the struggles of the common man. In a word, He spoke their language and [He] shared their burdens.
But that was not the only reason why Jesus used stories which people could relate with. It goes back to a fulfillment of prophecy at the time of Isaiah’s commissioning. Isaiah describes this vision he had of the Lord who sat on a throne lofty and exalted and the train of His robe filled the temple.
And angels, called Seraphim, stood above Him with six wings; one pair covering his face, and another pair covering his feet and with the third pair of wings he flew. One angel called out to another and said, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty. The whole earth is full of His glory!” And the very foundations of the temple trembled with the voice who called out and the temple was filled with smoke and burning incense.
Upon seeing this majestic site, with the heavenly hosts about the Lord’s throne, Isaiah shuttered and said: “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” [Isaiah 6:1-5].
Then one of the seraphim flew to the prophet’s side bringing a hot burning ember from the altar and he singed Isaiah’s lips signifying that his iniquities were expunged and his sins forgiven.
Isaiah was being commissioned to speak to God’s people for although they listened they did not perceive, and though they saw with their own eyes they did not understand because their hearts had become hardened. In a word, they had become dull-minded and insensitive to God’s Word. This accurately described the spiritual condition of these ancient Jews both in Isaiah’s day as well as seven hundred years later at the time of Christ’s first advent. Thus, a kind of dual prophecy was fulfilled both at the time of Isaiah’s commissioning and at the time of Jesus’ ministry here on earth.
Which brings us to the second reason why Jesus spoke in this manner: SO THAT OUR EARS MIGHT HEAR AND OUR EYES MIGHT SEE (repeat).
When Jesus’ disciples asked Him why He made use of parables, He told them there are mysteries regarding the kingdom of heaven which are so esoteric, so mind-boggling, as to be far above man’s comprehension. In spite of Jesus’ disciples having been exposed to many of these revelations, they, too, found it difficult to understand who Jesus was, and why He had come to earth. But just because there are things shrouded in mystery, this should not deter us from learning all that we can about the world around us and its impact upon the “unseen” world.