Summary: Jesus told a story in Matthew 9 to teach us about the new things He wants to do in our lives.
Opening Statement: There are many literary forms used in the Bible. There is poetry, proverb, legal document, dramatic narrative, hymn, sermon, theological treatise, personal letter, and apocalyptic vision. And sprinkled into all of these genres are figures of speech and word pictures that highlight what is being said. The form that a writer or speaker chooses to use in order to communicate his or her message indicates it’s meaning or how it should be treated or interpreted.
Illustration: For example, Jesus could have given us a 1-hour lecture on who my neighbor is. He could have pontificated for hours on how to treat someone in need. But instead of writing or presenting a theological thesis on this, Jesus simply told the story of the Good Samaritan. It wasn’t a lecture they needed; it was a story that had the potential of softening their hard-hearts.
Review: We launched into a miniseries last week that deals with Jesus’ use of parables or stories. Jesus was the master storyteller. Jesus used story or parable to connect with his listeners.
Clarification: Some of the parables were true stories taken from daily life. They are told as fact in the present tense. We’ve seen seed growing, yeast at work in dough, children playing, sheep grazing, and we all know what it’s like to lose something. Jesus told true stories about these things. Some of the parables were story parables. These stories, which may or may not have actually happened (the historicity is not important), are meant to convey a significant truth. Jesus made up some of these stories and used them as illustrations. Then there are example stories. They give us examples to either follow or avoid. They focus on the character and conduct of the individual.
Observation: While these stories teach us many good and wholesome things (as we will learn together), the parables do two other things that are easily overlooked.
First, the stories of Jesus indicate that He was fully acquainted with human life in its many experiences. He was knowledgeable in farming, sowing seeds, and reaping a harvest. Not only was he familiar with the workaday world of the farmer, the fisherman, the builder, and the merchant, but also he moved with equal ease among the managers of estates, the ministers of finance at a royal court, the judge in a court of law, the Pharisees and the tax collectors. His stories portray the lives of men, women, and children, the poor and rich, the outcast and the exalted. He knew about work and wages, about weddings and festive occasions as well as funerals and sickness. Clearly, Jesus used an understood, familiar truth in order to teach an unfamiliar or unrealized lesson.
Second, Jesus’ stories reveal His heart. They tell His autobiography and the autobiography of God. Do you want to know how God feels about people being a good neighbor, read the story of the Good Samaritan. Do you want to know how God feels when someone who is lost finally finds home again? Read the story of the Prodigal Son. Do you want to know how Jesus feels about people obeying His teachings? Read the story of the house built on the rock or sand?