Summary: The parable of the seed and the sower is the parable of parables as it tells the parables, explains it, and explains why Jesus uses parables. This week: we focus on why parables?
Parables of Jesus
Tilling the Soul Soil
May 3, 2009
This week we will start looking at the parable of the seed and the sower. This parable is found in all three of the similar gospel accounts—Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Although they all are similar, there are some differences. I’ve been led to focus on Matthew’s version.
Here’s what is going to happen. This is the parable of parables. It is one of the most important parables for understanding Jesus’ parables and Jesus’ message concerning the kingdom through parables. I didn’t start with this one because I felt that we needed to get our feet wet. But this one is crucial to our grasping the message of Jesus partly because of two reasons: not only does it tell the parable but Jesus gives an interpretation. Second, Jesus explains why he uses parable to teach about the kingdom.
Because of these two facets, this week we are going to look at why Jesus uses parables and what is the purpose of the parables as a whole. In two weeks we will then look more closely at this particular parable. This gives you a couple of weeks to digest today’s teaching so that you might be ready to receive the word (the seed) of the parable. In the theme of the parable, we are going to till the soil. We are going to get the ground ready to plant and hopefully yield a bountiful harvest. BTW, next week is Mother’s Day so we will take a look at a Mother’s Day theme of the Perfect Mother.
A little boy was sitting sadly on the curb beside his lawn mower, when along came a minister riding a bicycle. The minister noticed that the boy appeared discouraged, so he thought he would try to help.
"Hello there!" said the minister. "How would you like to trade your lawn mower for this bicycle?"
"Sure, mister," the little boy responded, and went on his merry way.
A few days later, the boy and the minister crossed paths again. The minister said, "I think you took me on our trade. I keep crankin’ that old lawn mower, but it won’t start."
"You gotta cuss it," said the little boy.
"Well I can’t do that," said the minister. "I’m a preacher. I forgot about cussin’ a long time ago."
The little boy answered, "Just keep on crankin’, preacher; it’ll come back to ya."
So today we start with a question, “Why did Jesus use parables?”
First of all, we find very little of any evidence that rabbis taught people through the use of parables at least in any surviving literature. They may have but there is practically no evidence of it until after Jesus. However, we do find people using parables to give a message in the bible. And this gets at the difference between a story told to teach a lesson and a parable. In the bible, parables were told by a special group of people. Anyone know who that might be? Prophets. Ezekiel. Jeremiah. Hosea’s life was a parable. And perhaps most famous of all: Nathan. Remember when Nathan went to King David? King David was the most powerful man in the area so what did Nathan do to confront David of his sin: Nathan used a parable.
The main idea of why a parable is different than a story is that parables are prophetic.
Parables are Prophetic
There are several characteristics that set apart a parable but we should know this. Stories were often told to teach people and often kids lessons just as they are today. “The moral of the story is…” However, a parable wasn’t just a story with a lesson. A parable often took a familiar story with a familiar ending and turned it upside down in order for the hearer to hear what God was trying to say to them. An example of this is the parable of the good Samaritan. It seems to be a common story that Jewish people would have been familiar with. Except that the familiar story would have had the hero of the story be a common Jewish person not a Samaritan. Jesus turned it upside down to confront some common misconceptions of God and God’s grace.
The whole section of Matthew 13:10-17 is about the reason Jesus tells parables to teach the kingdom. He quotes a very famous passage from Isaiah 6 about the people of Israel who have eyes but can’t see and ears but don’t ear. Their hearts become hardened and God judges them. In doing so, Jesus is reminding the disciples that he tells parables because he is a prophet that speaks the word of God. He also telling them that this passage from Isaiah has been fulfilled.
For some people, this passage and especially the corresponding passage in Mark is confusing because at first glance it sounds like Jesus is saying that he tells parables “so that” (a quote from NIV in Mark) people will not be able to understand, which is contradictory to what the rest of the gospels reveal to us about Jesus and his ministry. But this appears that way because we do not understand the religious context of the parable being prophetic.