Summary: Jesus had just finished giving the infamous Sermon on the Mount. He so desperately wanted His audience to go and do what He had just taught them because He wanted to implement His kingdom of righteousness on earth. So he tells a story for his conclusion.
Opening Statement: Form is meaning in the Bible. The way something is written or said indicates its meaning. I need you to help me make this point. If I say, “Once upon a time…” you expect a story. If I say, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today….” you expect a funeral or a wedding. If I say, “The party of the first part assigns to the party of the second part…” you expect a legal document or court record. If I say, “How do I love you? Let me count the ways…” you expect a poem. If I say, “Open your Bibles to John 3:16…” you expect a sermon. If I say, “Dear God in heaven, we come before you today…” you expect a prayer. If I say, “How can you tell that a blonde has been using a type-writer?” you expect a joke. (Answer: the whiteout all over the screen). Form is meaning. The form in which something is written is meant to prepare you to interpret what is coming up next. For example, if I begin with a poem and you expect a legal document, we’re going to miss each other. If I’m at a very formal wedding and I begin my wedding sermon with “How can you tell that a blonde has been using a typewriter” we’re going to miss each other, especially if the bride happens to be blonde!
Transition: 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.
Observation: We’re going to launch into a miniseries that deals with one of the unique forms that Jesus utilized in order to communicate with his audience and to prepare them for a major point that He wanted to make. I’m talking about Jesus’ use of parables or stories. Jesus was the master storyteller. For example, instead of launching into a 1-hour lecture on who my neighbor is, Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. He’s all the time doing this in the Gospels.
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: Perhaps what the parables show more than anything else is that Jesus was fully acquainted with human life in its multiple ways and means. 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. Jesus used an understood, familiar truth in order to teach an unfamiliar or unrealized lesson.