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How To Read The Bible – Part 16 – The Parables of Jesus

Typically, when we want to learn about something we go to school to study it. We usually learn from a teacher who we expect to teach us in a very straightforward way with an emphasis on the established facts and theories. Jesus was also a teacher, but his teaching methods were different even by today’s standards. Jesus' preferred method of teaching was through stories and parables.

What is a parable and why did Jesus teach using them? How does knowing about parables help us to read them better?

Watch Episode 16 by clicking HERE. Come back after the video to continue reading.

Parables are a lot like poetry in their use of metaphor to communicate layers of meaning and in their use of imagery to tell a story. Parables invite us to use our imaginations as we learn, they invite us to think outside the box.

Parables are also stories and stories are an important method for transferring ideas, values and meaning because they appeal to the common experiences of people. For this reason, parables are capable of transcending both time and culture as teaching tools and this helps to explain why Jesus’ parables are still so valuable to his followers even today.

On the other hand, the meaning of a parable may not always be self-evident, and it may need to be unpacked to discover the teaching within. This was the case with Jesus’ parables and often we see that it was difficult for people to understand them. Even Jesus’ own disciples needed Him to explain His parables to them. So, why did Jesus teach in parables?

Jesus taught in parables to invite and encourage his followers to be discerning. He wanted to break them out of the patterns of thinking that were common in their context. Patterns that were informed by religious and cultural forces which had nothing to do with God’s revelation of Himself through the Scriptures.

Essentially, Jesus wanted to challenge their view of God, what God values, and the ways that they were responding to Him. He wanted them to think differently about God than they had been taught by the religious leaders and the culture of their day. His parables pointed them toward the reality of who God is rather than who they had made Him out to be.

Shifting contexts, what does this mean for us today? Consider that we have the benefit of seeing Jesus’ ministry from beginning to end and so we may think that His parables have nothing left to teach us, that we have it all figured out. It’s also possible that like the original audience, we have slipped into patterns of thinking which are more about what we bring to the text than what the text intends to teach us.

The question then remains, will we let Jesus’ parables challenge our way of thinking and correct our perspective of who God is, what God values, and how we ought to respond to Him?

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