All Access Parable Tour Bus
I have always wondered what one of those bus tours in Hollywood would be like.
You know – the person at the front of the bus saying things like “On your left is the house of Cary Grant. He starred in such movies as Arsenic and Old Lace and To Catch a Thief.”
Or maybe “This is the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theater. We will stop for half an hour for pictures.” I would want to find Humphrey Bogart and Jimmy Stewart’s handprints! Or C-3PO and R2-D2’s footprints!
You get to ride on the bus, take pictures. You have a map telling you the route of the bus so that you can be ready to take the pictures of your favorite landmarks. That is somewhat I feel like our studying of the parables will be like. You will have a roadmap, I will point out the ohh and ahh moments, you can take pictures to study more later. We may get out of the bus an in-depth look at particular parables, but we won’t do that for every one of them.
So, I, Jason, your illustrious tour guide, welcomes you to the All Access Parables Tour Bus!
Your map of our journey will look like this. Luke has a collection of parables that only he records. We will tour them first. Then there is a collection found in Matthew. Then there a series of parables found in all three Gospels.
As we move forward to the on-ramp of the Highway to Holiness, (see Isaiah 35:8) let us talk about some background info to help us understand parables.
Approximately one-third of Jesus' teaching is in parables. The Greek word for parable appears fifty times in the New Testament. Forty-eight of those are in the Gospels, twice in Hebrews -- 9:9 and 11:19. Both of these texts help us understand what parable is so we will turn to those now.
Hebrews 9:8-9 reads “By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper” The word “symbolic” is parable in Greek. The word is “figure” in KJV
He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. Hebrews 11:19. The ESV translates the Greek παραβολή as “figuratively speaking” and the KJV just has “figure.”
The idea of figure or symbolic in both of these texts is that we view in comparison the parable to the debate or question being asked. It is a lesson of value and the hearer must catch the analogy if the listener is to be instructed. An important distinction needs to be made here. A parable is different than a fable in that a parable deals with real things and their real attributes. A fable may deal with real things, but a fable may attribute things to the characters that they do not possess.
Another contrast can be drawn to a proverb. Peter uses the common word for proverb in 2 Peter 2:22, What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” This is a maxim, a quick byword. There is a tautology in its construction. Great powerful and visualization accompanies it, but it is once sentence and done.
One final thought. Perhaps a word of caution. The parables are clever. They are carefully constructed. They are powerful in their arresting power. But they are not the lesson. Parables point to something else. They serve as a mirror to show us the Kingdom of God. As such, the parables help us understand and grasp the nature of the Kingdom of God.
And here is the caution – even the disciples struggled at moments with what Jesus was trying to teach in using a parable. In Mark 4, we see just such a moment. The disciples ask Jesus what does the Parable of the Sower mean? He not only explains it but quotes Isaiah 6:9,10 to show that only those that respond to the teaching will understand the parable. The people of Isaiah’s day, the people listening to Jesus, and people today have hard hearts and therefore cannot understand the meaning of the parable.
Parables hide the truth to reveal the truth. For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light.” (Mark 4:22) Even though some will respond with a hardness of heart and lack of hearing, parables should elicit prayer, reflection, and then action in response to the parable. I guess that is what I am warning or cautioning against. Do not just read the parable for the fascination or spectacle of the parable by itself. For the parable to have its full use, it must move you to action!
Get your cameras out! We are coming to our first parable!