Discourse #3: The Use of Parables in Jesus’ Teaching

Discourse #3: The Use of Parables in Jesus’ Teaching


So this is the Gospel of Matthew or
Matthew for Beginners. This is lesson number eight entitled “The Use of
Parables in Jesus’ Teaching,” and if you’re following your outline, this is
going to be discourse number three. You know how we do it; narrative, discourse,
narrative, discourse, how Matthew is broken up and if you’re following along
in your Bible, we’ll be doing chapter 13. Chapter 13. Alright the previous narrative we see Jesus and His teachings being rejected
by the religious leaders and by the majority of people to whom He is
preaching. They begin to doubt, they begin to make accusations. In the next section,
we see Jesus beginning to use parables to teach the people. He wasn’t using them
until then, but the minute the pushback comes, He starts using parables to teach
the people and we see Matthew explain that Jesus did this in order to do two
things; one it was the method He was going to use to teach His disciples. The
disciples believed, so they had the key to the parables, because the key to the
parables is the deity of Jesus, and number two, He used parables in order to
keep hidden the things of the kingdom from those who disbelieved and rejected
Him. So there were people who disbelieved that were rejecting Him, but that were
listening to Him, they were hearing the stories, they were hearing what He was
doing so He couldn’t say, ‘alright all those who disbelieve, go away, I
only want to teach the ones who believe,’ no, so He used parables with
two objectives in mind. So the parable was the perfect format to be
used for this dual purpose. So in the section that I’m going to talk to you
about this time, we’re going to talk more about parables than the actual parables
that are contained here, and the idea is if you understand about
parables and how they’re used and so on and so forth, you’ll be able to better
understand not only the ones we’re studying here, but any
the parables that you come across. Alright. So let’s start with just a
definition, shall we? The word parable simply means to place alongside, to put
something next to something else. In context it signified the placing of two
or more objects together in order to compare them. So if you’re thinking
parable, what is a parable? It’s actually a comparison. It’s where you lay
something down next to something else in order to examine them. So in
the New Testament what is happening is that seen things, material things, are put
beside unseen things in order to reveal the truth, the ideas behind the unseen
things. So it was a good teaching tool, because first of all it was easily
understood by those who were not well educated and secondly it was easier to
remember the story. It was a great way to remember. Who doesn’t
remember the story of the prodigal son? I mean it’s just so
impacting, right? Usually it was an imaginary story about something that
could have happened, but is simply used to illustrate some higher spiritual
truth. So what do I mean by that? Well I mean that parables were not fables, they
weren’t myths, they weren’t about elfs or middle earth
people or things like that, right? They were actually couched in stories that
were real, about real people, with real situations. Even though Jesus was telling
a story, the story could have happened, because it was about common things;
a woman kneading bread, a son, a lost son going away from his
family; everybody could relate to those kinds of stories. Now some people kind of debate whether some of the parables are real or
if they’re parables. The one that comes to mind is Lazarus and the rich
man and some people think ‘oh that’s actually a teaching, it’s
not really a parable,’ others say ‘no it’s a parable pointing out something.’ So you can argue it both ways, but there is some debate on some of the
parables if they’re true stories or parables. Also parables are not a device
that was invented by Jesus, He didn’t invent this type of device
in order to teach. We have an example of a parable in the Old
Testament in 2nd Samuel chapter 12 when Nathan the prophet uses a parable to
reveal the sin of David. Remember David and Bathsheba? He seduces this woman, she
gets pregnant, he plots a scheme to have her husband killed, murdered, and
then he covers everything over and takes her as his wife to cover the
fact that he’s made her pregnant. So he’s done a lot of bad things and he
thought he’d got away with it because now everybody’s gonna think ‘oh well, the baby she’s carrying must be David’s baby because he married
her and so on and so forth,’ except he couldn’t hide that from God and so
Nathan the prophet goes to see David and he doesn’t start by saying ‘oh, you know
we’ve heard some rumors’ and he doesn’t say that, he tells him a parable. He says
there’s this man who only owns one sheep he loves that sheep, so on and
so forth and there’s this rich man who’s his neighbor that has all kinds of
flocks and the rich man receives a visitor. Instead of using his animal, he
takes the animal of the poor man, the one sheep that he’s got, he takes that animal,
takes it away from him, slaughters it to feed his guests and Nathan says, ‘and king
what would you do with a man like this?’ And David becomes all
self-righteousness, ‘boy, that person deserves to die. Bring him
before me I’ll make a judgment call,’ and then Nathan says, ‘you O
king, you’re that person.’ So Nathan using a parable in order to
reveal the sin to David. In the New Testament, however, only Jesus uses
parables. You don’t hear the apostles using parables, only Jesus does
that and they are recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke; only in
those three. John does not use parables, he uses figures instead like ‘I am the
vine’ or’ I am the door,’ he uses those type of figures. Some of the
parables are repeated in more than one gospel and many are exclusive to just
one gospel. For example, in Matthew, Matthew gives the parable or recounts
the parable of ‘the pearl of great price,’ that’s only in Matthew. Luke, ‘the Good
Samaritan,’ that’s only in Luke. Alright. Now in order to draw accurate lessons
and isn’t that what Bible study’s about? I mean Bible study is to of course
become familiar with the Bible, but sometimes the technical side of Bible
study, which is what we’re doing in this class, the goal is to equip the class
with the tools to be able to come to accurate conclusions about the Bible, a procedure to follow when you’re studying. So when you’re looking
at parables, some rules here. First rule, look for the spiritual truth
as it applies to the situation that prompted the telling of the parable in
the first place. OK? For example, it was the grumbling of the Pharisees because
Jesus ate with sinners that prompted the telling of the parable of the prodigal
son. So if you’re trying to tease out the meaning in that parable, first you have to ask yourself, ‘OK, what was
the setting? Why did Jesus give that parable?’ Well, He gave it because the
Pharisees were grumbling, because He ate with sinners. He was lowering
Himself and so on and so forth, so you have to ask yourself, ‘what does the story
have to do with the grumbling of the Pharisees?’ Alright? And of course at
some point you hear something else where Jesus says
‘I didn’t come to save the righteous, I came to look for the sinners. I came to find all those prodigals. I came to find
those who were lost. The ones who are saved, the ones who think
they’re OK, they don’t need me. It’s the prodigal that I’m looking for.’
Number two, avoid oversimplification or complication, and a lot of times when
you see people defend their points, they’ve usually overcomplicated
something or oversimplified it, so don’t look for meaning in every single detail. Don’t over interpret. Again, for example,
to say that the parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us that the doing of
good to others is the be-all and end-all of Christianity, that’s to oversimplify,
right? I hear sometimes what I call gay apologists, people who defend
the gay lifestyle, and even believers who try to defend the gay lifestyle using
the Bible, usually use this type of technique. They oversimplify, all the
Bible says ‘thou shalt not judge,’ and they just leave it right like that.
That’s kind of out of context. Or the Bible says that ‘we should love everyone,’
yeah it does say that, but the parable of the Good Samaritan is a great parable to
teach us about that who is my neighbor, so on and so forth, but if you say that
the overall lesson of that parable is simply that we should just love
everybody period, well you’re leaving out the idea of the cross of Jesus and why
did He come and the fact that all men are guilty before God and the [resurrection].
It might fit if you oversimplify it, but it doesn’t fit if you examine it against the rest of the doctrine of the Bible. Yes, it’s the old story. Yes, of course God is love, but God is just too,
there’s a price to pay for sin. OK, so let’s not oversimplify. And then,
let’s not overcomplicate. Give you another example. To look for meaning,
to direct the way that we operate economically in the parable of the master who paid his workers similar wages. Remember that
parable in Matthew 20? The master goes out, hires people early in the morning,
sends them out to the field for a certain amount, then at 10 o’clock or 11
o’clock sends some more guys out and then one o’clock sends some more. Then
they’re near the end of the day, he send some more out to his field and then when it
comes to pay them, he pays them all the same thing. Well if you think that that
parable teaches economic theory, you’ve overcomplicated it. You’ve overcomplicated
it right? That parable doesn’t teach… actually that parable
is about the grace of God. God rewards us the way He
decides, not based on our work, because in the New Testament the thief on the cross
who simply recognized Jesus’ innocence and goodness and power at the
very last moment before he died and said ‘hey, please remember me.
I got nothing to offer You.’ The thief on the cross never spent a day in
church, never took communion, never served, never went door knocking, never brought a
meal to someone who was sick, never did nothing, and yet Jesus said to him “this
day you’ll be with Me in paradise.” And then you have someone like Paul the
apostle beaten, whipped, nearly drowned, rejected, suffered, ended up
being killed, so on and so forth. Here’s the guy who was in the heat of
battle and then he went to paradise. Wait a minute you see where.. does it seem fair? Of course not. Fair is everybody gets
exactly what they deserve, but that’s not Christianity. Christianity is we get what
we get because God is gracious, period, and that’s what that parable talks about;
the master and the different ones. So my point is let’s not
overcomplicate, let’s not oversimplify, look for the general spiritual principle that’s put forth. OK, number three, remember
that parables illustrate truth a little bit like a picture in a textbook
illustrates the text, but parables do not prove truth, in other words, it’s not a
wise idea to formulate doctrine based simply on parables. So we need to
remember that parables are not doctrinal statements, they are figurative ways of
pointing to unseen things. So we lay a story down with concrete things next to
a spiritual thing that we cannot see so that through what is seen we may
understand what is not seen, that’s the purpose of parables. Usually parables
point to some truth which can be found written somewhere else, like it’s not
like… Jesus doesn’t use parables to demonstrate something that’s brand
spanking new that no one has ever thought of before, He uses them to point to
general truths that are already there. For example, I’ll go back to the parable
of the Good Samaritan illustrates love for a neighbor and who the neighbor is,
right? But in Luke 10:27, Jesus quotes the Old Testament scripture to clearly say
it. Loving God, loving your neighbor as yourself. So the
parable simply illustrated the idea, but it didn’t invent the idea. OK? Rule
number four, look for the meaning or the conclusion within the parable itself or
within the context before drawing your own conclusion. So sometimes Jesus gives
the meaning of the parable at the very beginning or at the very end, like the
rich fool. He explains at the end if you’re not rich towards God, your life could be at any moment. Sometimes Jesus asks
someone else to give the meaning, like in the parable of the Good Samaritan. He
asks, ‘so who’s the neighbor here?’ He asks the crowd, ‘what do
you think this means?’ Sometimes He responds to a question about the parable
from a listener within the group. For example, Peter asks about how something
entering a man’s mouth cannot defile him when Jesus is teaching him about things that are pure, impure and He says to them, ‘hey, nothing
that goes in your mouth defiles you spiritually,’ and He explains because
whatever you eat just goes out of you; it goes in and goes out and then He goes
on to explain the spiritual truth. He says, ‘it’s what comes
out of your mouth that defiles you, because what’s in the heart finds its
way out of the mouth and if you want to know what’s inside a person’s heart,
just listen to what comes out of his mouth.’ There’s the truth in that parable.
And then sometimes people are left to draw their own conclusions. In Mark
chapter 12 verse 12 it shows the religious leaders who begin to draw a
correct conclusion that the parable that Jesus was talking about when Jesus was
talking about the wicked servants beating and killing the master’s son,
master would send different servants to go and try to collect what
was his, they beat and kill, eventually they kill his son and
Matthew says that the leaders understood that He was talking about them. So
sometimes there’s a kind of an editorial comment that explains that
individuals were understanding what Jesus was saying. Usually the primary
meaning is contained within the parable and applicable to the situation
in which the parable is spoken. I tell people who are learning how to
study the Bible properly, ‘what does it say? What does it say?’ They read the passage and I say, ‘OK, now
what do you think?’ and they’ll go off on some tangent and I said, ‘but what does it say?’
and they’ll say something and I’ll say to them, ‘is that what it says in the
passage?’ And they they look down, they go, ‘No.’ I said, ‘alright. Well all I want to
know is what does the passage say?’ and that’s a tremendous discipline that
Bible students not often learn. It’s like stay in the text. Alright.
Number five, Jesus and His parables are one. So other teachers and other
moralists in history can be separated from their teachings, in other words, Voltaire and other philosophers and so on and so forth, they taught moral lessons, but they weren’t talking about themselves. But in
the parables, Jesus is talking about Himself. His parables are about Him and His
kingdom. The reason people fail to understand the parables is because they
failed to accept Him as the Messiah; that was the key, if you didn’t believe that
He was the Son of God, then you didn’t have the key that opened the meaning of
the parables. So they understood the stories, but they couldn’t understand the
key that unlocked the significance of the parables and that was that He was
the Lord, He was the Messiah, He’s the King, it’s His kingdom, so on and so forth.
So Jesus told them in such a way that in rejecting Him you shut yourself off from
understanding the things concerning the kingdom taught in the parables and if
you…I think you get that idea, I think you’ve experienced that haven’t you? Have you ever really tried to talk
to somebody you know that you’re friends with, somebody in your
family, and you’re trying to talk to them about spiritual things and it’s like
blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. It’s like you’re talking, but it’s like it’s just hitting the wall and sliding down there. They’re not
getting it. You even feel foolish, a little bit. It’s like how can I explain
this to make sense in there because they’re not willing to believe, it just
it sounds like almost sounds like nonsense Alright. So let’s talk about the
kingdom parables now that we have given a little background in
Matthew 13. So Matthew 13 has seven kingdom parables: one implicit, six
explicit, and then one small parable about the disciples at the very end. So
many of Jesus’ parables concerned the kingdom and its nature, its coming, its
value, and so on and so forth, and the interpretation of these have varied
throughout the years depending on the theological position that you hold. So if
you’re coming at the Bible from the position that it’s not really an
inspired text, you’re gonna come to some very different conclusions. So a lot of
times people approach the Bible with an already formed theological idea and they
just fit what it says into their idea and that’s what’s happened many times
with the parables about the kingdom. For example, one extreme position. One extreme
view, sees the kingdom coming suddenly and cataclysmically in the future
sometime. A lot of times, we call these people premillennialists; the
thousand-year reign, Armageddon, rapture, all that. People who think in those terms
when you talk to them about the kingdom their thought is, ‘oh yeah, it’ll come one
day and when it comes all of a sudden nobody will be ready and there’ll be
wars and that’s how they think. And so when they read the parables, all
of the parables concerning the kingdom, when they read the parables
from their perspective…let’s take the simple parable of the leaven.
A woman put leaven in the bread and made the bread rise, you know that parable.
Well the people from this perspective, they see the leaven rising in the dough, they see that as something happening suddenly and it’s
an image that the kingdom will come suddenly, one day in the future.
That’s how they interpret that simple parable. Another view, the other extreme
is that the kingdom is fully realized and it is complete here on earth and all
we’re doing is we’re just adding to it as time goes by, and so for these people
the leaven rising is simply interpreted as the ongoing growth of the kingdom. Why?
Because their view is already formed, they believe the kingdom’s already here
and it’s complete, it’s just getting bigger. Alright, third position
and I think this is a kind of a middle-of-the-road position, my own
personal belief here, I believe this is a more biblically accurate position and
it says that the kingdom has been established by Christ here on earth, but
it will be fulfilled when He returns. In other words, the fulfillment of the
kingdom will happen when He returns, the dead in Christ rise, and join with
those who are already alive to be with Jesus in the air forever and
the heavens and earth pass away and the wicked are judged and Satan is bound and
cast away and the new heaven and earth are created and so on and so
forth, all that happens twinkling of an eye. So this is a more middle of the road…
Yes, we’re in the kingdom, yeah we call it the church, so it’s here. We’re in the
kingdom, this is the thousand-year reign between the cross and the second coming.
This is the thousand-year reign, not one thousand years, but a perfect period of
time that only God knows, only He knows when Jesus will return, but the kingdom
will be fully realized, finally, when Jesus comes and we have our glorified
bodies and what does it say? And then He will return the kingdom to God and we in
the kingdom will participate in the Godhead, because you’re asking
yourself, ‘Well, what is this about? What is Christianity about? What are we doing?’
We are preparing ourselves and being prepared to ultimately exist within the
Godhead. I mean that’s hard to get your brain around, but that’s what’s happening.
So we have a resurrection, glorification, that’s our new spiritual body enabling us to exist in the spiritual dimension, but then there’s
one more thing that happens and it’s called the exaltation: to be at the right
hand of God with Christ, that’s the ultimate end of our existence.
And where is Christ at the right hand? Well, He’s within the Godhead,
so that means we will exist within the Godhead. Now how that figures out
metaphysically I’m not quite sure, but that’s the promise. So kingdom parables
demonstrate the behavior of those who find and who develop within the kingdom
until the King returns. That’s why they’re about watchfulness and being
ready and so on and so forth. The leaven is Jesus Himself and the growth is the
work of the saints and the final outcome is His return. Alright, so let me give
you some… well we got a few minutes left, let me give you Matthew 13, how it breaks
down. I said in Matthew 13 we see seven kingdom parables and an explanation of
the reasons for using parables as well as examples of most of the devices
concerning parables that I’ve already talked to you about. Alright. Ready? So
we begin with Jesus telling the parable of the sower and the seed as a response
to the rejection that He has had from the leaders, the Jewish leaders, and the
people. So that has happened. He’s been rejected, His teachings been rejected,
there’s pushback from Him. So what does He do? He tells a parable. Which one? The
parable of the sower and the seed. Let’s just read a bit of that. It says, “That day
Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. And large crowds
gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole
crowd was standing on the beach. And He spoke many things to them in parables,
saying, ‘Behold the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside
the road, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on the rocky places,
where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they
had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because
they had no root, they withered away. Others fell among the thorns, and the
thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil and yielded
a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let them
hear.'” So Jesus is telling the parable of the sower and the seed as a response
to the pushback and then He goes on to explain why He will now use
parables, verse 10. “And the disciples came and said to Him,” remember I said
sometimes they asked Him a question? OK, “‘Why do you speak to them in
parables?’ Jesus answered them, ‘To you it has been granted to know the
mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For
whoever has to him more shall be given, and he will have an
abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.
Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and
while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. In their case the
prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; You will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; For the
heart of this people has become dull, With their ears they scarcely hear,
And they have closed their eyes, Otherwise they would see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears, And understand with their heart and return, And I would heal
them.’ But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they
hear. For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desire to see
what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear and did not hear it.”
So here He explains, based on a question, why is He teaching with parables? One, for
the disciples teaching and a method of separating believers and
unbelievers, that’s one reason, or two in one let’s put it this way, and then also He
uses parables and the reason is because He uses parables according to prophecy,
in other words, the prophet said when the Messiah comes He’ll teach using parables,
so He uses parables. Remember I said at the very beginning of this class one of
the goals that Matthew had he was talking to Jews, he wanted to make sure
that he got across to the Jews the idea that everything Jesus did, the way He did
it, why He did it, and so on and so forth was to fulfill prophecy about the coming
Messiah, because that’s what the Jews… that was how they would fact-check
everything that He did. So even His use of parables, Matthew goes back to show
the basis of it in Isaiah. OK? So then you have an example of Him explaining
the parable to His disciples and also giving us the correct commentary about
the parable within the text. So let’s keep going, verse 18. He says, “Hear then
the parable of the sower,” so that’s basically He’s saying, ‘OK, let me explain it to you,’ He says, “When anyone hears the word of
the kingdom,” so uh oh, the word of the kingdom, oh that’s the seed, OK, “when
anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one
comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on
whom the seed was sown beside the road. The one on whom the seed was sown on the
rocky places this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root and himself, but
his only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the
word immediately he falls away. And the one on whom seed was sown among the
thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the
deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. And the one on
whom the seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and
understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some
sixty, and some thirty.” So He explains what the parable means to His disciples
and to us of course. Now the remaining kingdom parables are in two groups in
Matthew 13, two groups of three separated by two statements and then followed by a
summary. So I’m not going to read these, but I just want to show you how it
breaks down. So you have parables, the wheat and the tares, the growing seed, and
the leaven; three parables followed by a parenthetical statement in verse 34,
verse 34 and 35. Here these pages are stuck together, there we go. Alright, parenthetical statement 34 and 35 that He is using these
according to prophecy then He has an explanation of the parable of the wheat
and the tares as a response to another question. So He gives another
parable, somebody else says, ‘well, well, what about this parable?’ So He gives
the explanation to that parable. Another parable, the wheat and the tares. OK?
Then there are more parables. The parable of the treasure, the pearl, the net, and
then He makes a summary statement at the end, 51 and 52. He says, ” ‘Have you
understood all these things?’ He’s given them all parables, He’s
explained a couple of them. He’s told them why He uses parables. ” ‘Have you
understood all these things?’ They said to Him, ‘Yes.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Therefore
every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head
of a household, who brings out of his treasure, things new and old.” So He asks
if they understand the parables and they say that they do and He responds with
yet another parable; this time comparing them to a head of a household whose job
was to provide for the needs of the household. So they are the providers of
the household. The household is the kingdom and they provide the kingdom
what they have been given and what they have been taught and also what
they will be taught and what they will see. So what happens here? So He
says some old and some new. What are the old truths that they have? Well the old
truth, things that are known and accepted, the law and the prophets, right? The law
and the prophets. They had that already. He didn’t introduce them to that, they
had that already. Those are the old truths and then some new truths.
Well what are the new truths? Well the gospel, who Jesus is, the death,
burial, and resurrection, that they will ultimately witness; those are the new
truths. So if they have learned and understood what He has taught them, then
they will see how both the old and the new are connected. And how are
the old truths and the new truths connected? Well the old truths pointed
to the new truths and the new truths fulfill the old prophecies. And now they
have information on both and they also know how both are connected; the old
truths point to the new, the new truths fulfill the old and when you put them
both together what do you have? Jesus is the Messiah, He’s the Son of God. So
He says to them, ‘you have some old information and I’ve given you some new
information. You have all the information you need now to take care of your household.’ Who’s the household? The church. You’ll be
able to feed the church with what you know and what you’ve been given. OK? Alright. So we’ll stop there. I’m gonna give you an assignment, but it’s a purely
voluntary assignment. I want to give you a little personal project, if you want a
little challenge in your daily Bible study. So I want you to go to Matthew 13,
choose two parables in this section and answer the following questions. One, what
is the main truth? Two, what was the parable saying to the disciples at that
time? And three, what possible meaning could that parable have for us today? OK? So
put it down on paper, give it to me before the end of the series; this is
not like by next week. A little project you want to work on, a little
Bible study project. Just give it to me, if you give it to me I’m not gonna ask
people, ‘who’s got their thing?’ No. If you feel like doing it, great, do it, work it,
give me the sheet, I’ll give you feedback. I’ll let you know, ‘yeah, good. Work on this,
whatever,’ and at the same time you’ll get just a bit of a taste of what it’s like
to prep a Bible class or to prep a devotional or to prep a lesson on a Bible topic. I think it’ll be an edifying experience for you if you
try it, but I understand people are busy, they get lots of responsibilities of
course, but like I say till the end of the course, you got till the end of the
course to try it, alright? And you can give it to me anytime. Alright, that’s
the end of the class. Thank you very much.

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