Parables and Teachings

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Section 1: Opening Prayer

Gracious God: Help us to read and understand the stories that sometimes confuse and challenge us.  Let us see your purpose in them and make their message real to our lives.  In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Section 2: The Story

Watch this Chuck Knows Church video:

Section 3: The Message

The first thing to remember is that a parable is NOT a true story… the purpose of telling it is not to give you history or to tell you about someone.  Instead, it is a story that is used to teach something…. a way to think of it is the difference between a story being ‘the truth’ and a story teaching us a truth.  Sometimes in a sermon, your pastor will tell a story that may or may not be true; the point of the story is not to tell you something that really happened. Instead it is to illustrate and explain a point.

Another type of story similar to a parable is a fairy tale or a fable.  Fables (stories of animals with human characteristics and personalities) and fairy tales ( stories that involve magical elements) aren’t set up to be heard as true. You don’t see Cinderella and think that somewhere there are witches pretending to be evil stepmothers or that there are strange families of mining dwarfs in the woods. Instead it is told as a warning against jealousy and vanity.  You don’t hear Aesop’s “Tortoise  and the Hare” and think that there was really a race that the rabbit lost to the tortoise.  Instead you realize that the story is about how you can’t take winning for granted even when you think you will win easily; it also reminds you that if you keep working steadily you will make your goal.

Parables are doing much the same thing. They take ordinary stories with things the people would be familiar with (farming, family life, experiences like losing something important, etc.) and use them to give spiritual instruction of some sort.

The challenge of a parable is it doesn’t always have a clear interpretation. Sometimes Jesus tells the disciples the meaning of a parable, but other times it is left unsaid. It could be applied in different ways.  This is especially true when we remember that these stories were told two thousand years ago to people who were very different than we are. The way they thought about life and understood things were different. Most of Jesus’ listeners were quite poor, they were farm-workers who rented their land and depended on successful harvest or they would not have food to survive. They lived under an oppressive foreign government. The wealthy were people they considered enemies.  So how we hear these stories would be a bit different than someone from a totally different life situation.

How do we interpret them then?

Let’s walk through this guide to think of what a parable might mean.  Read Luke 10: 25-37.

Steps one and two are pretty much the same for everything… we have to remember that this story isn’t a story about who was a hero, at least not specifically. It isn’t a news report about a mugging. It is there to help us think about a simple question. The context (step 3 of this exercise) is Jesus being asked, “Who is my neighbor”.

Remembering the cultural gap:

It isn’t immediately simple to know that priests and lawyers were always trusted. After all for us, lawyers get a bad reputation sometimes. But in this story and for the people of Jesus’ day, they were people who were expected to do what is right. The Samaritan, on the other hand, was an enemy. Jewish people didn’t trust or even like Samaritans and the feeling was mutual. So hearing this story, where he ends up the hero, was somewhat shocking in a way we might overlook.

The main point: What do you think the main point is?  Some things to think about before you answer it below are:

1. Who is the main character?
2. What happens in the end?
3. Who is shown to do what is right? Who comes out being wrong in the end?
4. What is the main point of this story?

Surprise details:

The surprise here is definitely who does the right thing and who is not a neighbor. The people who were usually considered “good guys” end up looking pretty bad and the person usually considered untrustworthy was the hero

Walking through this parable, I hope you got that these stories have symbolism and can be seen from many different angles. Depending on what character we identify with or see ourselves as we come out differently. If we usually think of ourselves as basically good, this parable would remind us of the times when we don’t help our neighbor the way we could or should.  If we are usually suspicious of a group of ‘others’, we get reminded that they too are our neighbors.

The other piece to remember is what the person asking the question was wanting. They were wanting to justify themselves… to know that they were doing their duty and they had done enough. Really they were wanting to put a limit on how far love of neighbor meant they had to go out of their way. The question basically said “what is the least I can do and still be doing enough for God to remember me?”  The person was sent away with the reminder to go and do likewise… to be a neighbor even when it isn’t expected.

Parables about the Kingdom of God
1.  Parable of the Sower:  Mark 4:3-9<
2. Parable of the Seed: Mark 4:26-39
3. Parable of the Mustard Seed: Matthew 13:31–32
4. Parable of the Yeast / Leaven: Luke 13:20-21

Parable about Lost and Found
5. Parable of the Lost Sheep: Luke 15:3-7
6. Parable of the Lost Coin: Luke 15:8–10
7. Parable of the Prodigal (Lost) Son: Luke 15:11-32

Parable about Love and Forgiveness
8. Parable of the Debtors: Luke 7:40-47

Parables about Prayer
9. Parable of the Friend at Night: Luke 11:5-8
10. Parable of the Unjust Judge: Luke 18:1-8

Parables about Jesus’ Coming
11. Parable of Ten Virgins: Matthew 25:1-13
12. Parable of the Wheat and the Tares: Matthew 13:24-30

Other Parables (No single category)
13. Lamp under a Bushel (Basket): Luke 8:16-18
14. The Rich Man and Lazarus: Luke 16: 19-31
15. Workers in the Vineyard: Matthew 20:1–16

Section 4: Learn & Engage

Aside from the questions about the Good Samaritan, each of you will read a different parable and answer the four questions above about it. Look below and see which ones have been answered, and then choose the next one in the list.  Put the number and name from below on the top of your comment so the next person can answer. If they have all been done, start at the top of the list again.  This will help you walk through the process of interpreting or understanding. After you read it, answer the following:

1. Who is the main character?
2. What happens in the end?
3. Who is shown to do what is right? Who comes out being wrong in the end?
4. What is the main point of this story?

Section 5: Closing Prayer

Gracious God, as we look at the stories your son told, help us to see them as giving us guidance and understand your kingdom better. Help us to know that these stories have guidance to give us and make demands on us to live as you would have us do.  Amen.