Parable - More Than a Fairytale

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, April 11, 2013 0 comments

How do you feel when people constantly deal in hypothetical situations? Does it aggravate the heck out of you because you just wish they would live in reality for a minute? As a full-time social worker in the field of child abuse prevention and a part-time preacher, I am not bothered one bit by those who begin every other question with “hypothetically speaking”. In fact, I rather enjoy it because I love to be able to make connections to every day life and I love thinking about and sharing how certain truths could impact a person in a variety of likely scenarios.

But I get that not everyone is wired that way and I understand that dealing with someone like me might drive many of you crazy! I know that, particularly, people who are much more academic, factual, and theological might have a hard time with constantly addressing or pondering hypothetical situations. In Jesus’ day, those who were much more concerned about the academics of the Law but often missed its point were the Pharisees and teachers. Now, before everyone jumps all over me, I am not saying that anyone who emphasizes academics and the letter of the law over the spirit of it is automatically a Pharisee. It is important to have an appropriate balance of knowing the letter of the law and understanding the spirit of it. What made the Pharisees who they were was their stubborn and willing ignorance of the basic truth of Jesus Christ. Instead of looking for ways to follow in his footsteps and love him and others, they were constantly trying to trap him or prove him wrong so that they could justify themselves. Since telling them direct truth did not work, Jesus often resorted to parables to try to get them to see what they were missing.

Three of the most well-known parables that Jesus told the Pharisees are found in Luke 15. If you take a look at that chapter, you’ll see that Jesus talks about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost (aka “prodigal”) son. You may know these stories, but did you know that Jesus brought at least the first two up hypothetically to try to get the Pharisees to understand his purpose of reaching the lost? The Pharisees and teachers of the law were disappointed at Jesus that he would be so misguided as to welcome “sinners” (v. 2). He then tells them a parable beginning with, “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them” (v. 4). All of you non-hypothetical people out there would right away be like, “Move on, Jesus, because I don’t even have any sheep”. Jesus desperately wanted these “experts” to think about how valuable something that is lost would seem to them, so he told two more parables to further emphasize his point. These examples weren’t mere fairytales. Collectively, they were the truth being told through stories.

Jesus did not give up on the Pharisees and experts of the law. He believed that if he could just get them to connect his truth with their everyday “common experiences”, then maybe they would believe and surrender to his authority and will. It wasn’t about “story time with Jesus”. This was about Jesus knowing that these are the leaders of the people and he needed to find ways of relating his message to their lives.

Another well-known parable where Jesus very directly challenged their long-held traditions is the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. The stubborn one in this passage is a man only referred to as “an expert in the law” (v. 25). If you read vv. 25-29, you see that the man had good knowledge of the Law, particularly the ones about loving God and loving one’s neighbor. “But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” He wanted to justify himself because Jesus had simply said that he would have eternal life if he just followed the two commands the man himself knew. Mistakenly, the man assumed he already had the first command covered. He felt no need to address it. However, when it came to the second command, he knew that his obedience to it depended on who all was included in the category of “neighbors”.

Jesus then tells the man the parable that I’m sure most of you know. In the story in Luke 10:30-35, a man is beaten by robbers and left for dead. A priest and a Levite, both of whom are men that one might expect to help in a time of need, saw the man and simply walked by (I’m wondering if they mumbled something spiritual like “I’ll pray for you” and then did nothing for his physical needs). Of course, the Good Samaritan does everything he can to help the victim, sacrificing his own plans, time, and money. After telling the story, Jesus asks the expert the rhetorical question, “Which of these three was a neighbor to the victim”? The expert of the law, in his stubbornness, can’t even repeat the Samaritan’s ethnicity because of the Jewish disdain for Samaritans, and can only respond with “the one who had mercy on him”.

Friends, the expert in the law was attempting to justify himself “legally” outside of Jesus’ truth. He and the other Pharisees mistakenly believed that it was possible to both love God and not love His people. They viewed Samaritans and sinners as dirty, rotten enemies and attempted to justify their hatred of these people before their Creator who designed them in His image. So, when Jesus shared these parables with them, some of which may have come from actual events, he wasn’t just telling fairytales. He was speaking truth that he knew would cut right to their heart, right to the places that were contaminated by hatred and prejudice. Jesus did this out of love for them, because he knew that these “hypothetical” scenarios would force them to make the biggest decision of their lives. There was no middle ground. They could either surrender all of their traditions and preconceived notions to God and repent, or they could continue in willful and stubborn ignorance. But the parables weren’t just meant for them. They were meant for all of us, for we all must make that decision. So how do you respond?