Paper 1 of 6: First The Natural Then The Spiritual.
A parable is telling a story about the visible creation.
In the early days of Jesus’ ministry, he spoke plainly to those around him, teaching them simple parables. Jesus’ parables were stories about the kingdom of God easily seen by the naked eye through the things God made, things such as the birds, trees, soil, seed etc.
There were those inquisitive enough to pose the question, “what does the parable mean?” This shows those who asked this had already engaged with the story and its teller. They received it as it was, a simple, easy-to-understand story at the outset. Through their questioning, however, they entered into the lesson’s underlying spiritual meaning and the universal principles that govern all of life. (Mk 4:10). As we humans are created in the image of God good morals are a choice each one of us can make.
‘For whoever has, to them shall be given and they shall have more abundance: but whoever does not have, from them shall be taken away even that which they have. (Mt 13.12)
Why did Jesus Teach In Parables?
By telling stories Jesus was teaching underlying spiritual meanings and the universal principles that govern all of life. This shows us that a parable is not always the immediate lesson we might attribute to it. Jesus taught in this way knowing full well the way in which., although parables are simple stories, they, nevertheless, stay with us. A good story bypasses the mind and goes deeper by touching the heart. Further, they’re easily understood. This is why we remember them and their meaning so readily. For example, it’s hard to find someone who does not know the story of the ‘Good Samaritan,’ or, the ‘Good Shepherd’. the Good Shepherd,
For example, when Jesus used this story of the Good Shepherd who goes after one lost sheep his hearers knew he was not teaching them about being a good shepherd, but rather the love of God for each one of us. When relating the story of the Good Samaritan Jesus was reminding them and us to consider who is our neighbor. The parables are teachings therefore on the kingdom of God and the spiritual principles involved that undergird these teachings. You might say that the parables and the gospel point to an Upside-Down Kingdom – or we might more accurately say, a Right-Way Up Kingdom.
Jesus’ teachings are the other way around regarding the usual way we think and live our daily lives. To find a parable’s true application requires us to think differently of thinking outside the box in order to see life differently.
A story breaks through our fixated thinking wherein we speak our daily scripts about the world from our viewpoint, that is, the way we see ourselves and others in comparing one another, to who we think we are. We could say we mindlessly go about our daily lives in a dream. We tend also to drive our cars that way. We often ‘come to’, having driven a distance on ‘auto-pilot’.
Parables jolt us into the reality of what the kingdom of God is like – and it’s nothing like the way in which we live in our bodies in this external world. The apparent meaning of the parable, however, is concealed. It is not stating the obvious. My experience over the years has been the more I learn through experience about life and about the good, the grace, and the justice of God, not only is it easier to understand and interpret Jesus’ parables but also their deeper meaning.
Parables and Fables: the Difference
The word ‘parable’ means, ‘a placing aside, to compare, though not always in agreement’. It is generally drawn from nature or human circumstances and the object of it in the biblical sense is to set it forth as a spiritual lesson. The hearer,r if they are to be instructed, must catch the analogy, the comparison between one thing and another. Now, this is different from a fable, which attributes to things that do not belong to them in nature (i.e., half human and half beast, etc.)
The Parable Of The Sower
- A farmer
- The various kinds of soil
- The enemy of success
Jesus likened the kingdom of God to a mustard seed. This seed is a nondescript uninteresting common seed that no one would worry about if they lost a few. It’s like seeing a five-cent coin on the road. Few would stoop to pick it up because it’s almost worthless. But if one had a hoard of them then they would go and cash them in. However, in the kingdom of God everything has value, everything counts. God doesn’t take anything for granted. Neither should we. For example, amazing as it may sound to the rich, the bible teaches us that it is the poor that are rich in faith.
Jesus made an interesting statement when teaching his disciples the meaning of the parable of the sower. He challenged them, “don’t you understand this parable? If you don’t, then how will you be able to understand all the others that I give you?” (Mk 4: 11: Matt 13; Lk 8).
By this, Jesus is saying that this parable is more about the seed and the condition of the soil than it is about the sower. Of course, ultimately God is the Sower, we are the field, the seed is the Word of God … but, first the natural.
Speaking of natural things it can be any sower. It’s the combination of the soil and the seed that take precedence as any wise gardener knows. This parable is the master key for us as evangelist’s harvesting a good crop. Also note that Jesus does not say the mustard seed is the smallest seed in the world (because it is not). Rather, it is insignificant, that is it is too small or unimportant to be worthy of any consideration. Instead, Jesus said it is less than all the seeds that are on the earth.
Sow Common Insignificant Seed
The common unadorned gospel seed, like the mustard seed, is a seed sown in relation to everyday life. It doesn’t require an orator to spread its message. Ordinary people can sow it. Mustard seed is also like a weed that grows wild amongst crops.
Keeping in context with the teaching about the kingdom, Jesus also infers that the gospel seeds get mixed up with other seeds. I’m suggesting here then that if you listen it can appear as if insignificant throughout the conversation, wherever people gather to talk.
Be An ANGEL in Disguise
To be a specialist in spreading the gospel seed, you must practice. Practice makes perfect. Cast a small seemingly insignificant seed into your neighbour’s spiritual garden as they walk out of their gate by smiling and greeting them! Speak an encouraging word to them at the right time. Yesterday I asked a man I was in conversation with “are you a believer”? I pointed out to him that he appeared to behave like one due to his manner of speech and lifestyle. He said “no” that he had “made the decision to be an unbeliever at the age of twelve”. His answer meant he had to invoke old memories. It sounded infantile reasoning to me for a grown mature person to be still relying upon childish reasoning. I hope he thought about that as an intelligent middle-aged adult and reconsidered his decision. But I had no more opportunity to engage in further discussion. Had I had the opportunity I may have suggested he reconsider basing his life on a childish decision. I may have said to him I would pray for him. I know I will have the opportunity to speak to him again and as the opportunity presents itself, now that I have kicked the ball to him, I will follow up the good work begun here.
Remember, we are workers together with God. Where possible give people instructions on how to become a believer. God is listening to perform the counsel of his messenger.
Be then, an angel, would you?
A-N-G-E-L is simply a transliteration of the exact Greek letters. In English lingo, it actually means ‘messenger’. Hey, while you’re wheeling in your own bins off the street curb, why not take in the neighbor’s bin for them? Or pick up that bit of paper on the roadway or in the workplace or at home. Clean the toilet. Wash the dishes. Vacuum the floor. Someone’s got to pick it up. Become the servant of Christ.
Apart from helping to deal with the litter problem, someone observes you and it changes their day. Give a person a seat on the bus; it influences others. You figure it out. A word or a deed, in season, changes the dynamics around us and God is waiting to perform the word of God’s power. You and I are God’s messengers. In other words, when change is essential, do something different! Anything!
First the natural
‘For as the rain comes down and the snow from heaven and does not return back to the heavens but waters the earth and makes it bring forth a flower that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater’.
Then the spiritual
‘So shall my Word be that goes out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me empty of power, but it shall accomplish that which I want it to and it shall prosper in the thing where I send it’. (Isaiah. 55:10-1)
Next time: The Mustard Seed
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