How Do We Read A Parable?
Throughout the Bible, we see its writers struggling to describe things no one had ever seen before, from the manna of the Old Testament, to the appearance of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.
Most often, the writers of the Bible tell us what the experience was "like," because they had no words to tell us what really happened.
Jesus told many stories about what either heaven or the spiritual life were "like," using examples from everyday life. He often began, "The kingdom of Heaven is like . . ."
Even though Rome, which ruled Palestine during Jesus' lifetime, was a republic, the disciples had never voted, and they could not imagine a democracy in which everyone had his or her own vote. So Jesus told stories about a kind and loving king, who cared about each of the people in his kingdom.
We call these stories, which explain the extraordinary in terms of the ordinary, the Parables of Jesus.
The disciples never read the parables - they heard Jesus tell them the stories face to face.
The stories that were written down for us to read are what several of Jesus' followers remembered the stories to be.
So rather than reading the parables quietly to ourselves, we should read them aloud in groups, taking turns, making sure as many different voices are heard as are possible - and we probably should read each story aloud two or three times at one sitting.
We know the disciples didn't understand the parables the first time they heard them, and we don't always get the point of the story the first time, either.
Jesus had an interesting sense of humor, and he often used jokes in telling the stories. The disciples never understood the jokes - just like us, they often responded in confusion.
So, like the disciples, we should talk and pray about the stories, discussing what Jesus might have meant by the story.
Jesus also gave us an opportunity to fill in the blanks. Whenever he tells a story about a nameless person - "a man" or "a woman" - we are welcome to fill in our own names. How does the story sound then?
The Parables of Jesus
A Father Welcomes a Lost Son
A Kind Man Sees Life and Hope
A Rich Man Behaves Like a Fool
Jesus Invites Everyone to the Table
A Rich Man Ignores a Poor Man
Jesus Carries the Lost Sheep Home on His Shoulders
God Sows His Seeds Everywhere
Weeds Grow Among the Wheat
Wicked Tenants Steal from the Owner
A King Gives a Wedding Banquet
A Fearful Man Hides His Treasure
A Wise Man Builds His House on a Rock
Jesus Tells Us about Heaven
Young Women Prepare for a Wedding
The Kingdom of Heaven is Like a Vineyard
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