Why did Jesus use parables to convey much of his teaching? What can we learn from this about how we should communicate ‘good news’ to the people around us? Introduction to the Gospels
The Gospels of the New Testament contain 39 different parables told by Jesus (Phillips 2004, 18-19) and no doubt he spoke many more during his ministry. Jesus’ choice to use parables to teach his people is one that has intrigued many people throughout history. The aim of this essay is to get to discover why he chose to use those parables, and also what we can learn from this teaching method when evangelising today.
Mark 4: 10-12 is one of the main passages that explains why Jesus taught in parables. There have been a number of interpretations of this difficult passage and they are key to understanding Jesus’ reason behind his usage of parables. Many read a ‘hardening of the heart’ interpretation of this passage tying in with Calvinist theories, ‘The honest interpreter will acknowledge here a “hardening theory” of parables.’ (Williamson 1983, 93) This means that Jesus spoke in parables to hide the knowledge of the kingdom from the ‘un-elect’. For us in our ministry we can learn to be more reassured if our teaching does not result in someone coming to Christ. We should preach the gospel to all those who will listen and know that if anyone does not understand, it is because that person is simply not one of Gods elect and not because of our failings.
M Hooker has another interpretation of this passage. He has the idea that Jesus taught in parables so that the kingdom of God would be concealed from those who did not want to find God. ‘For those who refuse to accept the challenge of the teaching of Jesus, his parables inevitably remain nothing more than parables, and those who see and hear him are totally without comprehension-and without the salvation he brings.’ (Morna 1991, 126) This sticks more with the Armenian point of view and if you hold to this view in the...
Bibliography: Phillips Bob 2004 Find it in the Bible, Howard Publishing co
Williamson Lamar Jr 1983 Interpretation: Mark, Atlanta Georgia: John Knox Press
Hooker Morna 1991 The Gospel According to Saint Mark, London: A & C Black limited
Hunter A M 1976 The Parables Then and Now, Norwich: Fletcher & Son ltd
Etchells Ruth 1998 A Reading of the Parables of Jesus, London: Dorton, Longman, and Todd ltd
Stein H. Robert 1981 An Introduction to the parables of Jesus, Pennsylvania: Westminster Press
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