Wednesday, June 11, 2014
THE ULTIMATE PARABLE
There’s a little known place in the Holy Land called the Bay of the Parables. It’s mentioned in James Martin's book on his pilgrimage there. The Gospel writers tell about Jesus teaching the common folk from a boat on the Sea of Galilee when the crowds became too confining. It actually makes a lot of sense, given the acoustics of a bay's natural amphitheater and how well sound travels over water.
I’ve read that the vast majority of people in that first century was uneducated and any attempt to preach theological concepts would likely lose them immediately. That still holds today with much more educated folks. We’d all rather listen to a provocative story borrowed from our common experience or nature. So Jesus wisely used parables to convey a particular reality by relating to something that folks knew better. Martin notes that these parables can involve elaborate stories like the Parable of the Prodigal Son or brief metaphors such as “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field”. I also like the analogy of a parable being comparable to peeling back the layers of an onion. There is an easily understandable story on the outer layer, but once you peel it back to an inner layer you find an even deeper meaning.
I really like Martin’s thought about better comprehending the mystery of the Godhead or Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He notes that Jesus’ “use of parables parallels the gracious entrance of God into human existence. Just as it was not beneath Jesus to approach his listeners in ways they could understand, so it was not beneath God to come in a way that we can understand…in a sense, Jesus is the parable of God”.
The ultimate parable!