I just want to talk about the issue of the parables, okay? Just be real frank. I just want to talk about that because we finished a book on the parables, and the publisher delayed the release for a year, and that’s not fair to the author. This is like having a baby and somebody telling you you have to keep it in a closet for a year. You really didn’t intend that. You want to get that thing out as fast as you can. So since they won’t publish the book, I’m going to tell you what I said in the book anyway. So it’ll come around a year from now.
Talking about the parables is really important. It actually is a parable that Jesus told during the middle of His Passion Week that ignited the final fire or we could say poured gasoline on the fire. Chapter 11 of John ends with the leaders of Israel wanting to seize Him. Then you move into the middle of the week and He tells a parable recorded in Mark 12. The end of that parable says the same thing, “They were looking for a way to seize Him.” It really was a combination of the raising of Lazarus and the telling of that parable that precipitated the human activity that led to His execution.
People don’t understand parables. There is a lot of very sloppy thinking about parables, and a very high degree of sloppy preaching about parables. So I want you to understand parable, not just in some kind of isolated way, but they play a critical role in the rejection of Jesus Christ right up into the final week of His life. How are we to understand the parables of Jesus? There are about 40 of them. They’re only in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. No parable is in John. How are we to understand the role that parables play and what are we dealing with?
To help us get rid of the sloppy thinking about parables, I want to go to the 13th chapter of Matthew. So we’re going to go back in time from being right on the brink of Passion Week. Lazarus most likely was raised from the dead the week before Passion Week, so we’re going to back up. We’re going to back up about a year in the ministry of the Lord to get a perspective and understand better what led to His rejection and execution.
I want you to go to Matthew chapter 13, and we’re going to look at this chapter kind of from above. We’ll land on a few places throughout the chapter without reading every bit of it, but I want to start out at that outset in verses 1, 2, and 3, Matthew 13. The first two words are important, “That day.” “That day.”
I want to stop there for a minute to say this is a day like no other day. This is a day in which a dramatic transformation takes place in the teaching of Jesus. This is a day with an epic shift. This is a day that is ominous in every sense. It is abrupt. It is a startling day. It is a shocking day in and of itself. The events that happened that day would be enough, but there is a turning point in the entire ministry of Jesus on this one day. It happens to be a Sabbath day toward the end of His second year of His ministry. You remember that second year was in Galilee, so we’re at the end of His second year of ministry in Galilee. We’re backing up about a year from His death.
“That day Jesus went out of the house sitting by the sea,” the Lake of Galilee. “And large crowds – ” as always “ – gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach.” He did this because it allowed Him to move back from the crowd that otherwise would crush Him, and make his voice a little better heard as it bounced off the water or the lake.
But then in verse 3, “And He spoke many things to them in parables saying – ” He spoke many things to them in parables, on this day. By the way, from this day on whenever He taught in public, He spoke in parables, from this day on. This is a huge shift. Up to this day, He did not speak in parables. There are no parables in the Sermon on the Mount, for example, which is the most extensive illustration of His sermon.
There is an illustration at the end about the flood and houses built on sand and rock, but there is no parable. But from here on, He always speaks in parables. What is a parable? It’s a word picture. It’s an elongated simile or metaphor. It can be relatively short, or it can be relatively long. Para means to lay along side. So it is a story laid alongside a truth to demonstrate their parallel realities.
Some of you will remember when you were in college finding out about a parabola, two curved lines that mirror each other perfectly. That’s a parable. Jesus began this day to speak in parables. That’s a monumental change. Upon to this time, He has basically drawn from the Old Testament and given discourses based on Old Testament Scripture. He has propounded doctrines, theological truths. We would say propositional truth. By propositional, I mean an absolute statement of fact. He has been a theological preacher, an expositional preacher. But now, all of the sudden, He becomes a story-teller.
Now, this all gets launched on a Sabbath day. Now, Sabbath, you need to understand a little bit about Sabbath. Let me tell you what God’s law was for the Sabbath. This is going to be very complicated for you, so listen carefully. God’s law for the Sabbath is this: don’t work, period. That’s it. There was nothing more. Somebody says, “Well, I’m a Sabbatarian.” Well, really? What do you mean by that? “I don’t work and then I don’t do this and then I don’t do that. I don’t do that, and I don’t go there, and I don’t – ” That’s not according to the law of God. God’s law said, “Rest. Don’t work. Take a day off.” That’s the Sabbath. It was intended according to Isaiah 58:13 to be a day of delight and a day of rest.
Well, we all understand the horrors of the history of Israel. After they were given the law of God, they virtually disobeyed it for centuries. Consequently, they ran roughshod over the Sabbath. They didn’t rest. They didn’t delight in God. They didn’t use it really as a day of worship. They broke the Sabbath. They broke the Sabbath year. They broke Sabbaths all the time. Why? For money, for apostasy, for idolatry, for apathy and indifference they violated the Sabbath.
Well, eventually, the rabbis started becoming concerned about the violations of the Sabbath, so they wanted to protect the Sabbath. So in order to kind of recover the Sabbath and insulate the Sabbath against violations, they covered the Sabbath with endless rules. They couldn’t just leave it to, “Worship God. Delight in God. Take a day off. Don’t work,” because people didn’t respond to that. So they created a massive complex of Sabbath laws, and I’ve shared them with you through the years. Don’t need to go over all of that.
By Jesus’ time, the Sabbath is the most dreaded day of the week. Every way you could cut it, it is a pain. It is not a day off. It is a day of all kinds of ridiculous encumbrances and burdens. The pendulum had swung from complete abandonment of the Sabbath to the establishment of a legalistic system. In fact, the whole Judaistic self-righteousness legal system found kind of its symbol in the Sabbath. Well, Jesus loved to violate the Sabbath. That was just another way that He attacked their self-righteous legalistic system.
So we find Him in chapter 12 – let’s go back – on a Sabbath day. He’s walking through the grain fields. He shouldn’t be walking. His disciples shouldn’t be walking, and then He’s picking grain. He shouldn’t be doing that. That’s harvesting. He shouldn’t be then consuming it. The Pharisees in verse 2 see this. “Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath,” not by any Old Testament law; not by any divine prescription. Purely and simply because of the traditions that they had developed to replace the law of God.
Jesus responds by telling about an incident in the Old Testament when David’s men actually ate the show bread out of the temple to show how ridiculous their Sabbath rules had become. Hunger was a greater priority than some rule. Then to add to it in verse 8, He says something that just distresses them to the max. Don’t tell me what to do on the Sabbath. “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” I’ll decide what to do on the Sabbath. I’m Lord of the Sabbath.
So, from there, after breakfasting by walking through the fields and plucking a little grain, He went into a synagogue, the man there with a withered hand. They questioned Jesus saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” which, of course, in their system it wasn’t, so that they might accuse Him. He says, “‘What man is there among you who has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath will not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep?’ He said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’”
Verse 14, “The Pharisees went out and conspired against Him as to how they might destroy Him.” Destroy Him? Kill Him for violating their ridiculous Sabbath rules? Yes, because this was symbolic of His all-out wholesale assault on their self-righteous system. They wanted to destroy Him.
Same day, verse 22. A demon-possessed man is blind and mute and brought to Jesus. He healed him, and the people were saying, “This man cannot be the Son of David, can He?” Is this the Messiah? “When the Pharisees heard this, they said, ‘This man casts out demons only be Beezebul, the ruler of the demons.’” Whoa. Two years into His ministry. The final conclusion of the Pharisees, He does what He does by the powers of hell. He’s inspired by Satan himself. That was their conclusion.
If that’s your conclusion when you’ve had a full revelation of the Son of God, you’re hopeless. You are hopeless. So, verse 31 says, “Therefore I say to you any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.” When you blaspheme the Holy Spirit by saying that which He has done through the Son of God is from hell, you’re beyond the point of salvation. You can speak a word against the Son of Man. You could speak a word against Him, His humanness, His life. That could be forgiven, but if your conclusion is that what the Holy Spirit has done through Him is from hell, you will not be forgiven.
Divine condemnation then down in verse 37, “By your words, you will be justified.” On the other hand, “By your words you will be condemned.” Condemnation fell on this Sabbath day toward the end of the second year four Lord’s ministry. Divine condemnation. The day wasn’t even over. It wasn’t even over. At this point, you pick up the story. You don’t even need to go to it. I’ll just tell you. You pick up the story in Mark, and at this particular point after this incredible conflict around the synagogue, Jesus gets into a boat and with His disciples, He goes across the north shore of the Sea of Galilee over to the eastern side.
When He brings them to the shore, a maniac comes running out of the caves, naked, demon-possessed, a legion of demons. Jesus confronts. You remember the man, and he had a friend as well? Takes the demons out of them. Sends them into a heard of pigs. They go dive into the Sea of Galilee. Incredible day. This is one day. One day. Massive expression of divine power, and an epic terminal conclusion. The verdict is in. He does what He does by the power of hell. It has to be hell because only hell would attack our righteousness, our religion.
Now I want you to turn to Mark 4, and I want you to see what happened that day. It was so dramatic in the ministry of the Lord Jesus. Mark 4:33. With many such parables, He was speaking the Word to them, so far as they were able to hear it; and He did not speak to them without a parable; but He was explaining everything privately to His own disciples.” That is the first time. That’s the ominous day when Jesus began to speak in parables. Incredibly dramatic. Why? Why does He speak in parables? Why the change? Why does He now give illustration, stories?
Well, there’s a contemporary trend that wants to give you this answer: because He realized after two years that He wasn’t getting through, that His propositional kind of teaching, His doctrinal teaching, His theological teaching, His expositions of the Old Testament, straight forward discourse was not connecting. Teaching truth straight forward in a clear fashion didn’t work, so He turned to stories. He realized that He’s going to have to tell stories because people love stories! And who could tell a story better than Jesus?
Jesus then makes this huge shift in His ministry and becomes a story-teller. His stories have so much interest and so much pathos and they give depth and insight. So, this is how we need to approach our preaching. This is the genre we must use. We need to tell stories because they’re accessible and they’re clear and they’re easy and they’re familiar. Oh by the way, never did Jesus tell a story with any kind of a fantasy. There was never a fantastic character, a bizarre alien kind of form or reality or non-reality. Every single story was real people, real places, doing real things that everybody does all the time.
So they’re not mysterious fantasies. They’re just stories that everybody can understand and that gives them kind of a life feel, and we feel good hearing them. There’s a lot of sentimentality in it. They’re so easy to understand. So there’s been a trend for about, well, 25 years maybe to get preachers, young preachers, a whole generation of preachers to become story tellers. People point here to this and they say, “He didn’t speak to them without a parable, and neither should you.” Hmm. One book says – called the Homiletical Plot, “A sermon is not a doctrinal lecture. It’s an event in time. It’s a narrative art form more like a play or novel in shape like a book. Hence we are not engineering scientists, we are narrative artists by professional function.” This writer says, “Does it not seem strange to you that in our speech and homiletical training, we seldom considered the connection between our work and that of the playwright, novelist, or television writer? I propose that we begin by regarding the sermon as a homiletical plot, a narrative art form, a sacred story.” End quote.
Wow. There’s a whole lot of young people who are saying, “Yeah, that makes so much sense.” So now what preachers have become is rather than expositors of Scripture and preachers of doctrine, they have become story tellers. It dominates a lot of megachurch environments for sure. In some cases, the pulpit goes away. In some cases it’s replaced by a stage and a screen, and the church staff is made up primarily of the drama team and the film crew.
Declaring truth in absolute propositional fact form is out and what is in vogue is telling stories. That’s so much more genteel that brute facts or unambiguous truth claims. This perspective on preaching has gained wide acceptance, and now we’re fighting against a very powerful trend in this direction.
Another writer in a book called, A New Hearing says, “Preaching is in crisis. Why? Because the traditional conceptual approach no longer works. It fails to capture the interest of listeners. The old topical conceptual approach to preaching is critically if not terminally ill.” Well, that’s just one of many books, myriads of books calling young preachers to be story tellers.
I can’t resist another one. Quote, “Contrary to what some would have us believe, story – not doctrine – is the Bible’s main ingredient. The Bible is a story book. We do not have a doctrine of creation. We have stories of creation. We do not have a concept of the resurrection. We have narratives of Easter. There is relatively little in either the Old Testament or the New Testament that doesn’t rest on narrative or story in some form.” End quote.
First of all, let me say he doesn’t understand the difference between a story and history because the Bible is not a bunch of stories. It is history, but nevermind that small oversight. Statements like these are dangerously misleading, and it is sheer folly to say that doctrine is a completely different and unacceptable genre to telling a story, as if they are mutually exclusive. I bet to differ. We do have a doctrine of creation. We do have a doctrine of resurrection.
You read the doctrine of creation everywhere you read in the Old and the New Testament any definitive statements about God creating. You read the doctrine of resurrection, in particular, in 1 Corinthians 15, which is a prolonged doctrinal dissertation on the resurrection, but nevermind that small oversight either. Trying to pit stories against doctrine is an impossibility biblically because wherever there is a story, there is a doctrine. There’s always a doctrine. Separating Jesus’ stories from propositional doctrinal truth is the nonsense of postmodern language deconstruction.
Why would post modernists want to deconstruct language? Because they don’t like what the Bible says. So they deconstruct the Bible to give room for their pet sins and tolerances. The goal is always – language deconstruction has one goal: eliminate truth, overthrow dogma, and make people feel good about what they want to do. So commentators on the parables often say Jesus is directly repudiating doctrinal preaching, propositional teaching.
Here’s another illustration. This is from Charles Hedrick, who writes in a book called Many Things in Parables. “It is the nature of narrative to lend itself to a hearer’s imagination and become whatever the hearer wants it to be in spite of the narrator’s intention. Narratives are essentially polyvalent, and therefore subject to a wide range of readings.”
What he’s saying is the interpretation is in the hearer, not the story teller. He goes on to say this, “Parables work any way interpreters and hearers want them to work in spite of whatever Jesus may have intended with them. We simply do not know how Jesus used parables, and clearly have no hope of ever discovering His intention.” Really? I’ll tell you who has no hope of ever discovering His intention. Unbelievers, unbelievers, because Jesus said that. We’ll see that in a minute. He’s not finished. He has more.
“Interpreters of parables are not telling readers what Jesus actually meant with the parable. They simply do not and cannot know that. Interpreters describe what they think Jesus meant, something vastly different. An explanation is evoked in a particular reader’s mind from an engagement with a parable. Responses depend as much on what that interpreter brings to the parable as on what the parable itself says. Perhaps more so had the interpreter been present in the audience when Jesus first spoke the parable, the situation would have been no different. My hypothetical, modern interpreter whom I have just taken back in time to the feet of Jesus would still have to make sense of the parable as interpreters do today. Then, as now, others in the audience would have had rather different responses. In this sense, the situation with interpretation of parables today is identical to what it would have been in the first century. Thus, no right interpretation of the parables of Jesus ever existed. By right, I mean interpretations that capture Jesus’ intent. Given the nature of narrative, no one explanation of a parable can rule out all others.”
This from a guy who wrote a book on parables. Why? Why would anyone write a book on parables, and start out by saying, “We have no idea what they mean.” That’s a short book. Now, I will confess that I understand this guy’s dilemma because he doesn’t understand the parables. That I affirm. He does not understand the parables. This is a self-declared recognition that is really pretty amazing, that he doesn’t understand the parables. They are open riddles to be interpreted any way the hearer would choose, but do parables have a true meaning, and what is that true meaning? Are we just stuck with what’s called response criticism or, again, this language deconstruction?
So let’s go back to our original question. What was the original question? Why parables? Why on that day did Jesus shift to parables? Was it because He wasn’t getting through and things weren’t clear and, “Wow,” He said, “I’ve spent two years trying to figure this deal out and finally I got it”? I don’t know what that does to omniscience, but, “Finally, I’ve got it and I’m shifting. I need to make these hard, deep truths clear, easy, simple, accessible, flexible.” Is that what’s going on?
Go back to Matthew 13:10. “The disciples came and said to Him, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’” There’s the question. I didn’t invent the question. That’s the question. Why are you doing this, Lord? Why are you doing this? Listen to His answer, verse 11. “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.” What? What are you saying? I speak in parables so they cannot understand. Did you get that? It’s not given to them to understand. If I keep speaking clear truth, they will. If I speak parables, they won’t. Do you know why Jesus taught in parables? It was a judgment. It was a judgment on willful, hard-hearted unbelief. “For whoever has, to him more shall be given and he will have an abundance.” That’s you, disciples. “But whoever doesn’t have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. Therefore, I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, while hearing, they do not hear, nor do they understand.” This is a judgment.
Listen, when you hear somebody say, “We need to speak in parables to make things clear to unbelievers,” that is the opposite that Jesus intended when He gave the parables. They were designed to hide the truth. The fact that a guy writes a book and doesn’t get it is a clear evidence of where he is. By the way, this is connected to Isaiah 6. This is a kind of fulfillment of the very same scenario back in Isaiah 6. Do you remember what happened in Isaiah 6? Chapter 5, judgment is coming on Israel, severe judgment, the Babylonian captivity. Masses and hoards are coming of Chaldeans from Babylon. They come. They destroy the city, destroy the temple, massacre the people, haul them off into captivity. We all know that.
Now, Isaiah knows that judgment is coming. He has a vision of God. He feels inadequate. He says, “I’m a man of unclean lips. I dwell amidst people of unclean lips.” An angel takes a tong in his vision and cleanses his tongue and he’s purified. The Lord says, “Who will go? Whom shall I send?” He says, “Here am I. Send me.” The Lord says, “Okay, you’re the man. You go and you preach judgment. Go preach judgment. Go preach judgment.” Then God says this to him; it’s quoted here. “Tell the people this, ‘You will keep on hearing, but you will not understand; keep on seeing, but you will not perceive; the heart of this people has become dull. Their ears will scarcely hear. Their eyes, they’ve closed. Otherwise, they would see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and return and I would heal them.’”
Go tell the people this. Go tell the people judgment is coming, judgment is coming. Listen, they will not understand. They will not understand. So Isaiah says, “Lord, how long do I do that?” I mean what kind of a calling is that? I’m going to talk to people who won’t understand and won’t respond? How long do I do that?” Until there’s nobody left to do it. Keep doing it. “Why Lord? Why Lord?” Final verse of Isaiah 6, “There’s a seed. There’s a holy seed. There’s a remnant. There’s a stump. There’s a tenth.”
So this is exact application of this in the first century. Jesus is saying, “I am now speaking in terms that they cannot understand.” By the way, He extended that on the Day of Pentecost. First, He spoke in stories they couldn’t understand, and then He spoke in a language they couldn’t understand. This is a judgment. This is a judgment.
“But to them – ” verse 11, “ – it has not been granted, but to you it has been granted.” So the Lord had to explain the parables even to them. What is an illustration without a point? You don’t know what it means. Unless you know the point, you don’t know the meaning of the illustration. It’s a riddle. So, here’s an illustration. Jesus pulls them aside and says, “Let me explain the parable I just gave about the sower.” He says, “Here’s the explanation.” Verse 19, “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one that is beside the road. The one on whom the seed was sown in the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word, and immediately receives it with joy; but no firm root, only temporary. Affliction, persecution arise because of the word, immediately he falls away. And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns is the one who hears the word, and the worry of the world, the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. The one on whom seed was sown on good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands and indeed bears fruits, brings forth some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
Oh. He explained it. He explained it. Apart from such an explanation, they wouldn’t have had any idea what it meant either. Parables do illustrate spiritual truth when they are explained by the giver of the parable. But in a sense, they have a primary role of judgment, a primary role of judgment. So for unbelievers, they are not clear. They are not clear. They hide truth in riddles. This is a judgment on final unbelief. This is why Jesus taught in parables. Judgment on those who rejected His clear teaching.
Now, let me add a note. Parables were also mercy. There’s a mercy element in this judgment because if He keeps speaking to the crowds in clear, unmistakable terms and keeps explaining Scripture and proclaiming objective doctrinal truth, their culpability increases. He addressed that. He addressed that. You will remember these words.
Maybe you didn’t know the context, but in the 12th of Luke, listen to this. Jesus told a story about a slave who knew His master’s will and didn’t. He said when the master comes back, he’s going to receive many lashes. This is a picture of someone who had gospel opportunity and rejected it. This is one who was going to be flogged. Verse 48 talks about a flogging, and then this statement: “To whom much is given – ” what? “ – much is required.” That’s talking about judgment. If I keep giving truth to these people who reject it, it only increases their judgment.
So there is within the judgment of speaking in riddles and parables, both a curse and a mercy. Concealing truth is a judgment tempered with mercy so that He doesn’t add guilt upon guilt upon guilt upon guilt upon guilt. But for those who had ears to hear, He explained the parables. But even the disciples wouldn’t know what they meant if our Lord didn’t explain them. How would they ever know? But for the hard-hearted, parables were a judgment. They were a divine judgment. On that day, that day in Galilee, that Sabbath day, the Lord rendered a judgment. You remember, don’t you, that the Father had committed all judgment to the Son and the Son could drop the hammer of judgment when He knew it was appropriate to be dropped?
Think about it. There is not another parable in the entire New Testament told by anyone but Jesus because parables are for judgment and only Jesus can render that judgment. You don’t have the apostle Paul going into a city and rendering a judgment on that city by speaking in things they can’t understand because he is not the judge. Parables are confined. There are not even any of them in John. There are 40 parables. They’re all in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. They are confined to the ministry of Jesus Christ because they are acts of divine judgment, which only He can render.
His parables are the same today. For believers, they illustrate the truth because we understand them. How do we understand them? Because they’re explained to us. I’ll even go beyond that; because we understand the whole of Scripture, because we understand the whole gospel, because we understand salvation. Even when we don’t have a recorded explanation, we understand the parables; not because we’ve been given some mystical insight but because – listen carefully – all parables are about the gospel. All 40 are about the gospel. They’re all about salvation, and if you understand salvation in its fullness and its richness, and by the way, the more you understand the fullness and richness of salvation, the more you will understand the parables.
For the disciples, they didn’t have the cross, the resurrection, and the teaching of the apostles that we have in the New Testament, so they were asking, “What does this mean?” I have to say this as well. If you had to choose between having a story and having a doctrinal presentation, take the doctrinal presentation every time. Why? Because the story is less. For example, Jesus gives a simple little parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who found a pearl and sold everything to buy the pearl.” Okay. Do you understand that? If you’re a non-believer, you don’t know anything about salvation, you’re saying, “I don’t know what that is.” A guy found some valuable and bought it.
When you read that parable, what immediately do you think of? The most valuable thing that exists is what? Salvation, and you would give up everything to receive it, forsaking all. But that’s a nice parable, but our salvation is way beyond a pearl. You understand? It’s way beyond a pearl. I understand that as an illustration, but my theology of salvation far outstrips that little analogy, far. You could take any aspect of salvation, any aspect of the gospel and whatever aspect of the gospel is relayed in a parable, if you know the Word of God, your understanding of the gospel truth far outstrips the parable, the simplicity of the parable.
They do illustrate, but they are less than the glory, the full glory of that truth. There is a rare parable; I’m going to talk about it next Sunday, in which the Jews, the unbelieving Jews that week in Passion Week were listening to Jesus, and this rare thing happened. They understood a judgment parable. Normally, they didn’t. It wasn’t for them. It was hiding. There was during Passion Week a parable they understood, He made sure they understood. We’ll look at that next time, but rejecters don’t get it. They don’t understand the parables. It amazes me.
All parables relate to the gospel and salvation. There is no parenting parable, no. You say, “Well, what about the prodigal son? The prodigal son? What about that where he had a good father, but there was no mom in the house, so the kid went haywire and ran off? So you need a good wife. You just need a whole family there. He ran off, and he messed up his life. You know, you need to be careful how you parent, or your kid is going to go to a foreign country and eat with pigs.” Really? That’s a parenting parable? You think that’s a parenting parable? If that’s a parenting parable, then the hero is the one who stayed home, the self-righteous Pharisee who stayed home. That’s not a parenting parable.
Listen, there are 40 parables. They’re all about the gospel and nothing but the gospel. Not about parenting. So, what about the good Samaritan, the good Samaritan? What about the good Samaritan? You look up any website on social justice, I don’t care what it is, Sojourners, Jim Wallis, go down the list. Anybody advocating reallocating of wealth, helping the poor, doing whatever is under the category of social justice, and you will inevitably find the parable on the good Samaritan who was walking down the road, and even though he was an alien in terms of social relations, he saw this guy beaten up and bloodied that the priest and the Levite had passed. He went over, bound up his wounds, and took care of him, put him in an in, paid for it, said he’d come back and pay more.
This is what we need to do. We need to go down the road and find the people bruised and bleeding, the deprived and we need to give them some help. That’s what that’s about. Well, one of the more noteworthy treatments of that I read on the website was, “Look, he was a very superficial good Samaritan. If he really was a real good Samaritan, he’d be back on the road every day. This would be his life. He would be a road guy. He would stay there. He would get up in the morning, go to the road, and just try to find people who were lying around beaten up by the robbers on the road. This wouldn’t have been a one-time thing. A one-time thing doesn’t cut it. That’s not a good Samaritan. That’s a good start, but if he doesn’t keep going,” and they extrapolate there.
This one went on to say, “By the way, and that isn’t even enough. You can’t be on the road all of the time. The very fact that that stuff goes on on the road means there’s a problem in Jerusalem. So if you really are a good Samaritan, you get into the power system of Jerusalem, and you start lobbying the Sanhedrin, and you get in there, and you make sure that they’ve got some protection on that road. You make sure that they get some food to the people who are beating up other people to seal their money. Then if you really follow the good Samaritan and you want to be a complete good Samaritan, you change the entire economics of the culture, the social culture, and then there’s no need for a good Samaritan.”
Let me tell you something, that parable has nothing to do with helping poor people get on their economic feet. That parable is about self-righteous damnation. It’s a salvation story. It’s a story of what is true salvation and how does it manifest itself? But again, sloppy thinking and sloppy preaching and writing about the parables is legion. All parables are gospel illustrations. All parables express the theology of salvation. We understand them, even the ones in the New Testament, as I said, that aren’t explained to us. We understand because we understand salvation. Because we have the full doctrinal picture, we get that.
Of course, the non-believer who doesn’t understand salvation, who rejects salvation doesn’t get the meaning of the parable. So they get turned into some kind of sentimental stories or some kind of other perspective. They all are, “The kingdom of heaven is like…” The sphere of salvation can be explained this way. Parables were not creative, artistic efforts by people who thought that the pulpit was theater. Parables are not dreamy fantasies told for sentimental purposes to make people feel good. They are not vague, blank slates for folks to fill in the blanks.
Now, of course, people who reject the gospel of salvation can find no meaning in the parables corresponding to truth because the parables can be fraught with judgment. Go back to Matthew 13 for a minute, verse 34. Matthew 13, by the way, is full of parables. We won’t go into those, but verse 34, “All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He didn’t speak to them without a parable.” Why? “This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet in Psalm 78. ‘I will open up my mouth in parables. I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world.’”
Parables hide. Parables hide. They hide. Are we somehow violating the teaching style of Jesus when we speak in propositional truth? No, no. All parables are doctrinal, theological, soteriological, propositional truth, all of them, to those who understand them. Verse 36, He left the crowds, went into the house. His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us that one about the tares.”
He’d just explained the one about the seed and the soil. Now they need an – there’s no way to understand them unless He gives an explanation. But by the time you get to where we are with the full New Testament and the amazing manifest revelation of all that salvation is through the epistles and the book of Acts and everything we have, we have a rich understanding of the parables. The parables themselves convey truth, but their purpose was as a judgment on unbelievers.
Well, that’s a lot to digest. All parables are more than propositional truth, but nevertheless, all truth is understood by logic. No truth is understood by emotion. No truth is understood by sentiment. No truth is understood by feeling. All truth is apprehended by a rational grasp of facts that are put together in a reasonable argument leading to an ultimate truth. This is what we do. Every sermon is an argument. I’ve been arguing with you today. I’ve been presenting an argument. I’ve been making a defense of how to understand parables.
Based on facts, we’ve gone through the facts. The facts are all coming out of the Scripture, right? We’ve gone to Matthew 13. We’ve gone to Mark 4. We looked at Luke 12, and we’ve said, “Here are the facts that lead to this inescapable conclusion about the parables.” All preaching is rational. All preaching demands logical process and propositions or facts are the building blocks of logic and the tools of reason. If you’re a Bible teacher, the facts come out of the text. Simply stated assertions of reality in a progressive combination coming to a final conclusion.
The final conclusion that I want to leave you with is that what nobody in the world understand, you do understand. You do understand. It’s amazing, isn’t it? I mean we’re nobody. We’re just a group of people hunkered down here on Roscoe Boulevard while the world goes along its merry way. They have no idea how much we know. They have no idea that we know the mysteries of the universe. Listen to 1 Corinthians 2:7, “We speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory, the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood. If they understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”
They didn’t understand it, but they couldn’t understand it, and God desired that they crucify His Son for our redemption. “Just as it is written, ‘Things which eye has not seen, ear has not heard, have not entered the heart of man. All that God has prepared for those who – ” what? “ – who love Him.’” We love Him and He opens all the truth to us.
This is such a great reality that Luke 10:23 repeats what’s in Matthew. “Turning to His disciples, He said privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes which see the things that you see.’” Do you understand that? Do you understand that this world doesn’t comprehend these glorious transcendent divine realities, but you do? “Not many noble, not many mighty,” right? The lowly, the nobodies. Promise of blessing.
“I say to you many prophets and kings wished to see the things which you see and did not see them, and hear the things which you hear and didn’t hear them,” and still don’t. You are the greatest people on the planet, the greatest because in you is the knowledge of the truth. You are also the greatest resource to the rest of the world. Thus, the great commission is given to you. Let’s pray.
It’s so refreshing, Lord, to gather together with your people and to worship you and sing hymns that honor your name, that exalt you, that lift you up. It’s so refreshing again to be told, even though we’re unworthy, the worst of sinners, the lowest of the low that you before the foundation of the world, chose us, set your love on us, enabled us to love you in return, drew us into the circle of knowledge, poured out divine revelation, gave us your Word and your Spirit. You can make your Word known to us, and then called us to be the human agents by which you gather in your redeemed to the kingdom. This is marvelous in our eyes, beyond comprehension.
Our salvation is beyond our comprehension. Your grace is beyond our understanding. We thank you, Lord, that you have blessed us to see things, which the rulers of this age never see. The elite never know. The erudite never understand. We’re humbled by such grace and mercy. Thank you that stories which are really judgments on unbelievers are rich blessings to us who understand.
Thank you for the anointing which we have from God, even the blessed Holy Spirit who teaches us all things through the Word. Lord, we believe today in this hour sitting here, there are some people who are unbelievers, who maybe overtly don’t reject you, but they have never confessed you as Lord, forsaken all to follow you, denied self, taken up the cross, who have never abandoned the world, the flesh, the enemy; who have never fallen down in repentance to embrace Jesus Christ as the only hope in this life and more importantly in the life to come.
Lord, I pray that your grace would be mighty on their souls today and that their hearts would open like a flower to the Son, that they might embrace Christ and His glorious gospel. Judgment is a reality, but judgment is a tragedy. We seek no man’s judgment, even as you have no pleasure in the death of the wicked. So, Lord, put your saving grace on display even in lives here and now. This we ask in the Savior’s name. Amen.