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  • Writer's pictureSteve Luxa

The Parables

Parables were an essential go-to for Jesus in teaching. As Matthew tells us: “All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable.” (Matthew 13:34) So, why? Why wasn’t Jesus simply straightforward and plainly lay out the truth?

 

For one, he did it to sift out the fan from the true follower. (That’s what Jesus meant in Matthew 13:12-13.) A fan might respect Jesus, or give warm approval, but a fan won’t rearrange their life for Jesus. A true follower is different because not only do they respect Jesus, but they also rearrange their life to follow and obey Jesus. It’s the difference between applauding what he does and apprenticing ourselves after what he does. So, the parables were Jesus’ way to sift his listeners for the serious followers.

 

In addition, Jesus taught in parables to challenge our preconceived notions about life and faith, and reorient us to life in the kingdom of God. (That’s what Jesus meant in Matthew 13:11.) As Neil helpfully framed it for me, parables are provocations… provocations for us to seek first the kingdom of God in our lives and in this world. To seek Christ-like formation of our hearts, and Christ-like obedience in our words and actions. To seek sharing Christ’s love in dying and rising for people to be welcomed into God’s fatherly presence and family. To seek showing Christ’s love and perspective in blessing others with their God-given due as image-bearers. So, the parables were Jesus’ way to get around people’s defenses to reorient them to be kingdom-seekers.

 

Those same dual reasons for the parables still hold for us today. The parables separate the fan from the follower because only the follower will engage deeply enough to ask questions of Jesus, and figure out what this means for their present life. The parables also provoke us to kingdom-living and prioritizing the kingdom’s advance over all other cares and concerns on earth.

 

That is why we’re taking the summer to study Jesus’ parables. In the lightness and space of summer, we’re going to let Jesus till the soil of our heart to plant the seeds of kingdom-living more deeply in us so that we enter the Fall as more substantive plants of the kingdom. That way, we’ll be ready to engage schools and jobs, neighborhoods and elections, recreation and rest with a greater kingdom in mind and in practice. Could you imagine what it would be like if we were set on greater things of the kingdom? Could you imagine what peace we might feel in the tumultuous cares and concerns around us, and what influence we might have with others in that?

 

So, in June, we’re going to let Jesus surprise us with the kingdom, and so draw us into the goodness of God’s kingdom. In July, we’re going to let Jesus scandalize us, and so shock us into waking up to God’s kingdom. And in August, we’re going to let Jesus make kingdom demands of us, as our rightful Lord and King, and so challenge us and empower us for kingdom living.

 

May God set our hearts more deeply on his kingdom, and our lives more deeply on his will come on earth as it is in heaven so that we’d know the peace within, and the influence of blessing to others.

 

Seeking the Kingdom with You,

 

Steve

 

P.S. Listen to the introductory sermon in this series here.

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