Why Parables?

June 13, 2021 | N W | Commitment, Deacon Eddie, Discipleship

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 13, 2021 — Year B
Readings: Ez 17:22-24 / Ps 92 / 2 Cor 5:6-10 / Mk 4:26-34
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon

In today’s gospel, we join Jesus and the disciples, and Jesus is preaching to the crowd. We are told He preached, as always, with parables. I’ve always wondered, “Why did Jesus teach in parables?” So, I Googled it! – and you see all kinds of reasons listed – some more fulfilling than others.

But I think the simple fact is that there is no single reason that Jesus taught in parables.
I think there are lots of reasons He spoke that way.

(I don’t know about you, though, I would like a little more of a transcript of what He actually said to the disciples. I’d like to have been a fly on the wall for that, but we don’t get as much of that as we may like.)

So, why did Jesus speak in parables? One reason is, it was who He was. Jesus was fully divine and fully human, but He was also a priest, prophet, and king.

Throughout the Hebrew scriptures we see prophets speaking in parables. Did you catch it in the first reading? From the book of the prophet Ezekiel, “I, too, will take a crest of the cedar, from its topmost branch, tear off a tender root, and plant it on a high and lofty mountain.” That’s a parable. Jesus’ audience would have picked up on that. They would have expected a prophet to speak that way, and Jesus knew his audience.

And that’s the second reason why He spoke in parables. He knew his audience. You see, for the most part, Jesus was preaching to farmers, shepherds, fishermen, carpenters. Not so much to theologians and scripture scholars. So, He spoke in language they were accustomed to. He spoke in ways that they could understand. And he speaks to us the same way. Because the smartest scripture scholars on earth today are not even preschoolers compared to Jesus in His knowledge. So, He spoke to us then, and now, in parables to help us understand.

But there is another reason He spoke in parables, and it had to do with the message that this type of discourse presented. If you think back to the beginning of the Gospel stories, we hear about the beginnings of Jesus’ ministry, and we hear about the ministry of John the Baptist. What was John the Baptist’s message? “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”

That word “repent” was actually, in Greek, “metanoia,” and it literally means “to change your mind,” but not to make a new decision – not to have decided one thing, and then decided another – although there is an aspect of that. It means to fundamentally change your mind. It means for your mind and your whole person to undergo a complete and utter transformation, because our job is to continue spreading His Kingdom. Unless we experience this metanoia, we are woefully ill-equipped to do that.

Sure, it’s nice to have rules, and it’s nice to have rules to fall back on. But if you are just following rules, then you have not undergone that fundamental change. You are not there yet. I’m not there yet. None of us are.

Speaking in parables hints at that change. Specifically, the readings today talk about small changes: the mustard seed – the smallest thing growing into a great tree. And, brothers and sisters, when we open our heart to the Spirit, and that change takes place in us, then we can continue the work of building the Kingdom.

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