What a treasure trove of parables we are getting at the moment! In recent weeks, we have read the parable of the sower and the parable of wheat and tares and now today we get five all at once – so many images and stories for us to learn from in one sitting.
As you know, Jesus used parables to help us to understand mysteries. God is beyond our understanding, words are inadequate to describe or explain God, so Jesus used these stories, these images and symbols of everyday things in order to reveal something to us about God. Everything we can possibly say about God is inadequate, but by using parables Jesus lets us glimpse something of the infinite reality of God, but safely within our own limits.
But of course symbols and allegories and images are by their nature a bit unspecific – we can’t take them at face value but have to interpret them. Usually, Jesus helps us out, as he does here, by telling us something about what they mean, in this case the kingdom of God. But these parables are all very different, so what exactly are we to learn about the kingdom from these parables?
I’m not going to tell you.
No, really, I’m not. I am not going to tell you what these parables mean, I’m not going to tell you what you should learn about God from these parables. No. Because that’s your job.
It may be that you think you’re not up to the job – I certainly felt like that when I first started reading the Bible seriously. Or maybe you think that you know already what the parables mean – they’re so familiar, and you’ve been told hundreds of times what they mean. Or maybe you think it’s my job to tell you – that’s what I get paid for after all, so why should you try to figure it out? Or perhaps you want to find someone else to tell you what to think – reach for a book or ask Google.
But I’m serious – this really is your job. It is the job of everyone who considers themselves Christian to dig deep into Scripture, because it is through Scripture that we get to know God, get to know Jesus. How can we have a relationship with Jesus if we don’t spend time with him? If we don’t listen – really listen – to what he has to say to us?
So no, I’m not going to tell you what these parables mean. Instead, I’m going to ask you to spend time thinking about what God is saying to you – to you alone – in this scripture this week. Get the Bible out. Sit quietly. Pray, and ask God to help you hear. Read the passage, then sit and think about it. Pray some more. Live in the parables – imagine you are there, kneading the dough, sorting the fish, uncovering the treasure, buying the pearl. Maybe look to see if you can find things these parables all have in common, or try to find something different in each parable, some unique way in which each one describes the kingdom of God.
Do whatever works to keep you thinking about the parables. But above all, spend time praying and listening. Wait confidently for some insight as you hold the parables in your mind. Read. Pray. Re-read. Enjoy being with God as you read and think and dwell in God’s Word.
We call it the Word of God for a reason. Listen. God is waiting. Amen.
Read this week’s Notices.