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The Parables of Jesus

Acts 1:1 (NKJV).  The former account I made O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,…”.


Jesus would give an experience, and then He would teach from it.  Teach out of an experience.  The parables are experiences in and of itself.


At times He is in the midst of an experience, then He takes the opportunity to do further teaching.  E.g. Luke 15.  There are three parables that are linked together.  They are all teaching the same thing, but using a different parable.  The context: Jesus is sharing a meal with tax collectors and sinners.  The three parables when looked at with that linkage, provide something beautiful, but that is a different topic.


In other parables, He makes a point, then He would use a parable to emphasis it.  The stories are used to give us an experience that we can relate to.  Something that brings it back to everyday life that we know or can imagine.


Our verse from Acts.  “To do and teach.”  The context for this can be related back to Deuteronomy.  How?  Let’s look at the verse.


Deuteronomy 19:15 (NKJV).  “One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.”

Two or more witnesses.  The original context was when witnessing a crime, but throughout the Bible, it is used to confirm anything.  You need to have two or three witnesses.  John 8:17, 2 Cor 13:1 restate this.  One vs one is always difficult and most times impossible to determine the real truth.

This shows up in the ministry of Jesus.  Jesus makes a point (usually by doing), then backs it up with two or three witnesses.  The matter is confirmed or backed up through the additional parables.  The Master Teacher who was dealing with matters of the law by using two or more witnesses - on purpose.  He does it often.  This is why the parables are usually in pairs of two or three and follow something that He has done.  You may recall that 1/3 of Jesus’ teachings are parables.

Jesus did not invent the parable.  It was the preferred teaching method of a Rabbi.  This was not new.  We have thousands of parables that are recorded in other classic Rabbinic literature.  Jesus draws on these, but He takes them, then makes a small change that makes the people sit up and listen.


And from the mouth of a non-messianic Jew it was reported that these parables that Jesus tell, are on a level that are unparalleled in the Rabbinic world.  You can’t get anything better.  Jesus makes a whole new layer never seen before or since.


Parables are directed to life on this earth.  They are not allegories (a story, poem or picture that can reveal a hidden meaning or moral to the story).  And we should never overdo it.  So often we try to read into a parable more than what it is really saying.


Parables are meant to reveal something to us, to instruct.  Often, as Jesus was the teacher, with a message that they do not want to hear.  To wake them up.  For Jew, it was to make them realise how they need to really understand the law or Tanakh (what we call the Old Testament).  Each parable should make us wake up.  They are not meant to be comfortable.  They make you wrestle with things.  They can change you and you do not grow without challenge. 


Dig into the parables.  People know the parables, but how much do they really knowwwww them?  Ensure you get the context and go over all of the parables related to what He has done.  To the people of the day, as in Mark 4:1-2, this would have been mind blowing.  Not only that it was using parables that other Rabbi would have used, it went much further, they were preceded by what He did, and they were linked to the Bible that Jesus knew (the Old Testament or Tanakh).

We should all be encouraged to read the Scripture with a renewed vigour.  An excitement for what He is challenging us about, and of course, we should “do and teach”.

To do and Teach

We have an interesting phrase that appears in the very first verse of Acts.

Acts 1:1 (NKJV).  The former account I made O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,…”.

There is the phrase, “to do and teach”.  Notice the order.  To do, then teach!

This follows along with the teaching methodology of Jesus.  He would first do, then after, He would teach.  He gave the experience, then He taught after that.  He taught from the experience.

An example of this can be seen in Luke 15.  Jesus shares a meal.  Sharing a meal was a sign of acceptance, of love, of wanting to have a friendship.  The interesting part was who it was with.  Tax collectors and sinners.  Wow.  Who would want to be seen with these people?  Of course the religious leaders were upset.  They didn’t get it.  Why were they watching?  Jesus does something. He gives a story to support His point.  This is only one of a number of times that Jesus does this.

Everything was about the experience first, then the learning came next.  For us, we want the head knowledge first.  Which is not always the best way to learn.  Keep that in mind when dealing with others.

When Jesus says, love your enemies.  He demonstrates to His disciples what to do first.  This is called practicing what we preach and it is amazing how much of an impact this can have.  We feel and experience it first, then we are more ready to act and learn.  Some years ago I was able to witness to an atheist, while no one else had been able to.  Why?  He told me that all these other people had been telling him about Jesus, but when he looked at their life, there was no way that they followed their own teaching.  What he said was that I lived it out first and then was able to share the Gospel with this man.  I was so grateful that God used me in this opportunity.

How can a non-believer who hears you teach from the Bible believe what you are saying when you do not demonstrate it?

Our challenge.  Particularly during current circumstances.  Live it out first.  As an example, when you think about the experience that you have, you can talk about prayer (lots and lots), but until you need an experience that will allow you to learn, you do not put it into practice.  How can you utilise the experience, what kind of situations can you create?  How can I take advantage of the experience to help them (and myself) to learn?

Transformation rarely occurs until you experience something.  We learn faster when we experience things.  We can experience things, even if we do not physically or emotionally go through it ourselves.  This is another part of the fantastic way that Jesus teaches.  He helps us experience by giving stories that we can relate to.

If you cannot “do” the word of God, you cannot effectively teach it.

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