Parables: Timeless Stories Mark 4:33-34


33 With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. 34 He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.

Mark 4:33-34 NIV

Horsham, 6th May 2024

These verses make clear that parables were really important to Jesus. We need to remember that the people he was speaking to had huge expectations of what God’s Kingdom and the coming Messiah would be like. They expected the Messiah to be a strong King of the old style, a true military leader who would restore Israel and evict the Roman occupiers. We begin to understand that when Jesus started his description of God’s kingdom as a tiny mustard seed, many people would miss the point he was making. He was trying to lead them through a transition to understand the truth of the Kingdom of God, one step at a time.

The parables are simple stories with a purpose and a meaning. I want to focus in this post on the timeless nature of them.

I’m really fascinated by the conversations which are going on right now about  a roman artefact, being called a dodecahedron. The word means ‘twelve sided object’, and very few of them have been found. It’s a fascinating and complex object, cast in bronze. The interesting thing is that we have no idea at all what it was called by the Romans, or what it was used for.

The reality is that the Roman world, and first century Palestine in particular, was rich in objects which would mean little to us today. In the same way that my grandson has no idea and little interest in what an 8 track stereo system was (very prestigious let me tell you in the late 1970’s), a story about a dodecahedron (or whatever it was called by the Romans) would have meant nothing to me today. It would have failed the test of time.

Mark offers a small selection of parables. Matthew and Luke offer several more. It’s almost certain that Jesus would have spoken dozens, hundreds even a thousand more which have not been preserved for us. The Apostle John affirms that not everything Jesus said or did was written down (John 21:25).

How incredible, then, that in those parables to which we have access, the images Jesus used make sense. For all of our technological advances, we understand the image of building your house on a rock, rather than the sand. We have a pretty good idea what an oil lamp looks like. We can get our head around the idea of a tiny mustard seed growing into a large tree.

We can still miss the point of Jesus’ parables. My point is that in spite of all the changes in culture, technology and human understanding, 2000 years later, the stories he told are still accessible. The parables of Jesus still make sense. Timeless.

Richard Jackson, West Sussex: LifePictureUK

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