A five week set of parables

September 15, 2017

The Pastor's Page

Jesus, Master Teacher by Parable

The parable is the literary form used by Jesus to teach in the gospels of Weeks Twenty-Four to Twenty-Eight of Ordinary Time in Year A. Jesus was unparalleled as a teacher. In modern terms, he was a “master teacher.” Jesus went from town to town teaching (Mt 11:1). When he taught, the people were simply astounded, spellbound at his words (Mt 7:28; 22:33). His teaching was like no one else; it was authoritative. He was commanding, convincing, reliable, truthful, insightful, helpful, far better than the scribes (Mt 7:29) and everyone else of his time. Jesus used a wide variety of teaching methods: speeches, wisdom sayings, scriptural interpretations, question and answer exchanges, friendly words of advice, rhetorical questions – and parables.

The Parable. A parable is a literary form. It is a story, usually short in length, used to teach a lesson or a moral truth. It uses people and situations from ordinary daily life that are common and easy to understand. Many of the features of the story, either the characters, the event, the items used, or other carefully selected details, are allegorical – they represent something else. The parable is an effective teaching tool because it grabs and holds attention. The listener is captivated by the characters and setting, and curious to know how it will turn out in the end.

Jesus’ Use of Parables. Parables were widely used by the better teachers of the First Century, teachers, wise men, rabbis, and scholars, but Jesus took them to a higher level. Jesus used his parables to challenge his listeners. He devised characters that seemed innocuous that his listeners would easily identify with, and then his parables would end abruptly with an unexpected twist. The story would reveal a fault or deficiency in a character that would challenge the listener’s preconceived notions. His parables employed symbolic imagery, had multiple levels of meaning, could be interpreted in a number of ways, and were open-ended. His parables do not have a single absolutely correct interpretation and the richness of their meaning is never totally exhausted. There is a call to conversion imbedded in each story.

Week 24A, The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Mt 18:21-35). As the master forgave a debtor who owed a huge debt, we should also forgive those who are indebted to us. If we are unmerciful with others, why should we expect God to be merciful with us? Jesus wants us to forgive others from the heart.

Week 25A, The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Mt 20:1-16). The master gave a full day’s pay to everyone who worked in the vineyard, those who started at 6:00 a.m., 9:00 a.m., 12:00 noon, 3:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m. Jesus wants us to do his work, and he wants us to get to work as early as possible, but no matter when we finally accept his invitation, once we finally do his bidding our salvation is assured.

Week 26A, The Parable of the Two Sons (Mt 21:28-32). The elder son made a good promise and failed to follow through, while the younger son made a bad promise, reconsidered, and finally did the right thing. Jesus wants to implement the positive features of each son, to make the right promise and then to do the right thing.

Week 27A, The Parable of the Tenants (Mt 21:33-43). The vineyard is the People of God, and the tenants are the religious leaders who are supposed to serve and feed the people. Anyone in a position of authority that does so in a self-serving way is not following God’s way.

Week 28A, The Parable of the Wedding Feast (Mt 22:1-14). The wedding feast is an image for heaven, and Jesus wants us to accept his invitation to attend without excuses, and when we arrive, he wants us dressed in the proper wedding garment, a white robe emblematic of a life of good deeds and a soul cleansed of sins.

About Father Michael Van Sloun

Father Michael A. Van Sloun is the pastor of Saint Bartholomew of Wayzata, MN. Ministerial interests include weekly Bible study, articles on theological topics, religious photography, retreats on Cross spirituality, and pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

View all posts by Father Michael Van Sloun