By Pastor Tom Anderson
I love a good story. It draws me in by making me curious or creating sympathy with the characters. Stories teach. Stories inspire. Stories also sober us up. Unlike any other Rabbi, Jesus made storytelling his main way of communication. In the history of religion, the parables of Jesus are something entirely new. No one else taught this way. The Sower sculpture outside Thrive church celebrates one of the greatest stories of Jesus.
New Testament scholarly consensus is that the parables are bedrock tradition. Joachim Jeramias said, “We are standing right before Jesus when reading his parables.” When you read a parable you are as close as you’ll ever be to reading the very words of Jesus. Do you want to stand before him? Do you want to hear directly about his mission and the meaning of life?
There are 38-40 parables of Jesus in the gospels–the actual number depends on how you classify some of his sayings. Jesus’s stories center on three main topics: 1)The grace of God; 2) the demands of following Jesus and 3) the dangers of disobedience.
The central concept uniting all his stories is the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom is both present right now and yet to come in fullness. It’s not to be equated with Israel or even the Church. It is the dynamic power of God which both reveals himself and forms a new human community. It involves both personal transformation and social reform.
The teaching of the stories of Jesus raises the question of his identity. Who is this guy who by his stories claims to forgive sins, pronounce God’s blessings or declare that the final judgment will be based on how we respond to him? The truth of Jesus as the Son of God is woven into his stories.
His stories call us to make a decision. Will we worship him? Follow him? Serve and live for him? The stories don’t leave us any neutral ground to stand on. They don’t afford us a place of idle curiosity or casual interest. They force us to choose sides: it’s either/or; follow him or oppose him. Join us for a summer journey into the momentous stories of Jesus!
July 3 Jesus and his stories Mt 13:10-17
July 10 The Sower Mt 13:1-9, 18-23
July 17 Weeds Mt 13:24-30
July 24 Mustard Seeds Mt 13:31-43
July 31 One Pearl Mt 13:44-46
August 7 One in a Hundred Mt 18:10-14
August 14 A King’s debtors Mt 18:21-35
August 21 Payday Mt 20:1-16
August 28 Separation Day Mt 25:31-46