I Will Speak in Parables

“O people, hear my teaching, and listen to the words of my mouth. I will speak in parables and utter things hidden since the creation of the world.” These words of Psalm 78 find their prophetic fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ in about the second year of His Galilean ministry. This was a time of confrontation with the religious elite who were plotting to kill Him. It is interesting to note, that from this time forward, whenever Jesus spoke to crowds, he used these short stories. His disciples noticed this change and immediately inquired about it. His response revealed that they were being given the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven. This was a lot to assimilate.

The Greek word translated “parable” throughout the Synoptic Gospels is parabole. The word comes from two Greek roots: para [beside] and balio [throw]. It actually means “to place alongside.” In these brief stories we see the genius of Jesus’ teaching which was the obvious overflow of His authoritative nature and/or essence. Each parable is permeated by echoes of the Old Testament while at the same time giving us a platform to appropriate the immediate presence and future culmination of the kingdom of God. All of these stories contain a “hidden-to-visible” pattern, challenging the hearer into new territory of thought, imagination, and obedience. These parables are staged in daily arenas of life like agriculture, finance, employment, and celebration. They contain elements of surprise, humor, challenge, and relationships. They also expose and consequentially exclude those who reject their truths.

In every parable Jesus concludes with the ominous phrase “those with ears to hear, let them hear.” In the New Testament the sense of hearing is often used to represent the other senses. We get our word “acoustic” from the Greek word for hearing. It is interesting to note that the Greek word for obedience has the same root with an attached prefix indicating a “hyper” quality. Obedience then is a sort of “hyper-acoustic” that clarifies and amplifies our hearing.