What’s a parable, and why did Jesus use them?
Open Matthew 13.
Like an otter, but with a bill like a duck. If you don’t know what a platypus is, comparisons can help.
Even if you do know what something is, comparisons change how you think of it. “Listening to gossip is like eating cheap candy; do you really want junk like that in your belly?” (Proverbs 18:8 Msg).
Jesus was famous for his parables, similitudes that describe one thing as like another. Sometimes the comparison was a single sentence; other times he spun a yarn with intrigue.
Matthew pulls seven or eight of his parables together in chapter 13. They’re drawn from everyday life: farming, baking, gardening, buying, selling, fishing, entertaining. But they’re all about the same thing. Can you guess? Continue reading “Parables of the king (Matthew 13)”
If the king says so, you have a place in his family.
Open Matthew 12:46-50.
Joseph was absent from Jesus’ adult life, so responsibility for the family fell to the oldest son. Jesus was firstborn, but he’d been travelling instead of looking after his family.
Suddenly they turn up: Continue reading “Belonging to the royal family (Matthew 12:46-50)”
Can a generation be worse off if it refuses to follow Jesus?
Open Matthew 12:43-45.
Jesus’ contemporaries called him Satan’s servant — one who pretended to release people, but actually made their oppression worse (12:24). After pointing out the flaws in their logic (12:25-29), he offered them a royal pardon for their insult. But he warned that they would have no release if they resisted God’s Holy Spirit (12:31-32).
He went on to describe how their situation would worsen if they rejected his leadership. Listen to this parable: Continue reading “Worse off with Jesus? (Matthew 12:43-45)”
Did you know that Jesus claimed to be greater than the greatest king Israel had ever had?
Open Matthew 12:42 and 2 Chronicles 9.
Jesus was the king anointed to restore God’s reign on earth. That message was often so subtle that we miss it, but there was this time when he made an astounding claim to kingship. Continue reading “Jesus’ most overt kingship claim (Matthew 12:42)”
How did Jonah’s story help Jesus pursue his mission?
Open Matthew 12:38-41 and Jonah 2.
Why did Jesus compare himself to Jonah? How could Jonah’s story have inspired Jesus and helped him understand his mission? Continue reading “How Jonah inspired Jesus (Matthew 12:38-41)”
Our words reveal more about us than we intend.
Open Matthew 12:30-32.
Hang on. Can this be the same Jesus who “wouldn’t hurt a bruised reed” (12: 20)?
Children of vipers! How can you say anything good when you’re evil? (Matthew 12:34)
What happened to, “Judge not” (7:1)? Continue reading “You say more than you realize (Matthew 12:34-37)”
Fruitful conversations have a context. That’s how language works.
Open Matthew 12:33.
When your spouse says, “Can we eat out tonight?” what they mean depends on the context.
Perhaps you’re both dog tired, and all you want is a fresh roll from Subway before you fall asleep. But if the kids are sleeping over with friends tonight, it might mean, “I’d like some quality time with you.” Or perhaps what they mean is, “Did you remember it’s our anniversary? I’d like to celebrate our life together.”
We all know that meaning depends on context. When you’re close to someone, sharing the same context, it’s easier to pick up on what they’re saying. It is harder when the message comes from a different culture, through another language, from a bygone era, the way the Bible does. Yes, it’s harder work to hear the message as the people in that culture and time would have heard it. But it’s so worth it!
Novelists and script writers give us context to make sense of what their characters say. A good biographer takes you through the person’s words into the meaning of their life.
So we’re not making any special claim about the Bible when we ask you to hear what it’s saying in context. We’re very likely to misunderstand its message and misuse it if we ignore the context. Because that’s true of language in general, it’s true of the Bible too.
Let’s take an example. What do you think Jesus meant by this?
Continue reading “Why does context matter? (Matthew 12:33)”