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THE PARABLES OF JESUS

Understanding the Christian Life And

The Relationship of the Old and New Covenants

 

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"To Him who opened His mouth in parables and

uttered things hidden since the creation of the world."

Psalm 78:2

 

INTRODUCTION TO THE SERIES:

Tonight, begins a new group study in order to help understand the words of Jesus that He spoke in parables to His disciples, the pharisees and those who followed Him. These studies are of my own design and, of course, are based on the teachings of the many Bible teachers who have gone before. "We will be standing on the shoulders of Giants!"[i]


INTRODUCTION TO THE PARABLES OF JESUS:

The parables are the direct words of Jesus! Now, open your ears, sharpen your understanding, and hear what He has to say!

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Why Was Jesus’ Ministry Centered In Galilee?

Jesus focused His ministry in one small place in Israel: Galilee, in the three cities of Corazin (about 3 miles North of the Sea of Galilee), Capernaum (on the North West coast of the Sea of Galilee), and Bethsaida (about 2 miles North East of the Sea of Galilee. Although many people today assume that Galileans were simple, uneducated peasants who lived in an isolated area, the truth is they interacted more with the world than the Jews of Judah and Jerusalem. The Via Maris trade route which connected Egypt with the northern empires of Syria, Anatolia (Turkey), and Mesopotamia (Iran-Iraq), passed through Galilee, exposing them to many different peoples and cultures.

 

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The Galileans were also the most religious Jews in the world during Jesus' time. They revered and knew the Scriptures well. They were passionately committed to living out their faith and passing their faith, knowledge, and lifestyle to their children. This led to the establishment of vibrant religious communities; a strong commitment to families and country; and active participation in the local synagogues; the community centers of that day. In fact, more famous Jewish teachers came from Galilee than anywhere else.

The Galileans resisted the pagan influences of Hellenism [under Greek culture and influence] far longer than their Judean counterparts, and when the great revolt against the Romans and their collaborators finally occurred (AD 66-74), it began among the Galileans. In fact most of those who followed Jesus everywhere He went fully believed He was the Messiah, the chosen and anointed One of God.

Clearly God carefully prepared the environment in which Jesus was born and reared so that he would have exactly the context he needed in order to present his messages of "The Gospel," and "the kingdom of heaven" effectively, and so that people would understand and join his new movement. He was born in Bethlehem, Judea. He moved to Nazareth to minister to those who would “hear” what He had to say.

A deeper knowledge of Galilee and its people helps us understand the great faith and courage of Jesus' disciples, who left Galilee and shared the "good news" with the world (Evidence indicated that Judas Iscariot was apparently the only non-Galilean among Jesus' twelve, closest disciples). The disciples' courage, the message they taught, the methods they used, and their complete devotion to God and his Word were born in Galilee's religious communities.

From: Focus on the Family (Edited)
thattheworldmayknow.com/the-amazing-galileans

 


 

Can anything good come out of Nazareth?

Judeans despised their northern neighbors as country cousins, their lack of Jewish sophistication being compounded by their greater openness to Hellenistic influence. The Judean opinion was that Galileans were lax in their observance of proper ritual, and the problem was exacerbated by the distance of Galilee from the temple and the theological leadership, which was focused in Jerusalem. An impeccably Jewish Galilean who found himself in Jerusalem was as much of a foreigner as an Irishman in London. His accent would immediately mark him as “not one of us,” and the prejudice of the supposedly superior culture of the capital city would stand against Jesus’ claim to be heard even as a prophet, let alone as the “Messiah,” a title which, as everyone knew, belonged to Judea (cf. John 7:40-42). Both Mark and Matthew have structured their narratives around a geographical framework dividing the north from the south, culminating in the confrontation of this prophet from Galilee and the religious establishment – “This is the story of Jesus of Nazareth.”

 

From: The Gospel Coalition (Edited)
Justin Taylor, 7 Differences between Galilee and Judea in the time of Jesus.
https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/7-differences-between-galilee-and-judea-in-the-time-of-jesus/

 



Why did the Jewish religious leadership hate Jesus so much?
“… In Scripture, we find people who reacted to Jesus with hostility, and chief among these people are the scribes and Pharisees. We read in Luke 20 that the scribes and the chief priests sought to have Jesus arrested. In John 5, we are told that they wanted to kill Him, and in chapters 8 and 10, they tried to stone Him.

When we read these accounts in Scripture, we are prompted to ask, Why did these people speak the way they did and feel the way they did with such hostility toward Jesus? It’s difficult to provide a complete answer as to why they were motivated in this way, but here are three reasons why the religious authorities hated Jesus so much.

The first is this: They were jealous of Him. Why would they be jealous of the Son of God? Everywhere Jesus went, He attracted huge throngs, multitudes, crowds pressing around to listen to His every word, watching His every move. He was profoundly popular among the people, whereas the rulers of the Jews laid heavy burdens on their people, and they approached the masses, the people of the earth, with something like a spirit of disdain and scorn. While they wouldn’t think of having dinner with a tax collector, Jesus freely associated with people whom the Pharisees considered “rabble.”

The people loved Jesus, and they received Him gladly, but what they felt from the Pharisees was judgment. The only thing the Pharisees looked at was the people’s sin, and so they had a certain contempt for the common people. They saw Jesus associating with the common people and saw them cheering Him, loving Him. They couldn’t stand it because they were envious and suspicious of His popularity.

The second reason why they hated Him was because He exposed them. Before Jesus came, it was the Pharisees particularly, as well as the Sadducees and scribes, who set the moral standard for the community. They sat in the highest places in the synagogue. They were the ones who were most honored and celebrated for their virtue, but their virtue, as Jesus taught repeatedly, was a pretense. It was external. He said: “You’re like dead men’s tombs, whitewashed sepulchers that are painted without blemish on the surface but inside are filled with dead men’s bones. You clean the outside of the platter, but the other side, the inner side, is filthy. You do everything possible to hide that impurity, that grime, and that filthiness from public view. You pretend to be righteous, and you major in that pretense of being righteous.”

… they masqueraded as devotees of righteousness and obedience. In a word, they were counterfeit. They were fake. And nothing reveals a counterfeit like the presence of the genuine. When Jesus walked this earth, true righteousness and holiness was manifested by Him before the eyes of the people. It didn’t take exceptional brilliance to discern the difference between the real and the counterfeit. So the Pharisees were exposed, and because they were exposed by the true and authentic holiness of Christ, they hated Him, and they couldn’t wait to get rid of Him.

The third reason I think that they hated Him is because they were afraid—not so much of what He would do to them in His wrath but of the consequences of welcoming Him into their midst. Why were they afraid? Look at the history of Israel. In almost every generation going back to Abraham, the Israelites lived under the domination and oppression of a foreign nation. You’ve heard of the Pax Romana; there’s also the Pax Israeliana. The Pax Israeliana, or the peace of Israel, was always extremely short-lived. Almost always, the people were a conquered people, a people who lived under the oppression and the tyranny of their enemies. In the case of the first-century Jews, the oppressor was Rome.

.. Those who were in positions of power and authority, as the Pharisees and Sadducees were, feared losing their power and authority. The Jewish leaders feared the consequences of a revolt against Rome. That’s on almost every page of the New Testament. They feared the Romans. They feared that Jesus somehow would lead an insurrection, cause another uprising, and consequently bring a bloodbath, and so they sought to remove Him before He caused them trouble.

R. C. Sproul, Why did the Pharisees hate Jesus so much? (Edited)
https://www.ligonier.org/posts/why-did-pharisees-hate-jesus-so-much


 

So, Why Parables?

The parables [Gk. Stories Thrown Alongside], to many, seem like just a collection of interesting stories that Jesus throws in to confuse the religious leaders who confront Him. Nothing could be further from the truth.

 

The parables are specifically designed for the response of those who hear them. God specifically makes some to hear and some to not hear. The principles found in the parables can only be fully discerned by those who have been prepared by God and then, only by contact with the Word of God and through Faith. It is Jesus who is the Word of God and understanding of these parabolic stories can only be understood through Faith in Him then and now.

The parables are a look into the mirror. We see who we are in relationship to Christ. They show us Christ and His will in and for us. They show us our heavenly Father and they show us His Son's Kingdom - both the easy and pleasant, and the hard and difficult. Jesus has come to be revealed not concealed. His words and His actions are to prove just who He is - Almighty God.

In this study of the parables, use your ears and pay attention. Hear the significance of what is veiled in these parables. Consider the truths revealed carefully. Just as in the whole of Scripture, the characters found there are used as our guides who point to Christ. Therefore, we will be responsible for what He has given us. Grace refused... will be grace withdrawn - it was so in Jesus' day; it is so today.

There are different categories of parables. It is important to note that we need to pay special attention to the beginning of each parable. Much of the language use is symbolic in nature, but Jesus quite often introduced the "object" of the parable in the first few words. He says things like, "The Kingdom of heaven is like a man who....,” or "The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed...." These particular parables are about The King and His Kingdom, and the King is Jesus. Many miss this important feature. So, there are Kingdom Parables, Christian Life Parables, Wisdom and Folly Parables, Judgment Parables, and others.

Our studies will follow a chronological time-line. We will address story after story in pretty-much the same order as Jesus told them. Along the way we may get a glimpse at the local context and begin to identify with the people, the places, and the times.

Not all of our parables are labeled in the scriptures as "parables," but these symbolic stories carry the same purpose... Real truths veiled in symbolic stories.

Many of the people involved in the parables are symbolic of Israel, Israel's people, and Israel's leadership. Israel's past is full of the provision and love of God and their continual rejection of Him… followed by their falling away into idol worship. We need to remember that the Gospels are all about the end of the Old Testament [and the Old Covenant]. Jesus comes to "close out" that nation and that people for the most part and will shortly (the last verses of the book of Matthew) instruct His disciples to move on to the Gentile world, so we should mostly look to those "Last Days" of Israel meanings first, then the application to all the people of God as it applies to both then and now.

It is also important to remember that Israel was a "covenant" nation. They were given a place before God of much love and blessing - just because He chose to love them. Their covenant relationship to Him was, and is, a "conditional" relationship. "If you will... then I will... If you won't... then I won't." Within the covenant relationship was the "salvation" of God - separate but integral to the plan of God for the people of the nation. In the plan of God for Israel, the "remnant" was always the focus of His salvation. It is clear from the scriptures that while God offered His "by grace salvation," only a percentage of people would ever choose and believe Him as their King, Lord and Savior. God is not done with Israel, but that is another story.

The parables lead up to Christ on the Cross. In fact, the last parable -- The land tenants and and the monies earned through investment [Mt 25:14-29] -- end with Jesus' "Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem" and its great contrast of His death on the Cross. "And when He had said these things, He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem," Luke 19:28, and "And when He drew near and saw the city, He wept over it," saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:41-44 There were two great sieges of Jerusalem. One 70 years before Jesus was born by the Babylonians and the final and complete siege of 70 AD by the Romans.



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REFERENCE WORKS



[i] James Montgomery Boice, The Parables of Jesus, Moody Publishers, Chicago ©1983

Arnold C. Gaebeline, The Gospel of Matthew, An Exposition, Our Hope, NY ©1910

Harry A. Ironside, Litt.D, Expository Notes on the Gospel of Mark, Loizeaux Brothers NY ©1948

W.H. Van Doren, Suggested Commentary on Luke, I.K. Funk & Co., Ill ©1881

A.A. Bruce, The Trining of the Twelve, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, Mi ©1971

The Daily Bible, 1 Chronological Order w. commentary by F. LaGard Smith, Harvest Publishers, Eugene, Or ©1984

J. Vernon McGee, Moving Through Matthew, Thru the Bible Books Foundation, Pasadena, CA - Undated

J. Vernon McGee, Matthew Volume 1, El Camino Press, LaVerne, CA ©1975

Arthur W. Pink, The Prophetic Parables of Matthew 13, Calvary Book Room, Covington, KY - Undated

Richard Chenevix Trench, Miracles & Parables of Christ, M.A., AMG Publishers ©1996

Donald A. Carson - The Gospel Coalition [TGC] - Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Alistair Begg - Truth For Life ministries - Parkside Church, Cleveland [Chargrin Falls], OH

 


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