THE PARABLES OF JESUS
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
A MIGHTY FORTRESS LUTHERAN CHURCH
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.
6421 W. Poinsettia Drive
The parables of Jesus show us how kindly and generous our heavenly Father is toward us. In each parable Jesus teaches us about God and our relationship to Him. Godís love toward us is shown in the simple and easy to memorize stories or parables Jesus. They are often defined as ďearthly stories with a heavenly meaning.Ē
Each parable of Jesus concerns something we can see in our minds. In many cases we have had a similar experience ourselves. If not, we can reproduce the parable in some ways. We can bake bread, or display a precious jewel, or plant some seeds.
One time I wanted to illustrate the parable of the Sower and the Seed. I gave each child a plastic bag with a certain number of striped sunflower seeds. They were supposed to go home and plant them in the sunniest spot in their yards. One boy got hungry and ate his on the way home. His parents laughed, because the first part of the parable tells that birds ate some seed that fell along the path. The little brotherís packet of seed had to make up for the losses.
Whenever possible, the children should see and touch the object lesson in the parable. Children enjoy concrete examples, just as adults do.
The teacher should also encourage the class to memorize a Scripture verse each week. These lessons will use the King James Version for several reasons. The text behind the translation is more reliable. The language is old-fashioned but never changes. Even the revisions of modern translations are rapidly changing, making memorization difficult and confusing. In addition, the heritage of the King James, through William Tyndale, gives us a translation closest to Martin Lutherís.
The great Lutheran hymns, especially those of Paul Gerhardt, also teach us the Word of God by using earthy examples. The teacher should make an effort to use hymns as another way of teaching the same lesson. We can sing a poem more easily than recite it. A hymn expresses our religious faith. When we sing, as Luther says, our soul praises God.
Some people will say that using the King James Version and the great Lutheran hymns will be a challenge for children. How many parents, out of love, will serve their children soda pop and cookies all day long? Eating good food and other habits require time and patience. The same is true for our religious habits.
Jesus is the Son of God. His Father sent Him into our world to share our human nature. His divine nature and human nature were united for all time in the person of Jesus, from the moment of His miraculous conception.
We are drawn to Jesus because of His divine love and His human nature. Knowing our weakness, He taught in parables to make His message clear. His immediate audience knew exactly what He was talking about.
We are sometimes removed from the subject of the parables. Not all farm. Not all have raised a sheep or cared for a fig tree. The difficulties in the Word of God are ours. God is perfectly clear in teaching every doctrine, always in many different forms. When we have a problem with a passage, it is an opportunity to study the Word more carefully.
Experience teaches us that we soon lose our trust in the Word when trials come our way. Everyone who has a chance to teach children will benefit from their great faith in Jesus and Godís Word. We should listen to the parables with child-like faith.
Matthew 13:33 Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.
Count the words in the parable itself. The comparison is made in 24 words!
1. The Kingdom of heaven, or Kingdom of God, exists wherever God rules, in the heart of every believer.
2. Leaven is yeast, a plant that grows by budding when it feeds on dough. The woman did not use the fast-working yeast we buy in stores but slow-acting sourdough.
3. Three measures of meal equal a bushel of flour. The amount of dough is very large and yet the leaven leavens the entire lump. (In Greek the noun leaven is also used in a verb form, just like the KJV.)
A. Ask the class about baking bread and kneading the dough.
B. Bring yeast, flour, sugar, and warm water to class. Dissolve the yeast in water and mix with the flour and sugar. Let the students stir it. Kneading it can be very messy but fun and therapeutic. If there is time, let everyone knead dough until it is springy and starting to rise. Cut the dough with a sharp knife and show the bubbles of carbon dioxide caused by yeast.
C. Get a recipe for making sourdough and make a sourdough recipe during the week. Bring some sourdough to class and discuss how slowly it works compared to modern packaged yeast.
D. Draw a picture or poster of a woman kneading a huge ball of soughdough. Look for pictures of women in primitive cultures .
The Holy Spirit works through the Gospel to influence every aspect of our lives. The leaven is the Gospel at work in our lives. (The woman is not the Holy Spirit. We are not supposed to find a parallel to every detail of the parable.) The dough can be seen as the individual life of the believer. The Gospel message of forgiveness has the divine power to make us gradually more forgiving, loving, patient, courageous, and considerate.
The huge amount of dough can also be seen as the Gospel working in the world. See Genesis 18:6; Judges 6:19; 1 Samuel 1:24. God uses the Word alone (preached, taught, or in the Sacraments) to distribute the leaven of forgiveness. God never works apart from the Word.