Feb 6- Kingdom Parables

This week, we will look at some of the kingdom parables from Matthew 13, and then next week we will look at Luke’s three lost parables, so perhaps a parable primer might be helpful.

What is a parable?

Put as simply as possible, a parable is a made-up story. But this simple definition in no way does justice to the importance, veracity, and beauty of parables. While the details of a parable are fictitious, the point of a parable is true. We cannot forget this. Parables are vehicles to teach God’s truth in a way that people can understand. They are an act of divine condescension (God coming down to our level to bring us to where we need to be).

Steven Smith helps us see the beauty of parables when he states, “The Parables of Jesus come from the very imagination of God.” [1] Have you ever thought about that? Every single parable gives us a glimpse into the imagination of the Creator! I never thought of this until I read that sentence. But I am glad I did. It has helped me reframe how I look at parables.

Why did Jesus teach with parables?

We have already alluded to the big idea of why Jesus taught in parables: to help people understand God’s truth. Remember that parables were not the only way Jesus taught. If He had, that would have made it harder to understand—He would have been a teacher of riddles. Instead, Jesus used parables to supplement his straightforward teachings.

I’m glad that the disciples asked this very question (see Matthew 13:10-17). Jesus gave two reasons. The first is what we have already shared. To help those who were willing to believe to understand the truth.

But Jesus gave a second reason: to hide the truth from those who did not want to believe. Seems sort of troubling, doesn’t it? Here is a helpful footnote from the CSB Study Bible: “The hiddenness component of Jesus’s teaching may seem harsh, but since greater exposure to truth increases one’s accountability to God in judgment (11:20-24), the concealment may represent God’s graciousness toward those whom he knew would be unresponsive.” [2]

For our context of teaching kids, I would encourage you to focus on the first reason that Jesus used parables—to help us understand God’s truth.

How do we interpret a parable?

The rule of thumb, and it is not absolute, is that parables teach one big idea. When we study a parable, this should be foremost in our thinking. What is the big idea of what Jesus is saying in this parable? When we look at the kingdom parables in Matthew 13, this will become apparent.

So how do we determine what that idea is? Context, context, context. Remember that each Gospel writer compiled his account for a reason—there is something he wanted to communicate. That is what guided each one to include the content that he included, exclude the content that he excluded, and arrange the content in the order it appears, rather than following a strict chronology. Let me be clear, this is not to say that the Gospels are unreliable. They are completely true. They present the true story of Jesus without error and they do not contradict each other. But they do so with the freedom God gave them according to His guidance to tell the true story of Jesus in a way to drive home the point they wanted to make.

An example might help. If you scan through all four Gospels, Matthew’s inclusion of much more Old Testament quotes should become quickly apparent, especially if your Bible formats Old Testament quotes to stand out. Why did Matthew choose to include more Old Testament quotes than Mark, Luke, or John? Because of their different audiences. Matthew was writing to the Jews so one of his big ideas is that Jesus is the Messiah—the fulfillment of Old Testament hopes and prophecies. Does this mean that Mark, Luke, and John didn’t believe this? Of course not. They didn’t focus on this as much because their audiences were different. This content did not support the points they were making as much.

The first step in interpreting a parable, then, is to consider its context. Read the rest of the chapter, trying to identify why the writer structured the chapter as he did. Then consider the surrounding chapters. Can you see any themes or ideas that the writer was developing?

Then when it comes to the parable itself, noting the characters in the parable is a good place to start. Focus on them and their actions and attitudes rather than the other details. Again, we will see how this is helpful in a minute when we do a quick survey of the kingdom parables in Matthew 13.

But first, we have to consider the handful of more comprehensive parables—where Jesus seems to be sharing more than one idea. The Prodigal Son that we will study next week is a good example of this. While that parable does have one main idea, the same as the first two as we will see, Jesus moves beyond that idea when he includes the older brother in the story. We would be unwise to miss the additional point(s) Jesus makes in some of the parables. So again, the rule of thumb is to focus on one main idea of the parables—this safeguards us from lapsing into allegorizing (finding hidden meaning in every detail). But when it is apparent that Jesus was telling us more, we pursue that additional meaning.

*Devo from Pastor Brian, from The Gospel Project.

#JesusJams for today!

---> And here's this week's story!!

Christ Connection: The kingdom of God is growing in the world. This kingdom is valuable and worth giving everything for. While we wait for Jesus to return and fully set up His kingdom, we carry out the mission of telling others about King Jesus, who rescues sinners.
If you have a bible at your house, you'll be turning to Matthew 13 to read with your family this week! If you don't have one, that's okay! CLICK HERE.

OPTION 1: Seed, seed, tree Instruct the kids to sit in a circle. Select a volunteer to be the “gardener” who will walk around the outside of the circle, gently patting kids’ heads, saying “seed” each time. She will select a kid and say “tree” when she pats him. He must stand and chase her around the circle. If he tags her, she must stand in the center of the circle and be the “shrub.” If the gardener reaches the tree’s seat before he tags her, she is safe. Either way, he will be the new gardener.

SAY • When Jesus taught about God’s kingdom, He used metaphors—word pictures that help us imagine something unfamiliar by comparing it to something familiar. Some of Jesus’ metaphors involved plants, specifically small seeds growing into huge trees.

OPTION 2: Find the treasure Place a few plastic gems or plastic coins in a large tub. Fill the tub with dry beans or play sand. Allow the kids to take turns sifting through the beans to find the treasure hidden within. You may wish to prepare a tub for every two or three kids so that all kids may play at the same time. SAY • Finding a buried treasure may sound to you like the start of a wonderful adventure story. Jesus explained that the kingdom of God is like a buried treasure. Entering God’s kingdom is the start of a wonderful adventure too!

OPTION 3: Kingdom trees Distribute a sheet of paper to each kid. Instruct the kids to draw a simple tree shape without leaves on the branches. Tell the kids to write their name in the middle of the tree trunk and the name of the person who first told them the gospel at the base of the tree. Then, allow the kids to tear off bits of green construction paper and write the names of people they can tell the gospel to on each “leaf ” before gluing it to the bare branches of their tree. SAY • We use the image of a tree to help us think about our families. The base of a family tree is made up by your ancestors, like great-grandparents. The branches are your brothers, sisters, and eventually your children and children’s children. In a way, this is also a good way to think about God’s kingdom. Someone told you the gospel, and you can tell other people the gospel. As people trust in Jesus, they become part of God’s kingdom, which is also God’s family! God’s growing kingdom is more valuable than anything.