Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables;
without a parable he told them nothing. — Matthew 13:34
Like an artist who doesn’t explain her work but shows it to you, Jesus tells parables and expects his hearers (and we are hearers more than listeners!) to enter into them and figure them out.
This is not easy.
It’s hard to get inside a parable. A parable doesn’t have just one meaning. You need to use the ears of your heart. The heart best holds the fragments that suddenly make a whole. You need to prepare for a surprise. But can you really prepare for a surprise? We pay attention. We practice wondering and curiosity and this helps us to get inside a parable.
Parables are a little bit dangerous. The moment you think you understand a parable you probably missed the point. And the moment you think you will never understand a parable it seizes you and can change everything.
The word “parable” comes from the Greek word, parabole – literally, “thrown alongside.” Parables are stories thrown alongside the ordinary things of life, like sowers throwing seeds or bakers hiding leaven in the daily bread. Parables prompt comparisons and contrasts between the two.
It was a way of inviting us to use our imaginations to imagine what God’s beloved community, might look like so we would recognize it — right here in our own lives.
Parables help us glimpse the Kingdom of God, God’s beloved community, that is beyond us, within us, and among us. The kingdom of God is here now – small and seeming of little consequence. The kingdom of God is now here – silent and thriving underneath sight and sound.
Deep, mysterious, and desirable … The kingdom is both here and not yet. And we live and move and have our being in this awesome and terrible tension.