The Parables of Jesus - Lesson 1
Introducing Jesus' Parables
By the end of this lesson the learner will be able to:
- List reasons why teaching with parables was important for Jesus.
- Define what a parable consists of.
- Identify and explain the barriers that exist between reading and understanding a parable of Jesus. O/H 1
Teaching Aids and Materials:
- Easy to understand Bibles for every student (CEV, RSV, NAV, NIV, NRSV, etc.)
- A chalkboard, marker board, or overhead projector.
- Copies of "A List of Jesus Parables" (Appendix 2 - to be handed out at the end of class)
A very helpful resource for answering some of your own questions about the meaning of Jesus' parables is David Wenham's The Parables of Jesus, Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity Press, 1989.
Special note to the Teacher:
When creating an atmosphere where people eagerly answer questions it is important to do three things:
1. Depending upon the size and age of your class, be prepared to repeat what you hear someone say, so that the person will know that you have understood them and so that the class can really hear the question.
2. Make a positive comment about something in a person's answer or comment (even if the answer or comment is far from accurate or germane to the subject) so that the class will know that you are respectful of others.
3. Use a person's answer or comment later on so that they will know you do value their input.
Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class
Introduction: (about 5-10 minutes)
- Begin class by welcoming members and any visitors; make all necessary class announcements; songs.
- Lead the class in a prayer that will include asking God for the ability to hear from Jesus' parables what God wants heard.
- Stress why it is important to study the parables: Emphasize the following point: Jesus is primarily known for two things: his death on the cross and subsequent resurrection and for being an astonishing teacher. Since nearly a third of Jesus' teachings appear in the form of parables and since they are the primary form with which he chose to reveal something of the character of God, human beings and the coming kingdom of God, it is safe to say that no one can understanding the core of what Jesus believed about these things without first understanding what he spoke in parables.
- Share with the learners the lesson objectives. O/H 1
Learning Experiences: (about 20-25 minutes)
Part I: Reasons why teaching with parables was important for Jesus.
- Q. Why do you think Jesus used parables? (Get learners responses and connect those with the ones below.)
- I want to stress some reasons why parables might have been important for Jesus:
- Jesus' target audiences were ordinary people who lived in a very oral culture.Parables allowed Jesus to capture his audience's imagination.
- Parables allowed Jesus to teach central spiritual lessons in a way His disciples could easily remember. O/H 2
Part ll: Defining what a parable is
- Q. What parables are personally meaningful to you? (Allow 3-4 learners to share.) Watching your time, you might ask, Q. Why is the parable so meaningful to you?
- Q. How would you define what a parable is? Q. Ask yourself, are parables always stories? Q. Are all stories parables? Q. What items, if any will always be found in a parable?
- Allow about 3 adults to give their personal definition of a parable. As you go along highlight what is similar and different between the definitions they give.
- Summarize this segment with the following: Emphasize that while it is not necessary for understanding Jesus' parables to have too precise a definition that the following are considered by serious students of the parables to be important observations:
- Our English word "parable" comes from the Greek word v that puts together two words: Bole? (to throw) and para? (alongside).
- In the Greek Old Testament the word v was used to translate the Hebrew word mashal which pointed to any saying, pun, riddle, allegory, or proverb.
- A "parable", therefore, is basically a figurative saying or story that makes a comparison by laying side by side one truth that is easily seen and understood with a reality that is not obvious.
- Parables primarily make one or a few major points. A person reading the parable should keep their focus on the major point or points. They should avoid treating minor details of a parable as allegories in order to prove a doctrine that wasn't Jesus intention to teach. O/H 3
Part lll: Defining barriers to understanding parables
- Read Mark 4:10-12.
- Q: Did Jesus intend everybody to readily understand his parables? A: No. He intended that those with faith would hear the message of the parables with its life-transforming effect.
- While almost anybody can simply pick up a New Testament and read one of Jesus' parables, there are several things that may prevent them from understanding the message.
- Q: What might stand in the way of a person's understanding what Jesus was trying to say in one of his parables? A: Barriers, explain that these are some barriers that may also exist:
- Cultural distance: (e.g. use of wineskins; dangers of the Jericho road)
- Seeing how a parable's message fits into Jesus' ministry Seeing how a Gospel writer utilizes a parable for his intentions
- Moral distance: we cannot truly understand if we are in defiance of God's will. O/H 4
Application: (about 5-10 minutes)
- Put up as an overhead or pass out as a handout "Sayings of Jesus" (Appendix 1). See if the class can identify which sayings are parables.
Evaluation: (about 5-10 minutes)
- Get the class to read silently the parable of the talents (minas) in Matthew 25:14-30 (Luke 19:12-27). After they have read it, ask what would be the barriers to understanding this parable.
Assignment: (about 2 minutes)
- Find an everyday item which if used in one setting it would have very little effect, but when used in an appropriate setting its strength is seen (e.g. air conditioning unit, bleach, oil, fertilizer, etc.). Be prepared next week to tell what item you found.
Review the lesson objectives. Have someone one distribute the "Parables of Jesus" (Appendix 2). Tell them the list helps identify who are the main characters through which the primary lessons are conveyed. Let them know the title of next weeks lesson: The Parable of the Sower.
List reasons why teaching with parables was important for Jesus. Define what a parable consists of. Identify and explain the barriers that exist between reading and understanding a parable of Jesus.
Why Jesus Taught with Parables
Jesus' target audiences were ordinary people who lived in a very oral culture. Parables allowed Jesus to capture his audience's imagination. Parables allowed Jesus to teach central spiritual lessons in a way His disciples could easily remember.
Our English word "parable" comes from the Greek word v that puts together two words: Bole? (to throw) and para? (alongside). In the Greek Old Testament the word v was used to translate the Hebrew word mashal which pointed to any saying, pun, riddle, allegory, or proverb. A "parable", therefore, is basically a figurative saying or story that makes a comparison by laying side by side one truth that is easily seen and understood with a reality that is not obvious. Parables primarily make one or a few major points. A person reading the parable should keep their focus on the major point or points. They should avoid treating minor details of a parable as allegories in order to prove a doctrine that wasn't Jesus intention to teach.
Sayings of Jesus (Appendix 1)
31 So do not worry, saying, What shall we eat?' or What shall we drink?’ or What shall we wear?' 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 5:31-33)
- 47the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. (Matthew 13:47-48)
- 14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a man can make him unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him unclean.' " (Mark 14:14-15) Sayings of Jesus (Appendix 2 cont.)
- 18A certain ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 19 "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good--except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’ 21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Luke 18:18-21)
- 29”Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near. (Luke 21:29-31)
- 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Matthew 24:43-44)
Answers to "Sayings of Jesus" (Appendix 2)
- Not a parable
- A parable
- A parable
- A parable
- A parable
PARABLES OF JESUS (Appendix 2)
- Lamp under a bowl Matt. 5:15; Mark 4:21; lamp, bowl Luke 8:16, 11:33
- Wise & foolish builders Matt. 7:24-27; Luke 6:47-49 wise & foolish builders
- New cloth on an old coat Matt. 9:16; Mark 2:21; Luke 5:36 sewer, pitch, garment
- New wine in old wineskins Matt. 9:17; Mark 2:22; Luke 5:37-38 pourer, wine, wineskins
- Sower & the soils Matt. 13:3-8, 18-23; Mark 4:3-8, 14- 20 sower, bad soils, good soil Luke 8:5-8, 11-15
- Weeds Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43 wheat, weeds, harvester
- Mustard seed Matt. 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32; Gardner, mustard seed Luke 13:18-19
- Yeast Matt. 13:33; Luke 13:20-21 woman, yeast
- Hidden treasure Matt. 13:44 man, hidden treasure, land owner,
- Valuable pearl Matt. 13:45-46 merchant, pearl, seller
- Net Matt. 13:47-50 good & bad fish, fishermen
- Owner of a house Matt. 13:52 house owner, new & old treasures
- Lost sheep Matt. 18:12-14; Luke 15:4-7 shepherd, lost sheep, the 99 sheep
- Unmerciful servant Matt. 18:23-34 master, unmerciful and other servant
- Workers in the vineyard Matt. 20:1-16 land owner, first set and other workers
- Two sons Matt. 21:28-32 two sons, father
- Tenants Matt. 21:33-44; Mark 12:1-11; landlord, original and Luke 20:9-18 and next tenants
- Wedding banquet Matt. 22:2-14 King, invited & uninvited guests, ill clad man
- Fig tree Matt. 24:32; Mark 13:28; leaves of the fig tree Luke 21:30
- Faithful & wise servant Matt. 24:45-51; Luke 12:42-48 master, faithful & unfaithful (Mark 13:33-37; Luke 12:35-38) servants
- Ten virgins Matt. 25:1-13 10 virgins & bridegroom
- Talents (minas) Matt. 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-27 master, faithful & unfaithful servants
- Sheep & goats Matt. 25:31-46 shepherd, sheep, goats
- Growing seed Mark 4:26-29 man, seed, grain
- Thief of night Mark 24:43-44; Luke 12:39-40 householder, thief
- Moneylender Luke 7:41-43 master, two debtors
- Good Samaritan Luke 10:30-37 victim, priest/Levite, Samaritan
- Friend in need Luke 11:5-8 friend, traveler, neighbor
- Rich fool Luke 12:16-21 rich man, God
- Unfruitful fig tree Luke 13:6-9 vineyard owner, fig tree, caretaker
- Lowest seat at the feast Luke 14:7-14 host, two guests
- Great banquet Luke 14:16-24 master, invited & uninvited guests
- Man builds a tower Luke 14:28-30 builder, tower, people
- King plans a war Luke 14:31-33 king, enemy
- Lost coin Luke 15:8-10 woman, lost coin, the 9 coins
- Lost (prodigal) son Luke 15:11-32 father, son, brother
- Shrewd manager Luke 16:1-8 steward, master, debtors
- Rich man & Lazarus Luke 16:19-31 Lazarus, rich man, Abraham
- Master & his servant Luke 17:7-10 master, servant
- Persistent widow Luke 18:2-8 judge, widow, adversary
- Pharisee & tax collector Luke 18:10-14 Pharisee, tax collector, God
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