Lets review what has been learned in class. You are expected to know this.
Kingdom of God: What was Jesus Talking About?
Central to Jesus’ identity, his life, his mission and message, and all of his words and actions is the notion of the Kingdom of God. In fact, Jesus told his listeners to “strive first for the Kingdom of God” (Matt 6:33). His prayer and life experiences led him to identify himself as the proclaimer and possessor of the Kingdom. His parables pointed to and described the Kingdom, and his miracles were signs of its presence in the people’s midst. Let’s explore what Jesus meant by the Reign of God.
The Greek word for kingdom is basileia, denoting “royal power”. Kingdom of God is the sphere of God’s rule. The word kingdom, which is used most often in scripture, can sometimes get in the way of our understanding what Jesus meant when he preached about the Kingdom of God. For us, the Kingdom of God can automatically imply a place or region. When discussing Jesus’ teachings, a better reference might be the Reign of God or the Rule of God.
What are parables? Parables are like fables. A fable is a pretend story or tale, intended to instruct or amuse; a fictitious narration intended to enforce some useful truth or teaching (such as a moral). Consider the following fable.
Parables are stories that allow us to catch a glimpse of something that is too big for words. The word parable comes from a Greek word parabole meaning “comparison”. It usually builds from a literary device called a simile. In a simile, two very different things are compared to one another in order to illustrate a point. The word like often (but not always) joins the two parts of the comparison.
Thus, we can define a parable as a brief, concise story that illustrates a moral or religious lesson. It differs from fable in excluding animals, plants, inanimate objects, and forces of nature as actors that assume speech and other powers of humankind. Parables often have a surprise twist at the end.
The basic story elements in Jesus’ parables grew out of the land, culture, and family life of his people: farming and shepherding, children playing and adults working at their trades and crafts. Thus, knowing something about the land and daily life (culture) of the Jewish people of Jesus’ time is essential to grasping the meaning of Jesus’ teachings. When we read the parables today, it is often helpful to find parallels between our experiences and those of the people Jesus was directly addressing. That is, we can translate the parables into familiar language. Even better, we should try to see ourselves in the parables.
Task: select one of the following parables, read it carefully, and then answer the three questions below. You can use oremus Bible Browser to help you do this.
- The Parable of the Lost Coin (Luke 15:8-10 or Matt 15:8-10)
- The Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:1-7 or Matt 18:10-14)
- The Parable of the Prodigal and His brother (Luke 15:11-31 or Matt 15:11-32)
- The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16)
- The Three Parables (Matt 13:44-50)
- Why might the parable have surprised or caught the attention of Jesus’ listeners?
- What is being compared in the story? (The “Reign of God is like…” Or “heaven is like…”)
- What does the story say about the “Reign of God,” or the way God rules?