Something a little longer for Sunday….. 

by Rod Smith

One thing I notice about the parables of Jesus and other favorite New Testament events, even Jesus one-liners, is that just as soon as I think I understand the parable, the event, the one-liner, it does a number on me.

Refuses to be conquered.

Reveals I’m scratching the surface in understanding, let alone application.

I know this to be true as I study Jesus’ desert trials, His relationship with Peter, betrayals, the terrors of Gethsemane, The Transfiguration, The Woman caught in adultery, “love your enemies,” to name a few. 

For 10 years (at least) these events in Jesus’ life and many of His sayings have refused to let me go and keep offering me more and more opportunities for understanding and for application.

Who really knows what Jesus meant when he said “a seed must die to bear fruit” (John 12:24) and I am not talking botany?

Every believer worth his or her salt has a go at “unpacking” (my least favorite verb I hear in Christendom) this but I think most attempts at interpretation fail to grasp the larger application of the metaphor, let alone how the “death” occurs and how it applies to you and to me.

 Let me know if you think you know. 

Parables, if we are willing to resist the thought that we already know all there is to know about any one of them, will unfold meaning for years and go deeper and deeper into the willing heart with revelation.

Thinking I know becomes a blockage. My blockage. Time after time reading them I go back to what I already know, which keeps new understanding waiting in the wings for an opportunity to get a moment on stage.

Another thing I find blocks my learning is when I become an insight addict and seek insight and more insight into Scripture but resist or refuse to put the insights into the daily-life action.

Insight, without accompanying action, is not only useless, it blocks further revelation. Then, if I get any insight, refusing to act on what I see becomes a ditch into which my insight tumbles and I become another of millions upon millions of Christains who are incredibly insightful who are very willing to talk, often endlessly, about what they see in whatever be the Biblical topic. And that’s about it.

My gosh, have I met some insightful and loquacious Christians?

Certainty, too, seals shut possibilities of growth and learning. 

It stops discovery. Certainty block’s revelation. 

I find embracing ambiguity and possibility for behavior change opens the floodgates to new understanding and new ways to be in the world.

Understanding Scripture requires change. Transformation. Understanding Scripture will demand it be more than an academic exercise and will seek to influence who and how we are as men and women in our various roles in our various communities and within our families.   

I have read the “Prodigal Son” many many times and have often thought I have a reasonable take on Jesus’ point. My perspectives change if I read it as if I am the Older Brother when my default has always been to read it as the younger, returning son, the “good” guy. When reading the parable from the Older Brother’s point of view I have no problem understanding why he has an issue with the upstart’s return and why he avoids the party. If I read it from the perspective of the Father it doesn’t take long before I am reduced to tears. I think I know that kind of love, at least as much as I am able. My sons have been trying to teach me about it since they entered the world and broke into my heart.

Shifting my point of view when I read “The Good Samaritan” also allows for new insights. I start from the perspective of the “questioning” lawyer. Then I move on through Jesus’ list of characters and end up reading it as the victim who receives assistance from the Samaritan.

When I read it as The Samaritan, I am reduced to tears.

In contrast to the “trained” and the professionals, the ones who should know, the rejected one is the loving one, the one who was never considered a neighbor, the “other,” is the one who goes the extra mile and loves his enemy and models neighborliness.

Have a fabulous Sunday.

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