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1.    For those of you unfamiliar with the term ‘Good Samaritan’, Google “what is a good Samaritan”.  In 21st century terms how do we understand the meaning of calling someone a ‘good Samaritan?’Our understanding is very different from how Samaritans were viewed during the time of Jesus.

2.    Who were the Samaritans? What was their history in relationship to Judaism at the time of Jesus? Why were they views with such derision and contempt? 

3.    What was a ‘Levite’?  Why would they be concerned with touching an injured man? (Hint: look up ‘ritual cleanliness’)

4.    What was the trap the lawyer was attempting to set for Jesus when he asked; ‘who is my neighbor’?  How would you answer this question in light of refugees, racial and religious discrimination and human rights violations around the world?

5.    “A parable may appeal to the hearer’s sense of justice before they realized the parable applied to them.”  How does this parable of the Good Samaritan do just that?  Who would be offended by hearing this parable? Why? 

6.    Now that you have researched the main characters in the parable, and have learned how Jews viewed Samaritans how does this change the meaning of the story now that it means more than ‘just doing a good deed for someone in need.’

7. If you were to ‘up date’ this story for the 21st century who would you place in the role of the injured man?  The Levite? and the ‘good Samaritan?  



 HW# Parables                                         

Nobody ever says, “Tell us some facts, read to us from the instruction pamphlet that came with our IKEA desk!” Of course not, we want a story. We want to be transported, changed, challenged, and mystified.  Humans communicate with stories. Stories bind us, set us free, explain us, they mirror existence and transform us.   Stories create community and link us together with a familiar narrative, and more importantly sacred stores unite entire people. They help us to see through the eyes of other people, to experience the other. We can sense what it is to be something other than what we are; blind, young, old, rich, or wise. They can also validate our own existence and life experiences.

 Stories help us to dwell in time. Not mechanical time but linking us to the past – or give us the opportunity to dwell in a controlled universe.  Stories teach us that every gesture, every act and every choice that we make sends ripples of influence into the future.


An Apache elder said, “Stories go to work on you like arrows. 


 Stories make you live right. Make you replace yourself.”

The word parable is a transliteration of the Greek word “parabole” (para-bow-LAY), and comes from two Greek words, “para” (translated “beside”) and “ballein” (translated “to throw”).  Literally, the word parable means “to throw beside,” or “to place beside, or 
to place together for the purpose of comparing, or making a comparison.”
  They can usually be identified by the use of the word “like,” as in Jesus’ statement, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed,” or “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven” (Matthew 13:31, 33). 

 A traditional definition might be “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning,” difficult to improve on that.  Don’t confuse parable with fable.  A fable is a short tale to teach a moral lesson, often with animals or inanimate objects as characters. Fables ignore the bounds of the natural world and it is in fables we encounter talking lions, advice offered by insects and trees with human powers. Fables teach us about caution, thrift, and consequences and the proper, prudent way of being in the world.  A parable concerns itself with a more ‘heavenly’ meaning.’   It may advise to ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ but that injunction is always pendant to another, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.” 

When a person even marginally familiar with the stories of Jesus images will bring to mind modest homes, baking bread and the patching of garments, struggling laborers, foolish homebuilders, parents, shifty stewards, fishermen hauling in nets, weddings, funerals, widows pleading her cause, sowers trampling through weary furrows, weeds, and vineyards,  the hapless traveler falling among thieves, a shepherd searching for lost sheep, the prodigal son catching sight of home, farmers’ fields overtaken by wild mustard, children begging for attention and rich men wanting tips on gaining entrance to heaven.

How does a reader approach a parable found in the New Testament?  One scholar wrote about parables, “Our delight in the parables rises regularly in the exact degree in which we succeed in liberating ourselves from the interpretations of the Evangelist, and yielding ourselves up to the original force of the parables themselves.”

In other words read the parables as a way to look at life the way that would be understood by the common people of Jesus’ day.  A parable is a flash of light, not an ingeniously devised mosaic.  These stories were not prophetic or establishing future dogma but to illuminate life and a person’s relationship to the spiritual realm that existed around them.  The parables of Jesus brought delight and insight to countless people and offense to others. Jesus used parables to explain his vision of the kingdom of god and reveal the true character of God and what God expects from humanity.


Much of the subversive quality of the parables has been lost.
  Jesus’ parables have been used to promote particular theological purposes or comforting pastoral homilies while forgetting the original intent of the stories.  


Characteristics of Jesus’ Parables

1.    They are short.

2.    They are marked by simplicity. There are never more than two people or groups in each parable.

3.    The parables are about humans, no talking animals or magic.

4.    They are fictional descriptions of everyday life.

5.    They are engaging, the listeners were expected to ‘pass judgment’ or reach a conclusion about the person in the parable.

6.    The important part of the parable comes at the end of story – like a punchline in a joke.

7.    They are told in context of the day.  The parables are specific to the concerns of the people of his day.

8.    The parables are about the new reality God seeks to establish on earth.

9.    Parables frequently allude to Hebrew Scriptures and themes.

(Stories with Intent – Klyne R. Snodgrass)

 

As you begin to encounter the parables try to place yourself in the context in which they were told, remember who the parables were told to, what was the goal of the story, and what does it tell us about the kingdom of God and what is expected of humanity?  Also try to figure out who would relate to the story and who would be insulted by it.

 

 

The characters in parables do only those things we would expect anyone to do in the normal course of events – such as a sower going out into a field to sow seed, or a merchant going to the marketplace to find costly pearls.  The characters in parables are not superhuman, nor do they perform superhuman feats.  The natural events described in parables are also those we would expect to witness in nature – such as seed sown by a sower falling on various kinds of soil, or a mustard seed growing into a large tree, or a drag net bringing all kinds of fish. 

 .

 

But there is also another reason why Jesus taught in parables, and that was to 
appeal
 to the hearer’s sense of justice before they realized the parable applied to them.  

Nathan did this with David (2 Samuel 12:1-10).  But Jesus used this approach often when confronting His enemies.  The Parable of the Wicked Vine dressers (Matthew 21:33-46) is a classic example.  Jesus spoke of wicked vine dressers who refused to pay the owner of the vineyard what he was owed.  After sending several emissaries to these corrupt vine dressers, the owner sent his son, whom the vine dressers eventually killed out of bitter envy and hatred.  As the chief priests and Pharisees began hearing this parable, they would have begun to side against the unjust and wicked vine dressers.  But when the parable was concluded, the Scriptures say, “Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them.” (Matthew 21:45).  Jesus did for these chief priests and Pharisees what Nathan did for David – causing them to agree with the injustice of the situation and the need for righteous judgment against the guilty parties, before they suddenly realized they were the real subject of the parable.  So, it can be said that Jesus taught in the form of parables to CONCEAL, to REVEAL, and to APPEAL.

 

On occasions, Jesus provides the interpretation of the parable.  But on other occasions, we are left to interpret the parable for ourselves.  When attempting to interpret parables, there are a few extremes to avoid.  First, avoid the extreme of reading too much into the parable.  Some make the mistake of reading deep spiritual truths 
into
 every minute detail, rather than drawing simple truths 
from
 the parable.

  Parables are meant to reveal simple, basic truths to those who are seeking to understand the Lord’s teaching, not to confuse His teaching with a wide range of endless theological speculation.  The plain, simple truths contained in parables were meant to be carried away in the mind of the hearer, not examined under a microscope or dissected to reveal every minute detail.  

1)   Therefore, look for the simplest explanation first – the general theme of the parable, then delve deeper into sub-meanings or sub-themes.  

2)   Second, avoid the extreme of saying there is just one spiritual truth contained in each parable.  However, make certain that the spiritual truths gleaned from the parable are not formulating some new or contradictory doctrine.  Truth must agree with truth.

 

When interpreting a parable of Jesus, there are certain questions that should be asked.  

First, ask who the intended audience was, or to whom was Jesus speaking?  In most instances, the intended audience will be His disciples.  But on other occasions, the audience will range from publicans and sinners, to the scribes and Pharisees.  A good way to determine the intended audience is to ask who was learning the most from the teaching of Jesus at the time?  

Second, ask what did Jesus intend to accomplish by the parable?  This may not always be obvious

Third, ask what is the lesson to be learned?  Every parable has a simple lesson to teach.  Some will be more apparent than others.  But there is a simple lesson to learn from every parable of Jesus.  Don’t make the lesson so complex or highly theological.  And don’t forget that parables were intended to be simple, direct lessons that could easily be remembered, and whose truths would be unforgettable.  Look for the “central” truth in every lesson.

 



READ: Luke 10:25-37 The Good Samaritan.

 

1.    For those of you unfamiliar with the term ‘Good Samaritan’, Google “what is a good Samaritan”.  In 21st century terms how do we understand the meaning of calling someone a ‘good Samaritan?’Our understanding is very different from how Samaritans were viewed during the time of Jesus.

2.    Who were the Samaritans? What was their history in relationship to Judaism at the time of Jesus? Why were they views with such derision and contempt? 

3.    What was a ‘Levite’?  Why would they be concerned with touching an injured man? (Hint: look up ‘ritual cleanliness’)

4.    What was the trap the lawyer was attempting to set for Jesus when he asked; ‘who is my neighbor’?  How would you answer this question in light of refugees, racial and religious discrimination and human rights violations around the world?

5.    “A parable may 
appeal
 to the hearer’s sense of justice before they realized the parable applied to them.”  How does this parable of the Good Samaritan do just that?  Who would be offended by hearing this parable? Why? 

6.    Now that you have researched the main characters in the parable, and have learned how Jews viewed Samaritans how does this change the meaning of the story now that it means more than ‘just doing a good deed for someone in need.’

7. If you were to ‘up date’ this story for the 21st century who would you place in the role of the injured man?  The Levite? and the ‘good Samaritan?