I was puzzling over how to begin. I was planning for our first series of studies during the new outreach through a Chapel time at Out Flow as the shelter closed for the day. As I mulled over what to start with for this ‘new beginning’, I was struck with a novel thought, “Why not do what Jesus did?” Maybe I was on to something here. How did Jesus teach? What could I glean from how he interacted with the uninitiated? He taught using parables. So I purposed to begin a series looking at some of the parables of Jesus.
We began with a look at the parable of “The Loving Father” or “Prodigal Son. In it we see exemplified the whole story of scripture. It is a story of rebellion and of the Father’s relentless love. It is a story of redemption and forgiveness. In the telling of this short story Jesus lays out unmistakably the way to a restored relationship with the Father. In it he paints a glowing picture of the Father who will go to great lengths to be reconciled. John 3:16 makes perfect sense in light of this parable.
Next we began to look at the Parable of “The Good Samaritan”. In it we discover that there is much more that God wants for us than just relationship, as deep and wonderful as a relationship with God is! He desires not just friendship, through reconciliation but fellowship as well. In John 15 Jesus speaks about “abiding’ in him as a branch abides in the vine. He goes on to say that there is an expectation that as we abide in him we will bear fruit. He ends with the command to “Love each other.”
In our parable a scholar of the scriptures approaches Jesus with the question “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” As is so often the case, Jesus does not answer that question but instead asks a question of his own. “What is written in the law?” The man answers with the familiar words “Love the Lord …. And love your neighbour.” Jesus replies “Okay. Do that!” Things are not going as the scholar had hoped. Perhaps he was hoping for an academic debate but Jesus challenged him beyond his intellect to activity. For Jesus the good news is not solely about changed thinking it is about transformed lives.
In what seems like a frustrated attempt to bring the question back to the theoretical the scholar asks “Who is my neighbour?” Again Jesus does not answer but instead tells the familiar story of the man left bleeding and dying on the Jericho Road. In the end Jesus again poses rather than answers a question. “Who was the neighbour?” Notice the original question was “Who is my neighbour?”, but Jesus changes it to “Who was the neighbour to the man?” The scholar has little choice but to admit that the despised Samaritan was the good neighbour. Again the man shows he knows the answer and Jesus challenges him once more “Go and do that!”
In John 14:15 we read “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” The evidence or ‘fruit’ of our relationship is in our changed lives. Selfishness says “who is my neighbour” Christlikeness says “Father help me to be a good neighbour”
Another great lesson we learned was to ask people “What do you understand?” Scriptures tell us the heavens declare the glory of the Lord. People have seen and heard. We do well to ask what they understand and begin to build from there. We can even challenge or demonstrate that people are not living by the amount of knowledge that they do possess. Careful listening and the posing of pertinent questions are so much more effective than rebuilding a foundation which has already been laid. So, I highly recommend doing what Jesus did as a way to advance the Kingdom.