The American playwright Arthur Miller, almost as famous for his play Death of a Salesman as for his brief marriage to Marilyn Monroe, once observed, “In every successful drama there is something which makes a person say, ‘Hey! that’s me!’” The story becomes a mirror in which self-recognition produces self-understanding.
Many of the stories the Lord Jesus told have precisely that effect. To read them properly is to see ourselves. But they are more than mirrors. They almost always become windows into the heart and mind of God Himself. As a result, they do far more than reveal who we are. They help us know who God is. They not only expose our sinful condition, but also point to a divine remedy. Self-recognition without a divine solution would bring only discouragement. The Lord’s parables bring encouragement, because in them we meet ourselves and our God.
During our worship services this summer, we will look at our Lord’s parables that are contained in the Gospel of Luke. We should note three things as we begin our study. First, the parables are not isolated stories. They were almost always told to answer a question or address a particular situation. It is therefore very important to study the context in which they are placed. Second, the Lord’s stories are parables, not allegories. Although details may have symbolic significance, most commonly a parable is intended to teach one main point. Third, as we read these stories, we need to consciously leave our 21st-century Western world. Jesus’ parables draw on the common daily life of 1st-century Palestine. To hear Him properly, we need to smell the aroma of Jewish villages and feel the dust of Galilean roads. As we seek to enter that world, these stories will come alive with energizing freshness.