The value of Preaching in Parables

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17 NIV).

The mission of Jesus was to save humanity, but aware of the stake involved. Understanding the method He used is quite essential. Jesus performed miracles, hitherto, not performed by any other, at that time. But, miracles were unnecessary, as long as one appreciated the significance of God. Prophetic Scriptures had all along highlighted the approaching momentous event of the birth of the Messiah.

Following prophecies about the Messianic hope, the Jews expected His birth, at the right time. However, they looked for a political Messiah who would deliver them from Roman oppression. According to Jewish teachings, Jesus did not fit the description of the promised Messiah.

They were not wrong in asserting that the Messiah would be a descendant of David. But they expected Him to be a military and political leader, to rule as king, bringing everlasting peace to Israel.  One of the reasons why Jesus could not fit their description is that He was born into a poor family.

Adding to that confusion was the mystery of His biological Father. His life on earth was brief; ending without bringing peace to Israel, as expected. He got crucified, without defending Himself. All this provided the opposite of what was expected of a Messiah. Jesus maintained the truth that He was, indeed, the Messiah, to those who sought to understand more about Him.

The area of Jewish misunderstanding was in projecting the Messiah to be a military and political ruler. That projection was the opposite of messianic anticipation. Military and political rulers are the most unacceptable rulers, among various methods of governance in this world.

Jesus displayed the characteristics of wisdom, knowledge and understanding, to those He interacted with. However, the Jews sought to discredit Him, despite His unprecedented understanding of God’s truth. Rather than spend more time with Him, to gain more knowledge, they got caught up in matters of tradition.

How could an individual coming from a discredited environment, without educational background, be knowledgeable? God’s special reason for all this was to conceal His Messianic identity. Hence, He also preached in parables, in order to cloud the Kingdom’s messages.

In a world driven by propagandistic falsehoods, information needs protection, lest it goes to the wrong people. In Zimbabwe, we have observed how CCC has been ambushed, where the good intentions are twisted for wrongdoing, by ZANU PF. CCC has now resorted to performing its political activities clandestinely.

In a corrupt environment, one is branded an enemy when doing well but branded a friend when doing wrong things. This is currently the position in Zimbabwe. Our hope lies in remaining peaceful, rather than retaliating. Naivety is in assuming that everyone appreciates goodness.

Hence, the work of Jesus could not be as simplistic as most people assume it was. What was obvious to the God-chosen ones was complicated to the rest of humanity. Parables would compound Jesus’ messages, but at the same time unveil the fulfilment of His Messianic objectives.

Confusion is caused by the inability to differentiate between the physical and the Spiritual. Parabolic messages were about God’s Kingdom, which is Spiritual. This, automatically, becomes a threat to physical survival. In order to leave no excuse for anyone, messages were delivered according to the expectations of the physical conditions.

The greatest enigma of humanity is the failure to appreciate that the identity of humanity is God’s image. That identity is contained in a spiritual condition, rivalling the physical condition. God’s image is the opposite of corruption. The most dangerous thing is to mix righteousness with corruption. The two cannot mix without friction. Paul succinctly put it, in his letter to Galatians.

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are no under the law” (Galatians 5:16-18 NIV).

The message of salvation is too dangerous to sinful humanity. But through Jesus, God set a provision for humanity to access salvation. Jesus is a spiritual entity who became like us, so that we could use Him as a standard, leading us towards salvation. Jesus provided a spiritual journey through which those choosing to follow Him could succeed.

A military ruler enforces authority, so as not to tolerate opposition. God’s Kingdom cannot be enforced on those not interested in it. Approximately, two thousand years since it was introduced, humanity displays being antipathetic to its values.

At one stage He told them a parable about yeast in small amounts, but eventually affecting the larger quantity: He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough” (Matthew 13:33 NIV).

Removing a foreign body from a limb can be cumbersome. Without anaesthesia, the person might prefer remaining with the foreign body, rather than experiencing pain, induced by its removal. The foreign body would be undesirable, but preferable, due to the painful operation when removing it.

Timing becomes necessary, so as not to unsettle the affected person. Preaching in parables ought to be understood in that context. The undiluted truth is too dangerous to those unprepared for it. Accepting truth without any condition is possible, only with willingness.

It is necessary to first surrender everything before a person is granted the privilege of God’s Kingdom. Jesus likened this to counting the costs, before engaging in a war with an enemy. Otherwise, it becomes better to negotiate terms of peace, than to be vanquished and lose everything.

“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for the term of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:28-33 NIV).

As long as stuck in physical conditions, it is impossible to accommodate spiritual conditions. The two cannot coexist without friction. Many people followed Jesus, for physical benefits. Jesus sought to help them realize the gravity involved, in following Him. Jesus knew what those people did not know.

They were living in physical nature; not friendly to Spiritual nature. They needed Heavenly information but were unaware of what that entailed. For their own safety, Jesus taught them in parables. He explained the details to the serious ones, having left everything to follow Him.

Accepting Jesus requires dying. Were they willing to die? Fear of death is the main obstacle to accessing God’s Kingdom. Death is the most feared phenomenon in this world. But those accepting the message of God’s Kingdom, become willing to die. Death has been made easier by the death and resurrection of Jesus.

“If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him” (Romans 6:5-8 NIV).

The friction between Spiritual and physical conditions is likened to friction between the negative and positive electric wires. Electrical engineers can provide details of the causes of friction.  The axiom applies to Spiritual and physical nature.

Seeing God and remaining alive in a physical state, is impossible. One exposes himself to danger when accessing God’s Kingdom without being properly psyched. As applicable to electrical currency, this leads to a disastrous spark. Jesus alluded to this when addressing the Jewish critics.

“And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:31-32 NIV).

That explains the reason for Jesus’ death on our behalf. Jesus knew that accessing God’s Kingdom was not a casual matter—hence He volunteered to die on our behalf. God’s Kingdom required surrendering everything, to access it. As soon as one receives the Holy Spirit, the person becomes a new creation.

Jesus defeated the physical nature, so we could attain Godly principles. Such a person cannot be intimidated by anything in this life. That person would be on track, as long as the same person commits Himself to God, looking upon Jesus.

This nullifies every condition sustained in physical life. That Person becomes a new creation. But the battle would not be over as long as one would still physically exist. The blood of Jesus enables overcoming, sustained by the accompanying grace.

“As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

“So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin” (Romans 7:17-25 NIV).

Paul describes the condition of every Christian when committed to following Jesus. As long as living in physical nature, the pulls of sinful nature drag the person down. A person would have committed himself to the war of attrition, harmful to physical nature, but winning through Jesus.

Looking upon Jesus, and casting away whatever is attractive to physical nature, frees the person. More of Jesus’ life should be adopted into the person’s life. This becomes possible, only when casting away other interests, to do God’s work.

The trap that trips many people is making money. Who doesn’t want money in this world? Unfortunately, money causes one to lose the ball. Jesus alluded to this and advised His followers to be wary of the trap.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 

“But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:19-24 NIV).

Preaching in parables was not meant to prevent accessing God’s Kingdom. But this was necessary for sifting out those coming before considering the stakes involved. God’s Kingdom is about losing everything, forgetting about everything, but God’s Kingdom.

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. Most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope, in a simple conversational tone.

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