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We continue talking about HOPE and how the kingdom of God is present and at work in the empire of our world. Jesus used parables to point to this paradoxical truth. Paul writes his letter to the church in Rome to theologically explain how our freedom in grace liberates us to live, not in the empire of the world, but in the present and emerging kingdom of heaven.
Chapter 13 of Matthew is a collection of 8 parables told be Jesus. Parables can be tricky. We can over-analyze them, or make them into too-simplified one-to-one analogies. It’s defined as a succinct, didactic story, in prose or verse, which illustrates one or more instructive lessons or principles. Parable is, literally, something “cast alongside” something else. Jesus’ parables were stories that were “cast alongside” a truth in order to illustrate that truth. While it seems to be a truth that’s hidden in the story – there is also the gospel experience of the parable – when we “hear” or “get” the parable, then we’re receiving a grace or “getting” the ethos of the Kingdom. Hearing the gospel is both hearing the commands of Jesus and the Gospel story.
Matthew 13 Parables:
These parables all point to the mysterious way that the Kingdom of God/Heaven is in the earth. It is littleness of means, but largeness of the end. It’s as if it is too small to change the whole world, but this little gospel has big, thorough and irreversible effects. Precious beyond compare, this kingdom is subversive, barely visible and joy-full. It’s not just the replacing of the old with the new, rather it is fresh meanings and applications, an invitation to be signposts and actors of the resurrection in the world: to live as salt, light, mustard seed & yeast.
More than Conquers. We are a Resurrected People.
Paul finishes the climatic chapter of his theological argument about Christian freedom with this commentary about lived-out-hope. Evil and suffering are the mark that creation is still to be finished. We are not spared from evil and suffering as followers of Jesus, yet we are not constrained to the debilitating limits of unchangeable destiny (which was the dominant view of the Roman Empire). We live by hope, the anti-destiny, which leads us to recognize “yes, that’s how things are. But I/we cannot not do anything about it!” We are called to live resurrection, live beyond appearances.
Questions for Going Deeper
1. What word, phrase or image grabs you in the texts?
2. How do the parables reveal what life is truly like?
3. How do you struggle to persevere in the tension of today? In the face of evil, suffering, and pain?
4. Who has been a sign-post of resurrection life for you? For who or where might the Spirit be calling you to actively live as a signpost of resurrection life?