In 1902, columnist Finley Dunne was credited with saying that the job of the newspaper was to “comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.” Years later, theologian Reinhold Niebuhr would borrow that phrase to describe the role of the preacher. The more I think about it, the more that description resonates with me.
Certainly, Jesus is the greatest preacher of all time, and when he addressed crowds, he often did so in parables. Some in the audience had ears to hear, were comforted and walked away praising God, while others had hard hearts, were afflicted and walked away angry.
These same parables still evoke varied reactions in us today. In fact, if I am honest, some parables like the Prodigal Son fill me with wonder and joy, but others like the parable of the Unmerciful Servant convict me deeply. And then there’s the parable of the Unjust Steward, which leaves me feeling confused.
So, what is a parable? Theologian Klyne Snodgrass, in his book Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus, writes that “a parable in its broadest sense refers to an extended analogy.” He continues, “Such analogies first and foremost are comparisons or contrasts used to explain or convince.”
I am looking forward to our summer series on the parables, and I hope you are, too. I believe that it will be a wonderful journey into some of Jesus’ most important teachings on the kingdom of God, the character of God, and God’s expectations and hopes for how we relate to him and others. Along the way, let’s ask God to give us ears to hear and eyes to see all that he wants to reveal to us in these parables.