The key to preaching from the parables is this phrase . . . . “Look how He constructed or designed it!”
I say that because too often some who teach the parables, speak ias if it was a real story, even though they fully understand that it is not!
Let me illustrate that with a message on Matthew 20. Now I well understand that Edmund Clowney realized that this parable is a fabricated story, and for the overwhelming portion of the message he handles it as just that . . . However, for just a moment Clowney slips into the approach which speaks as if the parable is a real story.
Now when Clowney briefly did that, I said to myself — that would be a good example of what I am speaking. As you read the following brief transcript of his message, you will find that most of the content to be fairly typical, until . . . . .
The story Jesus tells is one that’s easy for us to understand — isn’t it — Now a denarius was a little silver coin about the size of a dime but it represented a day’s wages in that economy. It was the same pay that a soldier would get for his duty.
And so here are these men who accept the going rate — there ready to work — for a denarius a day and they go to work in his vineyards (at 6 a.m. in the morning)– Well then– at nine o’clock in the morning, he’s back again — hiring some more men from the marketplace — and then at twelve noon — there he is — this is rather surprising –12 noon is siesta time — but there he is hiring some more men to go work in the vineyard– And then three o’clock in the afternoon. You begin to wonder if he is so much interested in getting the work done as he is in providing employment because here he is hiring some more men.
Then — the really amazing thing is that — he shows up at 5 p.m. — Now 5 p.m. is just an hour from quitting time– but he comes and he finds there’s still men standing around in the marketplace and he wants to know what are you hanging around here in the marketplace for — why aren’t you working — and they say nobody has hired us — so he said, All right I’ll hire you to go on out.
What I highlighted above were not any of Clowney’s wording which was used to help picture or visualize the parable as he verbally walked his way through the story. Rather, I highlighted the small portion which illustrates the point I am seeking to make, which implies that it was a real story.
To avoid giving the impression of it being an actual story, it should flow something like this . . . .
Well then– at nine o’clock in the morning, he’s back again — hiring some more men from the marketplace — and then at twelve noon — there he hires more men.
The Lord has so designed the story in such a way that he has the householder going out again at noon — all in order to allow Him to set up the picture which will then make His point.
There he is hiring some more men to go work in the vineyard at noon — And then three o’clock in the afternoon the Lord has His story’s householder — again — hire some more men — He has them hired at three p.m!
Then, the really amazing thing is that the Lord crafts His story to even have the householder go out and hire more workers — just one hour before the closing of the day.
Do you see the difference and how for a moment Clowney gives the impression that this is an actual story, rather than a purposefully crafted story?
Even at another place, Clowney borders on this . . . .
- “and then at twelve noon . . . . this is rather surprising . . . .12 noon is siesta time”
- “the really amazing thing is that . . . he shows up at 5 p.m,”
. . . . Clowney is flirting around the edges with the impression that it is an actual story, rather than a purposefully designed fictitious story.
Even though Clowney frames but a brief and small portion of his exposition as “actual,” I cite it to illustrate this tendency, a tendency which can and does pull teachers and preachers down that “actual” path – if we are not clear as to the value of “purposeful design.”
A good number of other “parable expositors” begin and carry the “actual” flavor all the way through their “exposition.” They give the impression that it is “actual” or historical rather than constructed by design because of the Lord’s intentional aim.
In dealing with parables, fictitious and fabricated stories which are constructed in such a way so as to make the point which one wants to make, the expositor’s wording and thinking needs to be reflected by such phrases as . . . .
- Now, look how the Lord designs it. . . The Lord decides to say / include / portray . . . .
- The Lord designed the parable in such a way so as to excite their passions. . . .
- In the Lord’s parable, He has the character do “this-or-that” / “say this”
- Then, Jesus includes/ introduces another individual, a second brother, into the story
The emphasis needs to be on the purposeful design of the characters, actions, timing, and responses within the story!
If you would like to read more about handling the parables you can click on the links below for the originally published article in “The Baptist Bulletin,” or the unedited version which was submitted.