by Christopher Harbin

This content is part of a series.

Seeing Ourselves in the Story (23 of 52)
Series: Discipleship Part Two
Christopher B. Harbin
Matthew 21:33-43

We generally don't like to be told what to do. There may be instances when we want direction, as we are trying to figure out the lay of the land. There are times we are trying to figure out how to be helpful and ask for orientation. On the whole, however, we don't like receiving orders. We want to make our own way, control our own actions, take the initiatives we think best, and so follow our own ideas and best understanding. Then we hear Jesus telling us we are supposed to submit to God's plans. It's not exactly what we want to hear.

Jesus liked to speak in parables. On the one hand, it was an indirect way to address an issue, a person, or a group of people. It allowed him to keep the attention of his audience without angering too many people, even while he was offering correction, rebuke, or teaching that would be hard for some of them to swallow. When the lesson was going to be difficult to accept, he couched it in a story that would allow some level of distance between his listeners and the issues he was attempting to address.

He told parables about some other person, a character in a story that was removed a few degrees from the audience before him. That is not to say that those he addressed did not understand what he was saying. It is rather that he presented them a buffer between themselves and the point he was making. He spoke about others in a fictional setting, giving his audience a degree of space in which to reflect upon that conjured reality before bringing it to bear on their own.

''Once upon a time,'' allows us a degree of separation. It grants us a little distance, even if we do recognize ourselves in the story. And so with a similar opening, Jesus invited his listeners to hear a story of some characters other than themselves, characters with whom they might actually identify, but on whose lives they might reflect with a deg ...

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