So, in looking at the parables, lets first make sure we are all on the same page regarding the meaning and function of parables.

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We are going to be looking at two little parables found in Luke:

a.   The Parable of the Mustard Seed

b.   The Parable of Leaven

These two parables are found back-to-back in Luke 13.  While you may think you understand exactly what Jesus is saying in these two little parables, think again!  Read this little essay on the perception of Mustard seed in first-century Palestine.  And then do a little bit of your own research on the meaning of leaven as it is used in the Bible.  Jesus is comparing the empire of God to both the mustard seed and leaven.

1.  After doing a little research on how mustard seed and leaven were viewed in first-century Palestine, please write your own interpretation of both parables.

2.  How does Jesus reverse conventional thinking with these two parables? 

Please remember to include specific references (chapter and verse) to the particular passage you are writing about. 

In the Gospel of Luke, we have some of the best loved teaching stories told by Jesus.  The interesting thing is that when you dig into some of these teachings stories – and you take into consideration the laws and customs of first-century Palestine – the meaning of the stories no longer seems crystal clear.  We begin to be slightly puzzled by what Jesus could have meant – which is arguably JUST what Jesus intended to do with these stories!  Wisdom teachers historically try to get people to understand the idea that life is rarely black and white – that is, things may not be what they appear to be.

Jesus’ teaching stories and parables frequently upend or reverse traditional thinking.  Remember that Jesus said,  “And people will come from east and west, from north and south, and dine in God’s empire. Those who will be first are last, and those who will be last are first.”  (13:29-30)  The meaning of this verse appears to be this:  Be prepared to be surprised!  The empire of God is not what you think it is.  In fact, it may be the exact opposite (first will be last, and last will be first).  Also remember that Jesus says that God makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.  There is no black and white thinking in God’s empire.

So, in looking at the parables, lets first make sure we are all on the same page regarding the meaning and function of parables.  Our textbook defines “parable” in this way:

A brief narrative or picture.  It is also a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application to tease it into active thought.

This implies that the very purpose of the parables is to “arrest” (or put a halt to) automatic and conventional thinking – and to cause you to STOP and think again!  Dig deeper, think outside the box.  But, above all else, THINK!  Don’t let others tell you what is true and what you understand.

If we wish to truly understand any of the parables, it is especially important that we interpret them through the lens of the time and place in which they were told – first century Palestine.  But how can we do this since we do not live in first-century Palestine?  The answer is that we can do a bit of research into some of the historical information that we DO have from that time.