The Purpose of the Parables
by Nicole Arnoldbik
A farmer friend once asked me to take care of his 17 ewes and all their lambs while he was away for a while. His emailed instructions were straightforward, except for the section on one of the lambs he called Bottle Lamb. He explained that this particular lamb had been born as a twin, but her mother had rejected her while accepting the other lamb as her own. All attempts to get the mother to bond with Bottle Lamb had only invited headbutting, so Bottle Lamb was given her name because she had to be bottle fed. He asked me to come twice a day to first milk one of the goats and in turn feed Bottle Lamb with the goat’s milk.
Nearing the farm, I worried that I would have to search for Bottle Lamb, and I wondered about how I would identify her from all the other lambs. Nowhere in the instructions had my friend provided any description of the lamb or a way to identify her besides her name. As I approached the electric fence, though, a lone lamb streaked across the field, shimmied under one fence, and leapt through another, arriving at my feet before I could even unlatch the gate. Obviously, this was Bottle Lamb! She hovered by my side on the way to the goat pen and watched my every move.
Clearly, the farmer knew that I would recognize Bottle Lamb because of her neediness.
When I read through the Gospel of Luke and hear Jesus say, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick,” I think of Bottle Lamb. While all the other lambs were no less dependent on me than Bottle Lamb, their self-sufficiency made them hardly notice my approach or the farmer’s absence.
Luke and Matthew record Jesus as saying, “This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand” (Matt. 13:13) His storytelling was an invitation for his listeners to eagerly look for him and listen for him.
In Richard Foster and Gayle Beebe’s book Longing for God, they write:
"God rarely if ever addresses us directly. Instead, he works through indirection. Indirection requires that we learn how to look for God. He uses the beautiful example of Samuel and Eli to illustrate his point. God could have come to Samuel directly, but instead he wanted Samuel to learn how to look for God."
In a sermon titled simply “Jesus,” Youth With A Mission Pastor Rod White Eagle Wilson also addressed longing, saying that Jesus’ crowds were deceived by the lack of protocol surrounding his life. Wilson said, “[Jesus’] character is never going to be revealed to a casual observer, his character is never going to be revealed to a casual inquirer.”
As we read the parables woven throughout Jesus’ last trek to Jerusalem, let’s come like Bottle Lamb, recognizing our neediness and letting our hunger drive us to Christ’s feet. We cannot be casual observers, and Jesus is delighted when we hear him from afar, look for him, and run to him.
Father, thank you that you came to seek and save the lost. In turn, let our hunger for the Bread of Life drive us to hear and see and understand and bear fruit with patience.
Nicole Arnoldbik has been attending The Falls Church Anglican since last August, and she serves as our communications coordinator.