Category Archives: Parables

Birds, Rocks and Thorny Places

Parables are like ogres, which are like onions…they have layers.


One of the layers that adds rich meaning to the reading and understanding of Jesus’ parables is packaged in identifying with the different characters in the story. This is quickly and easily seen in the parable of the prodigal son where most of us wrestle with whether we are the older brother or the younger brother.


Sometimes there are unexpected characters in these stories that are off in the distance. They aren’t off in the distance because they are unnamed in the story. They are off in the distance because we, the reader, put them there because we don’t like to see them in the foreground of the story and have to give them much consideration. They are in the story and while are more difficult to notice, still carry a lot of meaning if we are willing to consider them and even identify with them (see ourselves in them and them in us).


When Jesus told the parable of the sower or the parable of the soils (which is probably a better title) in Mark 4 we are invited into the story to find out what kind of soil we are. We are also invited into the role of sower as we are called to spread the gospel to others. There are powerful lessons to be learned in considering those things and I think the main point of the parable is made in learning from that.


However, there is another role or character in the story that has escaped my attention until more recently. I don’t think I recognized its presence because I quickly assign that character to someone other than myself. The character is the one who stands in opposition to the seed taking root and growing into a thriving and healthy plant. I am talking about the birds, rocks and thorns.


This is me in my worst of moments…moments of cynicism and criticism where I choke the life out of someone else and keep them from thriving in Christ. These are times when I lack joy and take that out on another Christian. These are occasions when I fail to throw the seed with gusto because I know I am bitter enough to pick it back off the ground before it has time to take root. These are times my heart is not right to cultivate the soil of those around me much less my own soil and I become a rocky place where spiritual transformation is difficult to near impossible.


I don’t like to admit it but sometimes I am the birds, rocks and thorny places. It is only by recognizing that, that I am able to remove those tendencies from my heart and replace them with good soil.

Layers of the Good Samaritan: More than Meets the Eye

The story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 is a complex one. On first glance it is relatively simple…be kind and compassionate even to people who are hard to love. The more you dig into this parable the more you see that there is a richness and depth to this parable that isn’t obviousContinue Reading

Luke 10 & Simple Faith

There are a few major things that happen in the tenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke. First, Jesus sends out the 72. They go out and spread the news about the kingdom, doing miracles and seeing God at work through their ministry. Next, Jesus is asked by a very knowledgeable legal teacher what hasContinue Reading

Parables of Jesus – 12 weeks of free lessons on the Parables

I just wrapped up a lesson series on the parables. As always, I like to post them here for whoever might want them or need them for personal or public study. Thanks to all of you who have downloaded and used lessons in the past. I love to see that these get used! This bringsContinue Reading

Two Realizations That Help Christian Unity

In Luke 14 Jesus tells the parable of an influential man who throws a dinner party. He sends out the invite to all the choice people, the in-crowd. As the RSVP’s come back he gets nothing but excuses…One guy says he just bought a field and wants to go look at it. Pretty lame…don’t youContinue Reading

New Free Study Uploaded – Parables and the Kingdom of God

I just uploaded a new 13 lesson series on the parables of Jesus entitled “Parables and the Kingdom of God” Here are the stats on free curriculum on this blog: 937 total lessons 2996 total pages 75 lesson series 20 contributors 60,000+ pdf downloads!

Do We Recognize Redemption When It Happens Right in Front of Us?

In Luke 7 Jesus is in the house of Simon the Pharisee. While they are reclining at the table a “sinful” woman comes in and anoints Jesus, first with her tears and then with some perfume she had brought with her. Luke tells us she had learned that Jesus was in the house and sheContinue Reading

Jesus, Seeds and our DNA

I have been writing small group material on the parables and I was surprised to see how many of Jesus parables are about seeds. You have the parable of the sower, the mustard seed, the growing seed, the wheat and the weeds and so on. In these parables, the seed usually represents God’s Word. WhenContinue Reading

Will Willimon on The Parable of the Mustard Seed

“Jesus was preaching one day, preaching on the kingdom of God. ‘The Kingdom of God is like…It’s like a tiny mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds. but if you plant that tiny seed, water it, care for it, it will germinate and grow, and grow—and produce a weed about a foot high.’ The dumbfoundedContinue Reading

The Difference Between Myth and Parable & How That Informs Our Preaching

In Will Willimon’s outstanding book on preaching, The Intrusive Word: Preaching to the Unbaptized, he mentions a distinction that John Crossan (in his book The Dark Interval) makes between myth and parable. Willimon sums up Crossan’s view like this, “Myth attempts to mediate opposites, explain mystery, reconcile polarities, to take the randomness of life andContinue Reading


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