Rebuke and Challenge: The Point of Jesus' Parables
En garde! Often a foe - sometimes a friend - would say something that in effect challenged Jesus to a verbal duel. And time after time our Lord would parry the thrust of the foe's religious ideas and tell a parable as His riposte.
Like the ancient sport of fencing, Jesus' parables are and art form. But contrary to popular opinion, they are neither spiritual allegories nor playful stories that disguise a single moral point. Such an understanding ignores the historical circumstances in which Jesus first related His stories. Fact is, He was not joshing when He told His parables. Neither was He seeking to entertain. He was dueling in dead earnest - contending for truth.
Consequently, we should read the parables within the context of Jesus' cut-and-thrust debates with the religionists of His day. Jesus' stories belong, in the main, to the heat of real controversy. Through them He (1) challenged religious smugness, (2) proclaimed God's salvation, (3) invited the despised to God's banquet, and (4) reversed the opinions of pious bigotry.
In his highly readable book, Norman Young explains in an easy-to-understand way eleven of Jesus' well-known parables. Because of our familiarity with the story line of these parables, we are likely to miss Jesus' punch line. Dr. Young however, coaches us so that we can see Jesus' skill in parrying the offensive thrusts of those who distorted truth, and the artfulness of which His ripostes defended truth. [from the back cover].
Young, N.H.(1985). Rebuke and Challenge: The Point of Jesus' Parables. Hagerstown, MD: Review & Herald.