I like to think of Jesus’ parables as “say for example” theology, rounding out our understanding of how we practically apply truth in our daily lives. This is, to a great degree, how the parables were presented in the first place. “How many times should I forgive?” “Well, let’s say for example a man owed a king a great debt.” “Who is my neighbor?” “Say for example, a man was traveling down a road and fell among thieves?”
We use this approach all the time when we try to describe Christian character in action. “Say for example someone cuts you off in traffic.” “What if, for example, you discovered a co-worker was stealing from your company?” It would be interesting to see the examples Jesus would use in our culture had He come in our age and used parables as a teaching tool. Yet, the parables set against the backdrop of the land Jesus trod are as relevant today as they were when He spoke them. He wisely chose timeless cues, personalities and circumstances people of any era can understand. As we sift through His parables we begin to understand what life is supposed to be like in the kingdom. We also see how it compares and contrasts with the kingdoms of this world.
Perhaps Jesus knew He wouldn’t be here in the flesh to model kingdom life. Therefore, He gave us the parables, engaged us with the truth, and filled us with His spirit to bring about our transformation. In this way we become living examples of the kingdom. “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14)