Parables... but not as we've known them
by Lynette Woods
"...Without a parable He said nothing to them. This was in fulfillment of what was spoken by the prophet: I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things that have been hidden since the foundation of the world." Matthew 13:34b-35
Many of us, instead of being like little children and asking our Father what the parables in the Bible mean, have instead heard and accepted what others have told us they mean. Parabolic, symbolic language is not always easy to understand, yet Jesus deliberately spoke in parables so that KNOWING our Father personally and intimately would be the key to all revelation and understanding.
The disciples came up and asked, "Why
do you tell stories?" He replied, "You've been
given insight into God's kingdom. You know how it
works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight;
it hasn't been given to them. Whenever someone has
a ready heart for this, the insights and
understandings flow freely. But if there is no
readiness, any trace of receptivity soon
disappears. That's why I tell stories: to create
readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive
insight. In their present state they can stare
till doomsday and not see it, listen till they're
blue in the face and not get it. I don't want
Isaiah's forecast repeated all over again:
"But you have God-blessed eyes—eyes that see! And God-blessed ears—ears that hear! A lot of people, prophets and humble believers among them, would have given anything to see what you are seeing, to hear what you are hearing, but never had the chance. (Matt. 13:10-17 TM).
The Parable of the Friend at Midnight
Part of our unlearning is in this area of
the parables and stories that Jesus gave because
often these stories have been interpreted through
the mindset of religion rather than through Christ
teaching us Himself. One example of this occurs in
Luke, immediately after the Lord’s prayer. Jesus
said “Which of you who has a friend will go to
him at midnight and will say to him, Friend, lend
me three loaves of bread. For a friend of
mine who is on a journey has just come, and I have
nothing to put before him. And he from
within will answer, Do not disturb me, the door is
now closed, and my children are with me in bed; I
cannot get up and supply you with anything?
I tell you, although he will not get up and supply
him anything because he is his friend, yet because
of his shameless persistence he will get up and
give him as much as he needs. So I say to you, Ask
and keep on asking and it shall be given to you;
seek and keep on seeking and you shall find; knock
and keep on knocking and the door shall be opened
to you.” Luke 11:6-9.
Banging on someone's door at midnight when they are already in bed, is rather rude; it would be inconsiderate and thoughtless in just about any culture! As Jesus said, "Which of you will go to a friend at midnight and ask for bread?" when it is the end of the day? Jesus seems to have expanded on this in verses 11-13 "What father among you, if his SON asks for a loaf of bread will give him a stone; or if he asks for a fish will instead of a fish give him a serpent? Or if he asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, evil as you are, know how to give good gifts to YOUR CHILDREN, how much MORE will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" He focused on the children, not on the friend who kept asking for bread!
The three loaves of bread may be representative of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. From the context it seems that Jesus was using two examples: physical and spiritual - one is easily seen and obvious, the other is hidden and unseen. He first mentions physical food, and then speaks of heavenly food - the Holy Spirit. He Himself is our Bread and Meat. We are not awake at midnight with no Bread to feed ourselves or others with; we LIVE with the Bread and have no lack of it! It seems to be speaking of two different types of asking and two different types of relationship. One is asking from a position of lack and does not have an intimate relationship, the other is asking from a position of abundance and lives with the Father. The friend had no bread so had to keep asking till he was given some; but the children of the house knew that there was plenty of bread available and they could eat whenever they were hungry.
When we live in His house we rest in Him because we KNOW Him as “our Father”! While others may be knocking on doors at midnight because they do not have Bread to break with others - we are not lacking Bread because He is our Father who abundantly provides ALL His children needs, even while we sleep! Except the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; except the Lord keeps the city, the watchman wakes but in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to take rest late, to eat the bread of toil - for He gives to His beloved in sleep! Psalm 127:1,2
The Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids
This is a very similar message to the parable of the ten virgins/bridesmaids (Matthew 25:1-13). There are four groups of people in both parables. Firstly the Groom and the Father/Friend. Secondly the five foolish virgins and the visitor - who had no oil or bread of their own. Thirdly the five wise virgins and the rude friend who know where to GET a supply of either Oil or Bread (the Holy Spirit and Christ), they know the Groom and Friend but it is not an intimate relationship. They know Him as the Giver, but don't know Him as THE Gift - they don’t LIVE or dwell with Him in constant, intimate relationship where He IS their Life and Source of all.
The fourth group in both parables is hidden and not obvious although essential to both pictures; the Children are in bed resting, out of sight and hidden, and the Bride is preparing for her wedding. There would be no Father without the Children and there would be no Groom or Wedding without the Bride. We are both the Bride and the Children!
Too many settle for just knowing God as a
Friend rather than as a Father. Too many settle for
just knowing Christ as a Groom at a wedding rather
than knowing Him as their
Groom/Husband. The reason the foolish virgins
were not admitted to the wedding feast was because
He did not KNOW them (verse 12) even though they
called Him Lord. He is always wanting and seeking
intimacy and close, CLOSE relationship with us. The
five wise virgins had enough oil in their lamps for
one evening of celebration; but compare that with
the option of being the Bride: united for all
eternity with the One Who IS the Light of the
world! They were attendants or bridesmaids at
a great wedding feast; but compare that to being the
Bride who is in love with, and being married to the
One who is Love Himself! And the rude friend knew
where to get Bread at a late hour; but compare that
to living night and day with the One Who IS the
Bread of Life! There is no comparison.
The Parable of the Persistent Widow
In a certain city there was a judge who neither reverenced and feared God nor respected or considered man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, Protect and defend and give me justice against my adversary. And for a time he would not; but later he said to himself, Though I have neither reverence or fear for God nor respect or consideration for man, yet because this widow continues to bother me, I will defend and protect and avenge her, lest she give me intolerable annoyance and wear me out by her continual coming or at the last she come and assault me or strangle me. Then the Lord said, Listen to what the unjust judge says! And will not our just God defend and protect and avenge His elect chosen ones, who cry to Him day and night? Will He defer them and delay help on their behalf? I tell you He will defend and protect and avenge them speedily. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth? Luke 18:2-8.
Who represents us in this parable? We are usually likened to the persistent widow who is totally dependent upon God - having no earthly husband to support, defend and protect her, or to avenge her - she has to rely on Another for those things and more. Or perhaps this may be an example of what NOT to be like by contrast, because clearly God is not an unjust judge like the judge in the parable! And in the Bible we are not normally referred to as God's widow at all, but as His beloved Wife and Bride. The widow might represent those who do not know Him as their Husband any more - He is not the Love of their life and they do not have an intimate relationship with Him.
We know that our God is the opposite of an
unjust judge and He states very clearly that
vengeance is His and that He will repay. (Deut
32:35, Ps 94:1, Rom 12:19) The
not-so-obvious message in this parable may again be
about trusting our Father because He is not only our
Father Who protects and defends, but also our Groom
who again, protects and defends! We have no need to
go to any judge to beg for justice and protection;
He provides it. Jesus ended this story by saying
“HOWEVER, when the Son of Man comes, will He find
FAITH on the earth?” THAT is the
question and that seems to have been what He was
getting at with this parable. Do we really
know our God? If we do, we will trust and have faith
in what He has told us and shown us about Himself (eg
vengeance is His, He WILL defend) without
feeling the need to continually hassle God about it
because we KNOW that He is faithful and trustworthy
far above all others!
The widow was reliant on herself in being annoying and persistent in trying to make something happen, while as the Bride of Christ we are reliant on Christ and His character. The perspectives of the Bride/Wife from the bridal chamber and the child from the Father’s house are quite different than the perspectives of the friend or bridesmaids or widow... If God is for us, who can be against us? He Who did not withhold or spare even His own son but gave Him up for us all, will He not also with Him freely and graciously give us all other things? Romans 8:31,32
This parable and the parable of the friend at midnight were teaching about prayer. The parable of the friend at midnight is given immediately after the disciples had asked Jesus to teach them to pray and He gives the prayer: "Our Father Who is in Heaven..." When we know God as “our Father”, much of our praying will be changed. So much of what WE think we should pray, may exhibit our unbelief or distrust of Him. He is our FATHER! A Father is primarily a provider, protector and educator. No child keeps going to their father to ask over and over again for the basic necessities of life; if they keep doing so the father will feel hurt that his children do not trust him for even the basics; they must think he is an unloving Father. All good fathers will provide the necessities of life without needing to be constantly entreated. Our Father is the epitome of Goodness and Love! We know this from our experience! The Bible tells us that He clothes the lilies and feeds the birds, how much MORE so His very own children whom He dearly loves? This was part and parcel of His teaching the disciples how to pray.
Prayer must be based on faith and trust. The children in the household of the Father will ask for Bread whenever they are hungry, knowing full well that they will receive it; they know that there is a limitless supply available for the taking! But the friend had to go knocking at the door at a very late hour with no guarantee of receiving anything... The widow had to resort to nagging because she was not married to Christ. The bridesmaids were part of the wedding party, but they were focused on their own lamps instead of getting married to the Light of the world. May God open our eyes and hearts to hear and see things from HIS perspective instead of our own!
"I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise, clever and learned, and revealed them to babies, to the childish, untaught, and unskilled. Yes, Father, such was your gracious will and good pleasure." Matthew 11:25,26