Responses for “Parabolic Challenges”

Mark 12: 13-17 and Parallels

What is the question put to Jesus?  (Is it lawful to pay tax to Caesar?)

Who asks it?  (Some Pharisees and Herodians)

What are the implications? (Jesus is put ‘on the spot’ and it is a dangerous spot)

What happens if Jesus says ‘yes’? (loses credibility as a prophet, blasphemes against the first commandment and the theocratic principle, offends the Jews)

What happens if Jesus says ‘no’? (offends the Romans, may be considered treasonous)

What is happening in Jesus? (forced to choose between God and welfare of the people)

What is Jesus’ response? 

  1. Brilliant uncovering of the questioners’ duplicity, showing them up as Roman sympathisers when they produce a Roman coin rather than a shekel.
  2. Shows that one can live in the world AND be related to God
  3. Given that a good Jew would not have an image of Caesar, he may even be saying ‘don’t pay’ in a way that would not be understood as treason.
  4. radical expansion of the theocratic principle 

What enables Jesus to make this radical statement? (his relationship to God, to  the image of  God, the assumption God is already ruling- remember how he has said the Kingdom comes: slowly, hidden, when we sell all)

When we enter the Kingdom do we work in the social sphere or do we enter the Kingdom by working in the social sphere? (both; those in the kingdom will work in the social sphere naturally, but those who work in the social sphere for others reasons may, in so doing, discover the way to the kingdom.)

What quality is given to our social work when we have our inner focus on our relationship with God? (It is no longer a chore, for it is an outpouring of who we are, of God in us.  There is no danger of ‘burnout’)

What are some important outer world social issues? (racism, hospitality for refugees, the increasing gap between rich and poor, religious prejudice, inequality of opportunity, climate change, animal rights)

Matthew 21:28-31

What is the essential point of the parable in Mt. 21:28-31 ? (The will of God is not done until it’s done)

What is specifically asked? (to respond to the request of the father to work in the vineyard)

What ultimately comes from the vineyard? (wine=joy; the vineyard is the symbol of where the work of the Kingdom is done)

What is required (all the steps) to make wine? (prune, cultivate, fertilise, protect, pick, crush, ferment)

Who grows the grapes? (God)

What does God provide? (seed, rain, soil nutrients, sun) What does God need? (human labour  to plant, prune, harvest and process grapes)

What is the response of the first son? (No, but went)       of second?  (Yes, but did not go.)

What do words of the 2nd son say about his attitude and relationship with his father?(show of obedience, dishonest, based on fear)

What do words of the 1st son say about his attitude and relationship with his father (independent & honest, suggesting a good relationship)

Note: Illustrates the difference between intention and commitment. With the 1st son, the inner resistances are dealt with as well, and the whole self is brought to the task.

Luke 11:1-13

What does the parable follow? (Lord’s prayer)

How might the parable be related to the prayer? (comment on the value of importunity in prayer)

What is the main point of the parable? (importunity pays off)

What is the need of the person on a journey? (to be fed)

When does he come? (middle of the night, the darkest hour)

What is the situation of the person in the middle? (a host with no bread)

What does he have? (a friend who has bread)

What does he have to do to get bread? (crash through expectations, in the time of Jesus, this would have been quite a significant inconvenience for a man, living with a family in a one-room abode, whose household is asleep)

What does he have to overcome? (fear of offending friend, reluctance to cause inconvenience, embarrassment)

What reaction does he get when he knocks? (a ‘knock-back’)

What gets him what he wants?  (in Greek, a literal translation of the word for importunity would be “shameless insistence”)

What enables him to do this? (desperation, concern for hunger of the traveller)

In light of the proximity of the parable to the Lord’s Prayer, what does this suggest about God? (God can be moved to respond by our insistence, by our action)

The one who is in bed responds how?  (with a ‘No’ and then with bread). Compare with the parable of the “yes-no” brothers, and note the mirror image; perhaps we have here an image of God repenting, i.e. saying ‘no’ then ‘yes’)

How does this challenged your concept of God? (God is not immutable)

Luke 14:12-24

If we assume the one who throws the party is meant to represent God, what qualities does God exhibit here?  (generous host, insistent, angry, wants company, wants celebration, wants the banquet eaten)

What is the nature of the banquet? (abundance, ‘Garden of Eden’)

What is the response to the invitations? (excuses, excuses, excuses)

What is God’s response? (won’t allow banquet to go uneaten)

How much room is available? (lots)

In the last verse, what is God’s response? (judgment against those who refused the invitation)

Is this punishment or is it just a fact of life? (the latter)

Does God seem angry? If so, what causes the anger? (that people are going to miss out and there is nothing that God can do about it?)

What is the nature of the excuses? (all are reasonable and responsible; they all say ‘okay, but not now’; they are good excuses, but they still miss the banquet)

What are the ways you find not to attend?  (your own personal response)

Who do come?(the dregs of society)

What do you suppose they respond? (they have nothing to get in the way; they don’t have complications of life of those who are better off)

Matthew 25:1-15 and Parallels

Who has Christianity related to the bridegroom? (Jesus)

Who is Jesus using the bridegroom to represent? (God, Holy Spirit)

The tradition of the Jewish wedding feast in Jesus era was characterised by the arrival of the groom at an indeterminate time, with surprise being the goal.

What characteristics are given to God in this story? (comes at darkest hour, comes unexpectedly, shuts people out, wants to ‘marry’, i.e. desires completeness)

What do the five wise virgins know about reality that the foolish ones don’t? (must be prepared in order to grasp life; you can be ‘caught out’ if not ready)

When does the bridegroom come? (at the darkest hour)

What does Jesus say about the reality of God’s coming? (resources and awareness are required to meet God; you cannot put off the task without great risk)

When can these moments happen? (any time)

Activity: Mime the parable twice: first as the foolish virgins, then as wise ones.

Write:What did the experience say to you about yourself?  (your own personal response)

What did it feel like in each of the two roles?  (your own personal response)

What is going on in God when he says, “I know you not”? (‘I can’t overcome the barriers you put between us; if you don’t know me, I can’t know you.’)

Note: God didn’t shut the door; it was simply shut.  Who shut it? (just a fact of life)

Matthew 25:15-30

What is a talent? (a measure of weight, usually of gold, worth about $1,762,000 today, i.e. a great deal of money; hence a tremendous responsbility)

What are the qualities of God portrayed in this parable? (goes away, leaves responsibility with us, wants growth, gives resources in proportion to our abilities, angry, greedy, joyous return, wants to reap without sowing)

What is the response to the first two servants? (“well done”, affirmation, joyful, invitation to join him)

What has invited this response? (they took the work seriously and knew what was required, risked losing the master’s money, had initiative)

What perception of the master allowed them to take the risk? (demands results, forgiving, fair)

What has the third one done? (buried the money, scared into inaction, lazy)

What was his perception of the master that led to this action? (fearful taskmaster, i.e. O.T.)

What is the response of the master to the third servant? (rebuked him; took all he had and cast him out)

Is this result punishment or a fact of life? (a fact of life, i.e. the product of playing safe is no-life)

What does the master (God) want from us? (increase, use of talents, take risk and responsibility)

What happens if we fail to do this? (we miss out on life)

What is the nature of the God/human relationship? (we are God’s hands; we mould the resources we are given)

What part of you has the least, i.e. what part of you is symbolised by the 3rd servant? Write.  (your personal response)

What have you buried? Write.   (your personal response)

What happens to it if it is not used? Write.   (your personal response)

Taken all together, which part of Jesus’ images of God challenges you the most? Write.  (your personal response)

Luke 17:20-21

What is the question?(when is the Kingdom coming?)

What is the answer? (the Kingdom is in your midst)

What is the most radical aspect of this answer for the people of the time? (that it’s present, it’s not a place, there is no sign, not historical)

If the Kingdom of God was in the midst of us, what would society be like? (characterised by justice and peace, challenging, intentional, fruitful, free of barriers, threatening)

Note the footnote: “in your midst” can also mean “within you”.  This would be heretical in the extreme. What does it mean to you to know that the Kingdom of God is within you? (your personal response)

Activity:  Close eyes and imagine the Kingdom of God within you? Touch it.  What does it feel like? (Write)

Luke 10:30-37

Close your eyes and imagine yourself as the beaten man on the side of the road. Note how you feel. Who comes by? What happens?  (your personal response)

Who are the priests and Levites?  (religious leaders)

Where are they on the social scale?  (very high)

Why do they pass by? (death/blood defiles according to their religion, perhaps on urgent priestly business)

What is going on in them? (time pressure, complicates their lives)

What does the Samaritan represent? (the despised in this culture)

What is his reaction? What does he do? (takes care and promises to return)

What part of his comprehensive care touches you most? (your personal response)

What enables the Samaritan to stop and help? (he knows suffering; the root of compassion is to suffer with, less baggage due to religion)

Who are the wounded ones in our world? (poor, children, women, minorities, refugees)

Who are the robbers? (criminals, some political and business leaders, the banks, those whose wealth and power enable them to have advantages over others, people who profit from gambling, drinking, drugs and other vices)

Who are the Samaritans? (non-anglo-saxons, non-Christians, junkies, drunks, prostitutes) 

What are the inns? (hospitals, churches, hostels, pubs)

Now look at it also as an inner story.  Who are your inner robbers, who left the child stripped and beaten? (parents, siblings, people who fixed boundaries such teachers and pastors)

Who is the wounded one in you? What was an early wound?  (your personal response)

Who are the priests and Levites in you? How are their attitudes expressed? (providers of distraction, leave it alone and it will go away, I don’t want to know, I have more important priorities.)

Who or what is the reality of the Samaritan for you? (your personal response)

Who or what is the reality of the Samaritan within you? (your personal response)

Mime the parable and write down what comes up for you as you do it? or dialogue with the Samaritan as your wounded one. (your personal response)

Where do you see God in this parable? (in the Samaritan and also the wounded one)

Note: at Epidaurus, a healing centre in ancient Greece, there was a quotation from Apollo’s son, Asclepius: “God sends the wound, God is in the wound, God is wounded, God heals the wound.”

If you were to accept this as true, what would it say about your wounds? (they’re purposive; they deserve respect and serious attention)

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