Jesus the Storyteller 3 Reflections of/ on Jesus’ ministry

Reflections of/ on Jesus’ ministry

Are all readings equally valid?

Relation to course of Jesus ministry

The ‘mystery’ of God’s kingdom – cf.

The kingdom of heaven is like … (Matt. 13:24, 31, 33, 44, 45, 47)

Tares: a reflection of opposition

The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. (Matt. 13:24-25)

The parable tells the story of Israel, particularly the return from exile, with a paradoxical conclusion, and it tells the story of Jesus’ ministry, as the fulfilment of that larger story …

(NT Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God)

‘Now’ is climax; the harvest (crucifixion, AD 70) will surprise: much ‘seed’ lost

A parable about hearing

“He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matt.13:9)

A parable about the hearing of parables

“Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? (Mark 4:13)

A speech-act: by speaking Jesus creates the reality that he speaks of


When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables.
He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that (hina), “‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’” (Mark 4:10-12)

‘‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’’ And he answered them, ‘‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given … This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: ‘‘‘For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’” (Matt. 13:10-15)


Challenge: desire to engage curiosity?

Hostility of adversaries – cf. Mark’s context: family, teachers of Law (3:22-35)?

Fidelity to OT?

A reflection of his experience?

The Good Samaritan: the narrative

Realistic setting

Jericho road notorious for bandit attacks

Jericho favoured by priests as home

Reactions to characters

No great affection for priests

Samaritan – why not an ordinary Israelite?

Negative expectations – surprise


The ‘rule of three’



End stress


Through actions – 12 verbs:
He came … he saw … he was moved with pity … he went … he poured … he bandaged … he put him on his animal …he brought him to an inn … he took care of him … he took out two denarii … he gave them to the innkeeper … he said …


Brevity, concision

No comment: ‘show, don’t tell’

No feelings, motives

Use of direct speech at climax

The Good Samaritan – interpretation

One of the best – but least parable-like – of Jesus’ stories

Realistic: meaning emerges without any transposition

Setting and characters: representative, not metaphoric or symbolic

Traditional/ medieval: allegory

The man who was going down is Adam. Jerusalem is paradise, and Jericho is the world. The robbers are hostile powers. The priest is the Law, the Levite is the prophets, and the Samaritan is Christ. The wounds are disobedience, the beast is the Lord’s body, the [inn], which accepts all who wish to enter, is the Church. … The manager of the [inn] is the head of the Church, to whom its care has been entrusted. And the fact that the Samaritan promises he will return represents the Saviour’s second coming (Origen, c. 250 AD)

A simple moral tale?

What must I do to inherit eternal life? (Luke 10:25) – be like the Samaritan!

Misses the point – has to be seen

• as narrative

• in context


Choice of Samaritan as foil to priest and Levite

• Not just a surprise – a challenge to assumptions

• Opens up category of righteous people to others than Israel – to everyman

Turning tables on hearers

‘Love your neighbour as yourself … And who is my neighbour?” (v. 27, 29)

‘Neighbour’: passive, dependent on my help

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

‘Neighbour’: active, my potential or actual helper – who may be anyone, even a Samaritan!

… the jarring challenge and urgent invitation. This is not only, in the explicit words of Jesus Luke records, ‘Go and do likewise’, but also – as and when the message sank in – ‘reorder your mental world so that you see how universally such compassion is possible.

(Stephen I. Wright, Jesus the Storyteller)

This challenge is timeless!

Steve Robinson



Jesus the Storyteller 1. Stories and their interpretation – two examples – Luke 11 & parables

Jesus the Storyteller 2 Interpreting Jesus’ stories

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