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Chapter 15: Jesus, The Great Teacher (Parables)
Although the teaching ministry of Christ lasted only three and a half years, during that time He showed that He was the world's master teacher. He performed great miracles and taught a new way of life. His teaching was simple. He used words the common people could understand, and took His illustrations from the things with which His listeners were familiar. Many of His principles were set forth in parables. A parable is a true-to-life story with a special meaning. In this chapter we examine a few of them.
The things Jesus taught are more important than His methods. He gave us a complete way of life, which He summed up in one sentence, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."
One of the great themes of His teaching was God's kingdom. His claim was, "The time has come. The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news."
This is a reminder to all of us that the world is not out of control. God is still in charge, but He has given us free-will. We are not like machines wound-up by God. Rather we are free, and yet ruled by a King, and that is God. When Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God it was to invite people to submit themselves to it. Jesus told parables to illustrate what He meant by God's kingdom.
The Parable of the Sower
"A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop - a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown."
Obviously the resulting crop depended on the kind of ground that the seed fell into. What Jesus meant here is that if our hearts are hard, bitter, and filled with pride and self sufficiency, then even if the good seed comes to us, even if we hear and learn about His kingdom, we won't accept it. However, if we accept God's will in our lives, the Kingdom of God will be within us.
A Hidden Treasure
On another occasion Jesus told of a treasure hidden in a field. A merchant found it "... and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought the field." It is true that when we find the Kingdom of God, we receive much joy, but there is a price to be paid. Our becoming a member of the Kingdom of God, and following Jesus may offend many people. Our honesty may well make some people around us uncomfortable. We may lose friends, brothers and sisters. Our families may well turn against us. Joining this Kingdom of God may mean the loss of a job, imprisonment, or even death. Jesus recognises that you may have to pay a high price to come into this Kingdom but it is still well-worthwhile.
Once some of the Jewish leaders from the sect of the Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God would come. Jesus replied, "The Kingdom of God does not come visibly, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is in you." Many people who were listening to Jesus were longing for a political revolution. They wanted Jesus to be their Messiah in a political sense, to overthrow the Roman rulers and release Palestine from its bondage. Jesus refused such a demand because that was not the real problem. mankind's fundamental problem is not political. it is sin. jesus came to deal with sin. According to Him, God's kingdom was a universal kingdom, not restricted to any particular people. Therefore He told them that this kingdom is within men's hearts. It was not something that was going to be established in the future, but something that was being established there and then. One can become a member of this kingdom by following Jesus and His commandments.
The Parable of the Lost Son
Jesus did not tell this parable just to entertain the people who were around Him. He intended to show that God receives even the most wicked person who repents and turns to Him, because He wants everyone to be saved and come to him through Jesus. In this parable we see how one may turn away from God to find his own way of adventure and folly. However God in his mercy and kindness awaits and leaves the door flung open for him expecting that one day this child of Adam may see a shaft of light and return to him.
Why should submission to Jesus be the only way to inherit the Kingdom of God? It is because He is the king of the kingdom. He did not act like worldly rulers. He introduced a totally different concept of leadership. He advised his disciples: "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."  He demonstrated this concept by washing the feet of His disciples . Later He gave his life for them and for us. On the other hand He did prove His authority and trustworthiness by the many signs He provided, and by the many prophecies He fulfilled particularly by getting out of the tomb.
Jesus gave His followers assurance about the future. At the day of judgement He will say to those who have chosen to follow His way, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world."