Parables… but not as we’ve known them
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:
Your ears are open but you don’t hear a thing.
Your eyes are awake but you don’t see a thing.
The people are blockheads!
They stick their fingers in their ears
so they won’t have to listen;
They screw their eyes shut
so they won’t have to look,
so they won’t have to deal with me face-to-face
and let me heal them.
“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).
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.
The Parable of the Friend at Midnight
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.
In this parable, God is represented as being the friend in the house who gives the Bread – but who represents us in this parable? Where are WE in this picture?
Most of us have been told to see ourselves as being the friend without bread who kept asking for bread and we learn that we are to be persistent in prayer – to ask and keep asking so that we will eventually receive because of our persistence. But perhaps there may be more to this picture… because there were more people involved in this parable than just the two men.
Think about this: Are we normally referred to in the Scriptures as God’s friend or as His children?
We are His CHILDREN, and in this parable we are exactly where we are meant to be: in our Father’s house, resting in His bed!
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 in the parable, not on the friend who kept annoyingly asking for bread that he should have had a supply of!
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 with the Giver, 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. And so, they were at rest with their Father.
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 that His children need, 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
There is is a very similar message in the well-known parable of the ten virgins/bridesmaids (Matthew 25:1-13). So, again, who represents us in this parable? Where are we in this picture?
Most Christians would say, “we are the five wise virgins who had oil for their lamps” because that is what we’ve traditionally been taught. But just think about this story for a minute. What is the story about? It is about a wedding.
Who are the most important people at a wedding?
It is not the bridesmaids. 🙂
There are four groups of people in both parables:
- The Groom and the Father.
- The five foolish virgins and the guest who arrived unexpected at the friend’s house – they needed oil and bread but didn’t have any.
- 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), because they are acquainted with the Groom and Father, but it is not really 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.
- And lastly: the children and the Bride.
The fourth in both parables are hidden and not obvious even though they are absolutely essential to both pictures.
The Children are in bed resting, out of sight and hidden, and of course the most important person not mentioned in the parable of the ten virgins, is the Bride. There would be no Father without the Children and there would be no Groom or Wedding without the Bride.
We are 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 who would be united for all eternity with the One Who IS the Light of the world! The virgins 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 for his guest; but compare that to living night and day with the One Who IS the Bread of Life!
There is simply no comparison.
Both parables were at midnight which may indicate the darkness and the lateness of the hour and that it is time to be in the Father’s house, resting in Him and not doing our own works or trying desperately to find Bread or Oil through our own efforts.
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? Where are we in this picture?
The standard interpretation is that we are 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.
But perhaps this is 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 ever referred to as God’s widow, 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 FAITHon 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). We will trust Him without feeling the need to continually hassle Him about things because we KNOW that He is faithful and trustworthy far above all others!
I’m NOT talking about “declaring God’s promises” and trying to make God do things through our so-called faith. That is not faith but manipulation. I’m talking about KNOWING our Father as a little child does, and KNOWING our Husband as a wife does. A child and a wife KNOW that these things are part of their Loved One’s character, they KNOW that He would not lie to them and so they simply trust Him because of what He has told them, because of what they have experienced, and because of Who they know! Very simple, yet very profound. This attitude honours God because we trust that He will provide all we need instead of feeling the need to persistently hassle Him for it (although, funnily enough, both wives and children seem to be good at doing that too)!
The widow was reliant on herself by 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 was 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