Read Mark 4:1-20

v 2He taught them by telling many stories in the form of parables

 

The normal way of teaching was didactic – arguments, statements, and proofs. You met it with some of your teachers at school, I’m sure. They told you something, you listened and wrote it down, you went home to learn it, and then the teacher tested you on it. That, after all, was the normal tried and tested method of teaching. A few teachers were different, particularly those with practical subjects such as engineering, needlework, woodwork or cooking. But, by and large, you knew the drill: sit still, listen, write it down, etc. I even tried to learn French that way, oral work was pretty low in the order of priorities in the dim and distant past. (I hope your experience was somewhat better! I learned Latin like that too – but then Latin was not really spoken, was it – anywhere. From the way we were taught, you might have thought French was not spoken by anybody either.) The old way was a sure recipe for boredom and probable failure. (How I passed both French and Latin remains something of a mystery – after all, I became a Mathematician. We were allowed to sit and dream and claim to be thinking!)

Now, guess how the Jewish teachers worked. Sit still in the back row, he (always a he) talked about the Law, the Prophets and Hebrew history. You tried to remember it, but then you were human and quickly forgot. It was facts, facts, facts – and a dreary experience of so-called education.

Then along came a real teacher, Jesus, and He was so different. He told stories and parables that were unusual, memorable and thought-provoking. Just recall a few: The Good Samaritan (What! How can a Samaritan be good in Jewish culture?) The Prodigal Son. (Would a hurt father really welcome back a profligate son?) The lost sheep. (Would the shepherd really leave 99 behind to go hunting for one rather stupid animal?)

Then, not only did the disciples remember the parables, they had to think about them too until they got the point of them. They were not profound stories, but they made the listeners think about the meaning of them, and go on to reflect about the application of them to life. Sometimes, they had to go back to Jesus and ask about meaning, and He always explained. (Think of the Parable of the Seed and the Sower in Matthew 13 – it left the disciples confused until Jesus explained it for them.

Jesus was determined to get the message across; hence His method was geared to the needs of the ordinary person; He told stories – He was a man who understood people like no other.

Thursday 5th March Jesus was a man who understood people like no other.