Mohler’s New Book Unveils the Explosive Power of Jesus’ Parables
When Jesus’ disciples asked him why he sometimes taught in pithy stories known as parables, the Lord gave them a surprising, if not slightly shocking answer: he taught in parables so that some would have their spiritual eyes opened to the truth of God’s kingdom and that others would have their hearts and minds blinded to it.
Such is the nature of those stories Jesus tells, which is, of course the outcome of engaging all of Scripture—some hearts are softened toward the kingdom, others are hardened.
In his new book, Tell Me the Stories of Jesus: The Explosive Power of Jesus’ Parables (Nelson), Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. says in this way the parables “sneak up on Jesus’ hearers” with incredible power that makes clear truths about the kingdom of God.
In a little over 200 pages, Mohler examines many of the parables—most of which are found in the first three books of the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, and Luke—showing how they announce the arrival of God’s kingdom in all its glory, communicating both God’s grace in salvation to the found and his wrath in judgment to the lost.
“To be human is to be a storied creature in a way no other creature is,” Mohler said. “Dogs don’t know stories, they don’t tell stories; human beings tell stories—it’s a part of understanding who we are. Parents tell stories to their children and then those stories get repeated about the identity of a family. Churches and other organizations have stories.
“To be human is to have a story. To be human is to understand ultimate truth in terms of a story. The Bible is much more than a story, but it’s never less than a story. There is a storyline that goes from Genesis to Revelation and there are stories in the Old Testament. Jesus perfected the use of parables in teaching, and they are particular kinds of stories; they are stories that sneak up on us, they are stories that explode and disclose truth in an unbelievable way.”
Mohler begins the book by introducing the literary genre of parables—how they should be interpreted and how Scripture intends they be applied.
“At the most basic level, a parable is a comparison story, using simile or metaphor to help listeners move from a familiar reality to a deeper understanding of an important truth,” Mohler writes in the introduction. “Sometimes, the comparison is obvious. … Parables that begin with a simple comparison usually open a window for our understanding, revealing and clarifying truths about the Kingdom of God. At other times, the comparison is much more elaborate and embedded within the narrative, as when Jesus tells the parable of the sower.
“Sometimes, we learn best through a story that makes us see what we would otherwise miss. Stories can drive a truth deep into the human heart like nothing else can. The parables are powerful precisely because they catch us off guard.”
Mohler defines the parables of Jesus as “surprising stories and word pictures drawn from the familiar, that powerfully reveal to us the unfamiliar. Jesus starts with what we can easily see in order to help us see what only he can show us—the realities of the kingdom of heaven.”
The book examines many of the parables from the well-known (the parable of the good Samaritan) to the lesser known (the parable of the wicked tenants in Luke 15), drawing out the themes of God’s grace and judgment and showing the stories to be a mirror that exposes the contents of the human heart.
“One of the things we learn in looking at the teaching ministry of Jesus is that Jesus with his disciples had to go over the same things over and over and over again,” Mohler said. “Sometimes Jesus said, ‘I’m Just lining this out for you,’ like in the Sermon on the Mount; other times, Jesus decided to sneak up on them with a story. The power of the parables to do that is what caused me to write this book.”
“I hope to introduce more and more people to the power of Jesus’ parables. I want them to come to understand the parables in all of their strength and in all of their surprise, in all of their mystery, and in all of their glory. I hope people will come to love the parables of Jesus in a whole new way.”