Next week at Prestoncrest (May 2, 2010) I will be starting a new lesson series in the Hearts in Action class called: Jesus and his Jewish Parables. The focus of the study is to realize that Jesus was not the only Jewish rabbi of the first century who told parables and that by comparing Jesus to his rabbinic contemporaries we can learn quite a bit about Jesus’ own use of the mashal (Hebrew for the literary form known as “parable”). Many of the parables of Jesus in the Gospels have rabbinic parallels with slightly different characters or a different ending that can shine light on Jesus’ own use of the same story – why he told it, who he told it to, what made the “punch line” so effective.
While doing the requisite reading and research for this series, I stumbled across a rabbinic parable that has no Gospel parallel but I found it deeply provocative. It’s interesting to me how reading these parables is almost like reading more of Jesus – they look and sound the same. Come with me now as we look at a parable from Rabbi Meir (ca. 90 – 160 AD?).
When you read the Bible you begin to see the story-within-the-story. What I mean by that is that stories in the histories and prophets of the Tanakh are often first told in the Torah. These new stories retell the same one in the Torah but add new insights to the precepts of God. These stories show us the meaning of God’s will in our lives through a lived-out story. An example is how the rabbis have viewed the story of Jonah as a retelling of Noah, but in an entirely new light. In Noah, the one man (and his family) was saved from the flood – in Jonah the one man is plunged into the flood. In Noah, the wicked would be destroyed – in Jonah, the wicked would be saved. The comparisons can go on and on (perhaps the subject of a future post). But once you understand this idea of stories being retold in new ways, you begin to see them all over the place.
At our Sunday evening church service, our preacher Gordon Dabbs was continuing his series on David’s life, this week focusing on David’s son, Absalom. While I listened to his sermon, his words triggered something in my mind and I found a Torah parallel to this story that I will now share with you. My thanks to Gordon for sharing his sermon which triggered my thoughts.