(An excerpt from my book, Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus )
Jesus’s parables fit perfectly into a non-Western, Jewish culture that expressed itself through tangible metaphors. He was engaging in sophisticated theological teaching, but we miss it if we are looking for the deductive abstract arguments of the Greeks.
Jesus often based his reasoning on experience rather than if-then logic. He did this in multiple ways:
Experience of the Natural World
Jesus frequently used observations about nature and daily life to shed light on spiritual realities. Sometimes he highlighted a lesson by pointing out what was obviously true: grapes don’t grow on thorn bushes. Likewise, people are known by their “fruit.” That seems pretty logical.
A speck of a mustard seed can grow into an enormous tree.
A blossom that wilts in a day is more gorgeously adorned than a king’s robe.
Tiny clues from creation give us a glimpse into God’s unfathomable ways. (1)
In contrast, Western reasoning often attempts to systematize theology by reducing and affixing God’s thoughts onto a logical grid, flattening and straightening them so that they fit into predictable patterns.
Jesus’s parables, however, embraced the fact that our material world is multifaceted and complex. If God’s creation surprises and perplexes us, shouldn’t its Creator…