Lessons in Series
John A. Welch
We can learn as much from the Lords parables by studying them in sets, as we can by looking at them individually. Indeed, we can often lose much of the Lord's lesson by failing to consider the parables, as He taught them, in a consecutive order as a group. We will look two of the Lord's series of parables.
The first, which we will consider largely by way of example, is in Luke 15. These are three similar parables of restoration, which the Lord uses to teach our various roles and responsibilities in restoring the lost. First, is the individual lost through his own ignorance, sough out by the shepherd, and returned. This is our basic responsibility for returning the lost. Next is the woman who finds the money which she has inadvertently misplaced. This emphasizes a greater responsibility for us to restore those who have been lost through our action, and perhaps little, or none of their own. Finally, the story of the personal responsibility of the individual to seek his own restoration. Thus, to have studied these parables separately would have been revealing, but when compared and contrasted as the Lord obviously intended for them to be, the lesson they teach is certainly a more comprehensive one of responsibility for losing and returning.
My failure to consider these parables in sets kept me from understanding, for some time, another of the Lord's parables. This series is in Matthew 13:44-52. For some time, I considered that the first two parables in this series were precisely the same with a few different words. However, the idea that the Lord would needlessly repeat the same example in so short a space seemed pointless to me. They are not the same example at all.
The key to these parables lies in noticing what the Lord uses as His example of the kingdom. In the first parable the kingdom is the treasure which we may find, and should then be willing to give all for it. In the second parable, though, the kingdom is not the pearl, which corresponds to the treasure of the first parable, but the Lord states that in this parable the kingdom is the man who is searching. This is a complete reversal of the parable before, although the example is basically the same. Thus, just as we search and purchase the kingdom, so does the Lord look for those servants who are of great price to Him; and we know that He was willing to give His all to make us citizens of that kingdom.
We can find this lesson elsewhere in the Scriptures. In Luke 19:9, we find that Jesus came not only to save the lost, but to seek them out as well. In John 4:23, we are told that the Father is seeking those who are willing to worship Him in "spirit and truth." As followers of Christ, our role was not to be merely the passive saving of those that stumble upon the truth, but an active search for those who would love the Lord.
To complete the series, though, the next parable suggests that all that is caught will not be worthy of that supreme sacrifice and thus, will be destroyed or thrown back. This is similar to the parable of the tares, as well as Paul's statements in I Corinthians 3:12-15. There, some would build on the foundation precious metals and stones, things that would endure, while others would build things that the trial would destroy. How many of us have wasted precious time and years in fields which are of no value, casting our pearls before swine?
First lesson: We should first find for ourselves that treasure, the Lord's true kingdom. Second lesson: Then as citizens of that kingdom let us serve Him, who has paid the purchase for them, in the search for other pearls of value. Third lesson: Let us not waste valuable time catching fish of no value to Jesus, but diligently and fervently press that real treasure and those valuable pearls ever more closely to our breast.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 23, pp. 6-7