Discipling Through Metaphor
“Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: ‘I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world’ ” (Matthew 13:34, 35, NIV).
In this lesson we study the importance of parables, especially as the pertain to discipleship. Our lesson states:
Thus, Jesus framed eternal truths in ways that went beyond mere intellect alone. Jesus spoke through concrete pictures drawn from everyday life in order to reach people where they were. Children and adults could understand deep truths delivered through parables wrapped in images and metaphors. Meanwhile, complex concepts such as justification, righteousness, and sanctification were easily grasped through the Master Storyteller’s art. In other words, concepts that are often difficult to grasp in ordinary language can be taught through symbols and metaphors.
We read from the writing of Ellen White,
“Jesus desired to awaken inquiry. He sought to arouse the careless, and impress truth upon the heart. Parable teaching was popular, and commanded the respect and attention, not only of the Jews, but of the people of other nations. . . .
“Again, Christ had truths to present which the people were unprepared to accept or even to understand. For this reason also He taught them in parables. By connecting His teaching with the scenes of life, experience, or nature, He secured their attention and impressed their hearts. Afterward, as they looked upon the objects that illustrated His lessons, they recalled the words of the divine Teacher. . . .
“Jesus sought an avenue to every heart. By using a variety of illustrations, He not only presented truth in its different phases, but appealed to the different hearers.”—Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 20, 21.
The word disciple means One who embraces and assists in spreading the teachings of another; and or an active adherent, as of a movement or philosophy. The word disciple comes from the Old English discipul, which in turns come from the Latin discipulus (“a pupil, learner”), wich in turn comes from discere (“to learn”); akin to docere (“to teach”). The greek word is mathetes has the same meaning.
In the past to become a disciple you had to follow the Master. This would require the disciple to leave all behind: his family, friends, occupation, former life etc. The disciple would then undergo a transformation. He would become more and more like his master. At the end, all would know that this person was a disciple of the particular master.
Such was the case with the disciples. Listen to Peter’s words in Luke 18:28, “Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee.” This concept of leaving all behind is at the center of Luke 14: 27 – 33. Let us read it,
Luk 14:27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
Luk 14:28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
Luk 14:29 Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him,
Luk 14:30 Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.
Luk 14:31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?
Luk 14:32 Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace.
Luk 14:33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
Verses 27 says that those who bear their cross are Christ’s disciples. Likewise, verse 33 says that whoever follows Jesus are His disciples. This would mean those who bear their cross are who forsake all. We can see this in Paul. Let us read from Philippians 3,
Phi 3:1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.
Phi 3:2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.
Phi 3:3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
Phi 3:4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:
Phi 3:5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
Phi 3:6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
Phi 3:7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
Phi 3:8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
We do notice however that although Paul forsook his former life, he never ceased to love and serve his people. In Romans, Paul revealed his feelings for the Jews,
Rom 9:1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,
Rom 9:2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.
Rom 9:3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:
Rom 9:4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;
Rom 9:5 Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
Paul said he would gladly give up his place in the Kingdom of God, if by so his fellow Jews could be saved. Here then is revealed the fruit of the Gospel: a willingness to lay down your life for your brethren. As we read in 1 John 3: 16,
1Jo 3:16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
No one could deny that Paul was more and more like Jesus. Niether could they deny this of the disciples. Many concluded this of Peter and John,
Act 4:13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
This is one of the main points of Jesus’ agricultural parables. Let’s look at the parable used in our quarterly: the parable of the sower in Matthew 13. The evidence that the seed fell on good soil was that it bore fruit (Matthew 13: 7). Other parables elaborate on this concept. In John 15 we are told how we can bear fruit,
Joh 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
And, in verse 8 Christ identifies bearing fruit with discipleship,
Joh 15:8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
What happens with those who do not bear fruit? We read in verse 6,
Joh 15:6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
This concept is very clear in the parable of the barren fig tree. If it does not bear bruit it will be cut down (Luke 13: 9). This is also evident in the Old Testament parable found in Ezekiel 15: 1 -7. The wood of a vine that does not bear fruit is good for nothing else then to serve as fuel for fire.
Ellen G. White says,
Should we go into the garden and find that there was no sap in the plants, no freshness in the leaves, no bursting buds or blooming flowers, no signs of life in stalk or branches, we would say, “The plants are dead. Uproot them from the garden; for they are a deformity to the beds.” So it is with those who profess Christianity, and have no spirituality. If there are no signs of religious vigor, if there is no doing of the commandments of the Lord, it is evident that there is no abiding in Christ, the living vine.
The first lesson to be taught . . . is the lesson of dependence upon God. . . . As a flower of the field has its root in the soil; as it must receive air, dew, showers, and sunshine, so must we receive from God that which ministers to the life of the soul.
The presence of God is guaranteed to the Christian…As long as the members of the church shall through faith draw sap and nourishment from Jesus Christ, and not from man’s opinions and devisings, and methods; if having a conviction of the nearness of God in Christ, they put their entire trust in Him, they will have a vital connection with Christ as the branch has connection with the parent stock (Our Father Cares; 21 – 22).
Are you bearing fruit? Are you laying down your life fir the brethren? Abide in Christ.