Jesus the Subversive

by Jonathan Bailey


Currently I am reading “The Contemplative Pastor”, by Eugene Peterson and it is awesome. Eugene is very different from other writers I read. He is a poet-theologian. Every sentence is not to instruct but inspire. If you get a chance to read one of his books I would highly recommend it. Below is an excerpt on the Subversiveness of Jesus when using parables.

“Jesus favorite speech form, the parable was subversive. Parables sound absoultely ordinary: casual stories about soil and seeds, meals and coins and sheep, bandits and victims, farmers and merchants. And they are wholly secular: of His forty or so parables recorded in the gospels, only one has its setting in the church, and only a coupe mention the name of God.”

“All people heard Jesus tell these stories, they saw at once they weren’t about God, so there was nothing in them threating their own soverighnty. They relaxed their defenses. They walked away perplexed, wondering what they meant, the stories lodged in their imagination. And then, like a time bomb, they would explode in their unprotected hearts. An abyss opened up at their very feet. He was talking about God; they had been invaded!”

“Jesus continually threw odd stories down alongside ordinary lives and walked away without explanation or altar call…But the parable didn’t do the work-it put the listeners imagination to work. Parables aren’t illustrations that make things easier;they make things harder by requiring the exercise of our imaginations. Parables subversively slip past our defenses. Once they’re inside the citadel of self, we might expect a change of method, a sudden brandishing of bayonets resulting in a palace coup. But it doesn’t happen. Our integrity is honored and preserved. God does not impose his reality from without; he grows flowers and fruit from within. God’s truth is not an alien invasion it is a loving courtship in which the details of our common lives are treated as seeds in our conception, growth, and maturity in the kingdom.”