Imagine going to see a speaker who everyone says is great. He has built up quite a following and people say he even healed a couple blind people. You arrive to where he is gathered with a crowd, and you are very excited to hear him share what you expect to be incredible wisdom, some great knowledge that will vastly improve your life. Then, in a calming yet powerful voice he begins talking about a guy sowing seeds and what happens to the seeds when they are scattered.
It’s ok to think this is weird. Because it is. Humanity has had 2,000 years to digest the many sayings of Jesus, so his parable of the sower referred to above might not strike us as strange as it might have for its first time hearers. Because it is familiar and we tend to receive the explanation of it in the Bible verses following the telling of the story, we don’t feel the need to question.
Before we even read the Gospels, we already have the understanding that Jesus taught using parables and so we are more prepared when we read items such as this. Therefore, we immediately look for the deeper meaning of the story of the shepherd leaving his 99 sheep to find the lost one. We don’t find the need to question why on earth a person would leave 99 money making sheep, putting them in danger, to go and find one. I just do not think I would do that as a shepherd who is in the business of keeping safe as many sheep as I can.
So keeping in mind that there is usually a deeper meaning in the words and actions of Christ as we read the Gospels, helps us to better accept the weird things that Jesus says and does. Although, when we look at the rest of the Bible we see many many other examples of events, actions, and words that are difficult to accept or understand. What if we apply this same tactic to the entire Bible?
It’s important to remember that no one really knows if Jesus made up his parables or if they are based on true real life events that he happened to know about. Regardless, the Christian belief in the Bible is based on the understanding that the Bible communicates real historical events and figures in order to relay the story of God’s tremendous relationship with humanity. It may not play out like a modern day biopic that presents a life story in a certain chronological order and understandable rhyme scheme-like presentation. However, regardless of the difference in its Ancient presentation, the Bible is true.
The Bible is a true parable. In other words, it is a parable that is made up of true historical occurrences. Using the stories of real life events, it passes on to us life giving truths that God wants us to understand so that we may have our own personal relationship with Him and be with Him forever.
When we read the stories of Scripture we need to have this mindset pre-established before we begin reading. Every story is meant to teach us an important lesson regarding our relationship with God. Sometimes the historical accounts are delivered in styles that we might see used today, and sometimes they utilize more ancient methods of storytelling that might seem confusing to the modern reader. This can take some getting use to as we try to pull the Theological truths from the readings.
On top of encountering different methods of storytelling in Scripture, we also read about many different symbols and hyperbolic phrases that point beyond the historical events to some deeper meanings. Particularly we find many symbols in the prophetic books like Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Daniel, while we find hyperbole used by Jesus and the New Testament writers of the Letters that follow the Gospels.
It is important in every part of the Bible that we discover the meaning of what is being communicated and not get lost in the symbols and sayings. The Scriptures are like a vast ocean where it is easy to get lost, yet there is beauty to be found wherever we look. While there are many wonderful things to see on the surface, we find much more beauty and life the deeper we go. It might take some time to discover this, so a quick skimming of the surface won’t do.
This means that the meaning of what we read in the Bible must be worked for. We must also not go out on the water alone. By partnering with the Holy Spirit, the One who inspired the words that are written on the Sacred Page, we can find that meaning. The Bible becomes less confusing the more time we spend with it and if we go to God to guide us through it.
In this way we attain the mindset that is needed to understand the Scriptures. The more we keep these things in mind the more we are able to get see through the confusing surface of the parable of the Bible to the deep meaning found below. And finding this meaning in the ocean of Scripture is worth more than any sunken treasure or lost underwater city in the natural oceans. It is worth more than any treasure on earth.