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Reviews | Parables of the Messiah

Parables of the Messiah

John Carter

Hardback or e-book (ePub)

270 pages

Parables of the Messiah

The Christadelphian review (from November 1947)

Parables of the Messiah

THE majority and probably the best known of bro. John Carter’s writings are those which deal with the exposition of a chosen book of the Bible. His latest work. Parables of the Messiah, now obtainable from The Christadelphian Office, takes a somewhat different line in selecting for treatment not a book but a topic, the parables of Jesus. The word “parables” is used in its wider sense, as the reader may quickly discover for himself by reference to the preface or the index, and embraces most of the figurative sayings of Jesus as recorded by the synoptists. Thus not only are such well-known parables as those of the Sower, the Virgins and the Talents included, but consideration is also given to the denunciation of the Pharisees as whited sepulchres who concentrated upon keeping clean the outside of the cup and platter, and to the description of Peter’s confession as the rock on which Christ would build his church. As a consequence as many as eighty sayings of Jesus are expounded, and even then the beautiful figures recorded only by John are left untouched.

This wide interpretation of the word “parable” opens up a range of comment on the teaching of Jesus which would be restricted by the narrower interpretation, and this of itself enhances the value of the work. The exposition of each of the eighty sayings is quite short, but brings out lucidly the salient features with emphasis on the doctrinal truths which the sayings contain, as well as the moral lessons. For example, in the exposition of the parable of the Adversary the reader is reminded that judgment is as much an attribute of God as holiness and righteousness. So, too, the exposition of the parable of the houses built on rock and on sand is made the occasion for usefully drawing attention to the fact that

“The idea that religion is concerned with doing, and that men need not worry about believing, is a part of the shallow thinking so widespread these last days. The discounting of true faith a failure of the credulity of today, for all men have a faith of some sort …”

In fact, one of the chief impressions created by the reading of this book is of the way in which the simple, fundamental messages of the gospel can be discerned directly or impliedly in all the sayings of Jesus. For this reason the value of the book will be extended beyond the brethren and sisters to all thoughtful searchers after the truth of God’s word who have the patience to look for the real message behind the use of figures of speech.

Equally with the doctrinal import of the parables bro. Carter drives the moral lessons home. The short exposition of the parable of the Hidden Treasure will cause most honest readers to stop and wonder just how far their lives are devoted whole-heartedly and joyfully to their discipleship, and how far perhaps there may still be a hankering after other treasures than “the knowledge of the glory of God”. The parable of the Mote and the Beam is used to draw attention to the dangers of hypocrisy, of acting a part, to which, bro. Carter adds, “the religious life is peculiarly liable”. And in connection with the parable of the Unjust Steward the question is asked, “Are we today in no danger of copying the unjust steward by lowering the demands the Lord has made—in commercial dealings, in moral life, in the stewardship of God’s grace?” Sentiments such as these will repay thought by each of us.

The setting of the parables in the scenes of everyday life is vividly brought out. Christ’s sayings about salt, which are the first to be considered are enlivened by the reminder that “the fishermen among Christ’s hearers knew how quickly their harvest of the sea corrupted unless taken to the pickling vats of Bethsaida”. The parable of the Tares is likewise elucidated by a reference to farming custom in Palestine. Similarly the Old Testament background of many of the parables is not overlooked: the parable of the Bridegroom takes us back to the beautiful figure in which Isaiah presents Israel as betrothed to the Lord her maker; the Parable of the Wineskins to the vineyard of the Lord; and even the parable of the Sower finds an echo in the words of Hosea. Many of the parables were spoken against the Pharisees. Simon was made to see himself as he really was by being compelled to answer the simple question postulated by Jesus in the parable of the Two Debtors. This aspect receives, too, proper consideration.

Here, then, is a book which will repay reading and meditation by all. It is easy to read, and for those who have only the time or inclination to read a very little at one session the study of the exposition of one parable each day (80 sayings are dealt with in just over 250 pages, and the longest does not occupy more than eight pages) would be well worth while. And having read, let us all lay to heart the lessons of those sayings, and try to apply them with understanding and discernment to the issues of our daily lives.


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