Telling stories was (according to the synoptic gospels) one of Jesus’ most characteristic modes of teaching. And, in the light of te entire argument so far, it would clearly be quite wrong to see these stories as mere illustrations of truths that could in principle have been articulated in a purer, more abstract form. They were ways of breaking open the worldview of Jesus’ hearers, so that it could be remoulded into the worldview which he, Jesus, was commending. His stories, like all stories in principle, invited his hearers into a new world, making the implicit suggestion that the new worldview be tried on for size with a view to permanent purchase.
-N.T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, p.77 (emphasis mine)
Jesus spoke in parables because the people were too stupid and poorly educated to understand a nice lecture on the nature of the trinity. If only he had had a better audience, we may have had a lot better stuff in the gospels right? Well, good thing he sent Paul to straighten us out on some of that stuff.
No. In fact, the stories in many way carry more weight than a sermon about sin/God/humanity/whatever could have in the abstract. I think this may have been why Jesus didn’t even explain some of his parables to the disciples. It would have actually weakened the message.
I find this striking because I had always sort viewed Jesus’ parables as the equivalent to a modern-day sermon illustration. Repackaging the timeless abstract truth in a funny story involving a guy and maybe a motorcycle. If only the congregation knew their Greek, were well-versed in Kirkegaard and had longer attention spans, we could skip that parable…
Maybe what Jesus said in the story is closer to the truth than what you could say ABOUT the story.