Jesus As Parable

From “The Collected Works of Edward Schillebeeckx Volume 6:
Jesus: An Experiment in Christology”
by Edward Schillebeeckx

Jesus himself (his person, his stories and his actions) is a parable Therefore the shock effect marks the ongoing sequence of his life. The Markan gospel clearly reflects this. It brings together (between 2:1 and 3:5) five scandalous stories, isolated actions of Jesus that oblige the listeners to adopt a stance:

… the healing of a paralysed man (whose sin he forgives);

… a meal that Jesus shares with tax-collectors, people who gathered taxes and revenues for the Romans;

… Jesus’ defence of his disciples for not fasting while Jesus is with them;

… his justification of his disciples’ behaviour when they deliberately pluck ears of corn on the sabbath day

… and, as a final climax, how Jesus himself heals the withered hand of a despairing man on the Sabbath.

The leaders’ reaction follows at once: “The Pharisees went out, and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.”

Many fail to understand the story which Jesus is in his own person and which will be understood as such by those who are ready to accept God’s supportive nearness in Jesus’ praxis. Yet the parable is so provocative that it is impossible to remain neutral. Unless one is open to the potential message of the story one sees only Jesus’ incomprehensible conduct, scandalous because deviating from the Law. One has to take sides; because the story not only opens up the possibility of a new and different life but subjects one’s own cherished attitude to life to crushing criticism. Out of self-preservation, therefore, some have rejected Jesus’ parables; the considered them apocryphal and heterodox, a threat to their fixed habits. Jesus’ eventual execution on the cross is a natural result of this bafflement in the face of the living parable of God.

In the care he shows for man and human suffering, for publicans and sinners, for the poor, the crippled and the blind, for the oppressed and for people alienated from themselves by “evil spirits,” Jesus is a living parable of God: that is how God cares for man. The story of Jesus is the story of God. God himself opens up a new world in the story that is the life of Jesus, a different experience of reality and a way of living: thus the New Testament story about Jesus is the first Christians’ response to the story of Jesus himself. That is why all the stories of Jesus’ life live again in the life and the story of the Christian community. Thus the church becomes a narrative, existential community of people who have opened themselves up to the critical power of the parable that is Jesus’ life; so, too, we may still listen to that story today. And it is up to us to decide whether we dare stake our life upon it.

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