Jesus’ parables can’t simply be interpreted, they must be experienced.
In the gospels, Jesus used parables to teach transformative lessons and convey deep spiritual truths about the kingdom of God. But he often used them to confront and challenge his audience as well, forcing them to open or close their hearts to the kingdom.
Jesus understood the power of stories, but there are some things lost in translation when we try to interpret those same stories thousands of years removed from their original context. The unexpected twists and surprises in the parables might be missed by a modern audience because they’re unfamiliar with the underlying points of reference.
In Surprised by the Parables, Michelle Lee Barnewall explores the ancient context these parables drew from. These stories of grace reveal many of the mysteries central to God’s character, and understanding the ancient world behind them will help us see the parables from a new perspective.
The parables are some of the most important teachings we have from Jesus, but many modern readers of the Gospels find them puzzling. Why did Jesus teach like this? What was his message? Lee-Barnewall packs deep wisdom into this concise book, shedding light on context and unpacking how the parables are stories of divine grace.
–Nijay K. Gupta, associate professor of New Testament, Portland Seminary
Written with passion and candor, Michelle Lee-Barnewall investigates the parables’ historical setting and invites readers to ponder their teachings in light of their own circumstances. She explains the puzzles in the parables as she develops their lessons on discipleship. This beautifully written exploration of the parables draws the reader to the feet of Jesus.
–Lynn Cohick, provost and dean, professor of New Testament, Denver Seminary
Michelle Lee-Barnewall (PhD, University of Notre Dame) is associate professor of biblical and theological studies at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, in La Mirada, California. She is the author of Paul, the Stoics, and the Body of Christ.