Parables of Mercy (Essay)

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Outline your Knowledge and Understanding of Jesus' Parables, focusing
on the theme of Mercy (35)
Literally, the word "parable" means `comparison' and a parable is often defined as figurative story or
saying. Parables were used by Jesus as metaphors by which he delivered a religious or moral
teaching. The Parables were based on everyday life in Palestine; an obvious example of this is `The
Parable of The Mustard Seed' in which Jesus compares the growth of the Kingdom of God with a
mustard seed. The main themes of the parables are prayer, wealth, discipleship, the kingdom,
outcasts and the focus of this essay, mercy. The mercy parables in Luke's gospel highlight the
teaching of God's compassion for his people in forgiving and accepting them.
The Parable of `The Lost Son' is only recorded in Luke and is told by way of a reply to the scribes and
Pharisees who appear angry at Jesus' welcoming and forgiving treatment of sinners. The story
justifies God's attitude to sinners and challenges the people of Israel to change their hostile attitude
toward sinners, McBride describes it as "one of the most touching and exquisite short stories in the
pages of world literature." The parable tells of a father with two sons who loses them both "one is
lost in a far country, and the other is lost in the wilderness of his own hostility" (McBride). The
younger of the two requests his share of the inheritance and his generous father grants his wish "it
pictures God letting a sinner go his way" (Bock) and therefore demonstrates the free will afforded to
the human race.
The boy sets out with his inheritance and recklessly squanders what he has. Moreover as a second
blow the country in which he now resides experiences a great famine and the boy finds that the only
job available to him is feeding swine. The Jewish race viewed this animal as unclean and teachings
stated "Cursed be the man who would breed swine" and it is now obvious to Jesus' audience that he
can sink no lower as he considers stealing the bean pods he feeds the pigs. He has sunk in "moral as
well as physical degradation" (Morris). Finally the boy comes to his senses and realises that even his
father's servants had a better quality of life than he currently is living and he begins to prepare a
speech for his father to ask for his forgiveness but on the sight of his returned son, the father "ran,
threw his arms around his son, and kissed him" ordering his servants to prepare a feast. The father's
love for his son overshadows all of his son's misdemeanours and he is welcomed back with great
rejoicing, however as McBride writes, "It is doubtful whether the merrymaking would have taken
place without the experience of failure, but that paradox is only a reflection of the truth that...being
found is possible only after being lost." Therefore Jesus is hinting that God's mercy is not something

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God's grace.
The elder brother's reaction to the return of the lost son is less welcoming and obviously a reflection
of the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law.…read more

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Temple (a Lucan theme) and the Pharisee is described as "standing by
himself" this may reflect the separatism of the sect though some scholars have suggested that Luke's
Greek here indicates the focus of the passage and could mean "to/about himself".…read more

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