A Lost Parable of Yeshua

Why doesn’t Yeshua use parables in the Gospel of John like He does in the other Gospels? Actually, He does. You just need to closer look.

Artwork from the Torah Club Jesus, My Rabbi study, lesson "The Son of Man". (Image and art © First Fruits of Zion)

Yeshua sounds different in the Gospel of John than He does in the Synoptic Gospels. For example, in the Synoptic Gospels, He uses a lot of parables that follow a typical rabbinic formula for parables. Where are the parables in the Gospel of John?

The Gospel of John does contain parables, but they have been edited into the text to homogenize them with the theological tone and voice of the whole gospel. For example, the text in John 5:19-20 seems to be the summary of a parable that Yeshua told to explain His own relationship to God in terms of a son’s apprenticeship under his father. It's been worked into the discourse.

The original parable, if it existed, may have sounded like this:

To what can it be compared? It can be compared to a man who wanted his son to take up a trade, but the son did not know how to do anything by himself. The man said, “I love my son and want him to be able to provide for himself. I will bring him to work with me and show him how to do everything I do.” The son watched his father at work, and he learned to do all that his father could do. Soon the son could do whatever he saw his father doing. Whatever the man did, the son also learned to do. “Amen, Amen, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing.”

This presumed parable evokes scenes from the carpenter shop in Nazareth. Just as Yeshua learned the carpentry trade from watching His father, Joseph, so too, He learned His healing trade from observing His Father in heaven. Since God heals and saves on the Sabbath, His apprentice does so as well. The point of the argument is not that the Son sets himself equal with the Father as his critics charged. The point of the parable was just the opposite. Yeshua compared himself to an apparentice to show His critics that He derives His authority only from the Father. Yeshua does not conduct Himself like a rebellious son, capriciously claiming divine prerogatives for Himself. Instead, He acts in accordance with the will and intention of God the Father. He does not “work” independent of the Father’s “work.”

With this language, Yeshua explained why He felt free to heal on the Sabbath. He did so primarily as a matter of imitating God. The principle of imitating God is at the core of all Jewish ethics:

Just as the Holy One, blessed be He, is called Merciful, so should you be merciful, just as He is called Gracious, so should you be gracious, just as He is called Righteous, so should you be righteous; just as He is called devout, so should you be a devout one. (Sifrei, Deuteronomy)

Yeshua performed works of healing that He learned to do from observing His Father in heaven. He told His critics that He anticipated learning even greater works from His Father in the future. He said, “The Father will show [Me] greater works than these, so that you will marvel,” which is to say, “You have not seen anything yet.” Everyone will marvel at the works God gives the Messiah to accomplish in the future—namely, the authority to resurrect the dead.

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This year Torah Clubs are studying the Gospels from a Messianic Jewish perspective. Every week Club members encounter Yeshua of Nazareth in his Jewish context. Discover the historical and cultural backdrops of the gospels and be amazed as the teachings of Yeshua snap into focus and clarity. Unravel his difficult words and parables; study Jewish parallels to his teachings; and ultimately know Jesus better.

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