Mark 4:13

“You do not know the meaning of this parable?” he went on;  “Then how will you understand all the other parables?


Parable 101 is a prerequisite
for Parable 103 and beyond
for there is no end to
parable study

there is no pattern
to a parabolic insight
going out in one direction
only to return us to a different locus

we say yes yes yes
until we find we have turned
a story’s focus from character
to surprised hearer

it is your openness
to imaginative engagement
that will prepare your life
to be a parable incarnate

while not ready for Parable 666
it is good to get started
not to be able to repeat an answer
but to greet a next question


The first question could well be translated as a statement affirming that the apprentice announcers don’t understand parables. Whichever way it is translated, we are in the wonderful world of rhetorical questions.

A reader might be forgiven thinking that they understand the deep mystery that is a parabolē (the idea behind both parable and parabola—a plane intersecting a cone parallel to a side of the cone). We’ve been told that parables, like parabolas, have a single focal point that concentrates a whole story into one moral. Condensing a main point out of a short story shouldn’t be too difficult.

Unfortunately, parables in Mark are a way of moving people off center that they might, “change their heart and life, and trust the good news found in wilderness”.

Being able to know or state a parable’s focus is not what is looked for here. Rather, a parable is mysterious and silent until it is understood in a way that changes behavior.

When a parable finally makes it through our various defenses we note a specific first effect around the focal point. Parables, like parabolas, can be extended. As their arms widen ever-further apart, larger aspects of life and space are included. To change comparisons, a parable is like a camel’s nose under the tent—pretty soon the whole camel is inside. Usually this old saying about camels presumes that camels in a tent are a negative.

Here, parabolic camels are a joy.

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