The first half of the life of Jesus is a parable. It’s full of parables, but it is itself parabolic — it’s mysterious, enigmatic, and constantly pressing a question: Who is this? What does it does it mean? What does He mean? And perhaps most importantly, how will you respond, what will you do? And so the crowds gather with questions, with concerns. Sure, there are healings, there are moments of great joy. But He says strange things. He tells unusual stories. And even many of His miracles seem calculated to upset, to destabilize, and to make certain people mad.
In other words, the first half of the life of Jesus in the gospels is a set up for the second half. In the synoptic gospels (Matt, Mk, Lk), there is a clear hinge toward the middle of the books in which Jesus asks the disciples finally, who do you say that I am? The question has been lingering in the background. Accusations have come from priests and pharisees, and the disciples have had occasion to ask… who is this? Even the demons have occasionally cried out identifying Him as the Messiah, the Son of God, but Jesus quickly silences them. He tells many who are healed not to tell anyone. It’s a secret. It’s mysterious. It’s parabolic.
But then comes the sea change, the current begins going the other way. Jesus begins teaching openly, but now it’s that He must go to Jerusalem, be betrayed, be condemned, be killed, and then rise. But is He serious? Is this a parable also? We can see from many miles, from the vantage of many centuries away that this is precisely what the first half was getting at. He has come to heal, He has come to instruct, He has come to raise up the old dead Israel and restore all nations into new men and women, to heal the entire world. But it’s all parable because it’s not going to be what they expect. It’s not going to be what we’re really all that comfortable with.
The crucifixion is the greatest parable Jesus ever told. It’s the story of our sin laid on an innocent lamb, so that the guilty might be pardoned, the slaves might go free, the dead might live, and the brokenhearted might begin to rejoice. But like every parable, it presses the question: Who is this man? What does He mean? And ultimately every man must come to the realization that He’s talking about them, that this parable is about all of us. And now what will we do?