In preparation for our upcoming sermon series at Christ Church Mansfield on Luke 15 I came across this magnificent quote, explaining how to read and understand the parables of Jesus, from Kenneth Bailey.
A parable is not a delivery system for an idea. It is not like a shell casing that can be discarded once the idea (the shell) is fired. Rather a parable is a house in which the reader or listener is invited to take up residence. The reader is encouraged to look out on the world from the point of view of the story. A “house” has a variety of windows and rooms. Thus the parable may have one primary idea with other secondary ideas encased within it. It may have a cluster of theological themes held together by the story. Naturally the interpreter should only look for the themes that were available to the first century audience listening to Jesus. What themes are set forth in this marvelous “Gospel within the Gospel” as it has been called for centuries?” – Kenneth Bailey, The Cross and the Prodigal, p. 87