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Jesus had a power of overcoming trouble, a power of triumphing over the "prince of this world," which was unique in the history of mankind. All will agree to this, even the skeptics and agnostics and those of alien faiths. And He promised that He would leave us this power: "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father" (John 14:12).
Up to now His professed followers have failed, as a whole, to experience the power He said He was going to leave with us. The question that is left unanswered is, What is this power, and where shall we find it?
Having convinced myself that Jesus meant us to take Him absolutely at His word when He said we would do even greater works than He did, I determined to study until I had answered this question. And this is what I found—that Jesus' attitude toward life was one of converting everything He saw and touched into parables.
He stood on this earth as a symbol of a greater world. He gripped the issues of life as mere symbols of eternal and heavenly realities.
Petty problems and sorrows and disasters He converted into beautiful symbols of eternal and infinite goodness. Thus nothing was petty, nothing was trivial, nothing was without meaning in Jesus' world, for all things combined to reveal the kingdom—the kingdom of heaven in which He lived and moved and had His being.
"All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them" (Matt. 13:34). Jesus never let His lips say what His mind and heart did not authorize. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matt. 12:34).
If Jesus talked in parables, He thought in parables; if He thought in parables, He felt in parables. The parable point of view of the universe was at the heart of His being. From somewhere about the beginning of His ministry He adopted this parabolic method of looking at the universe and never departed from it.
There is something tremendously significant in this fact. It reveals that this method of thinking and talking about life for Jesus was not a halfway method. He did not use it occasionally as a means to an end, but continuously, exclusively, utterly. Perhaps no teacher in all history has so completely given himself to one particular method as Jesus did to this.
To me this was the greatest discovery of my life. It took its rank beside Newton's and Watt's discoveries that apples fall downward and steam pushes outward.
And I am firmly convinced that when the religious world awakes to the full significance of these simple words the result will be just as transforming to its spiritual life as the discoveries of gravitation and steam power have been to its scientific and material life. For just as the discoveries of Watt and of Newton awakened man to the presence of a new world of physical and material forces outside him, so the discovery of Jesus' way of looking at life will awaken man to the presence of a new world of spiritual forces within him.
It was not till I made the discovery I have just referred to that there came to me a realization of the close association of cause and effect that existed between the parables and the miracles of our Lord. For in Jesus' parabolic interpretation of life lay the secret of the signs and wonders that signalized His healing and teaching ministry.
If all this is implied in Jesus' parabolic view of life, it behooves us to consider carefully just what manner of thing this mystery is that we call a parable—this thing that is so filled with moral and spiritual dynamite.
"A parable," says the dictionary at my hand, "is an allegorical relation of something real." There we have it: A parable deals first of all with reality. Second, it translates this reality in terms of the imagination.
Jesus looked at reality through the lens of the divine imagination. By means of that fact troubles vanished around Him, obstacles fell away, the lost became found, the sick became well, sinners became redeemed, and rough places became smooth. Moreover, He promised that those who followed Him and used the way He used would have similar dominion over all things on earth and that greater works than He did they would be able to do also.
The imagination is the power we all possess of seeing harmonies, unities and beauties in things where the nonimaginative mind sees nothing but discords, separations, ugliness. It is the tool of the mind with which we build up our affirmations the "staff" of the shepherd psalm that comforts us when all other faculties fail us.
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