Jesus was a skilled storyteller and perceptive teacher who used images from everyday life to stir up interest in his message about the Kingdom of God. But life in first-century Galilee and Judea was very different from our world today, and many traditional interpretations of Jesus's stories not only ignore this difference, but also often import anti-Jewish and sexist views. As eminent Bible scholar Amy-Jill Levine writes in Short Stories by Jesus:
Jesus was requiring that his disciples do more than listen; he was asking them to think as well. What makes the parables mysterious, or difficult, is that they challenge us to look into the hidden aspects of our own values, our own lives. They bring to the surface unasked questions, and they reveal the answers we have always known, but refuse to acknowledge. Religion has been defined as designed to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. We do well to think of the parables of Jesus as doing the afflicting. Therefore, if we hear a parable and think, "I really like that" or, worse, fail to take any challenge, we are not listening well enough.
In this wise, entertaining, and educational book, Levine explores Jesus's most popular parables, revealing their hidden depths, exposing their misinterpretations, and showing how they can still challenge and provoke us two thousand years later.