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Surprised by the Parables: Growing in Grace through the Stories of Jesus


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Drawn into the Parables

2021 ECPA Christian Book Award Finalist for Bible Study

Jesus’ parables can’t simply be interpreted, they must be experienced.

In the gospels, Jesus used parables to teach transformative lessons and convey deep spiritual truths about the kingdom of God. But he often used them to confront and challenge his audience as well, forcing them to open or close their hearts to the kingdom.

Jesus understood the power of stories, but there are some things lost in translation when we try to interpret those same stories thousands of years removed from their original context. The unexpected twists and surprises in the parables might be missed by a modern audience because they’re unfamiliar with the underlying points of reference.

In Surprised by the Parables, Michelle Lee-Barnewall explores the ancient context these parables drew from. These stories of grace reveal many of the mysteries central to God’s character, and understanding the ancient world behind them will help us see the parables from a new perspective.

Praise for Surprised by the Parables

The parables are some of the most important teachings we have from Jesus, but many modern readers of the Gospels find them puzzling. Why did Jesus teach like this? What was his message? Lee-Barnewall packs deep wisdom into this concise book, shedding light on context and unpacking how the parables are stories of divine grace.

–Nijay K. Gupta, associate professor of New Testament, Portland Seminary

Written with passion and candor, Michelle Lee-Barnewall investigates the parables’ historical setting and invites readers to ponder their teachings in light of their own circumstances. She explains the puzzles in the parables as she develops their lessons on discipleship. This beautifully written exploration of the parables draws the reader to the feet of Jesus.

–Lynn Cohick, provost and dean, professor of New Testament, Denver Seminary


  • Introduction
  • The Joy of Grace: The Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Parable of the Lost Coin
  • Receiving Grace: The Parable of the Prodigal Son
  • Generous Grace: The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard
  • Transforming Grace: The Parable of the Two Debtors
  • Grace for My Neighbor: The Parable of the Good Samaritan
  • Forgiving Grace: The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
  • Trusting in the God of Grace: The Parable of the Friend at Midnight
  • Serving the God of Grace: The Parable of the Talents
  • Growing in Grace: The Parable of the Sower

Product Details

  • Title: Surprised by the Parables: Growing in Grace through the Stories of Jesus
  • Author: Michelle Lee-Barnewall
  • Publisher: Lexham Press
  • Publication Date: 2020
  • Page Count: 192
  • Format: Logos Digital, Paperback
  • Trim Size: 5.5x8.5
  • ISBN: 9781683592990

About Michelle Lee-Barnewall

Michelle Lee-Barnewall (PhD, University of Notre Dame) is associate professor of biblical and theological studies at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, in La Mirada, California. She is the author of Paul, the Stoics, and the Body of Christ.

Sample Pages from Surprised by the Parables


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  1. Vincent Holloway


Print list price: $18.99
Save $6.00 (31%)