Jesus while on earth gave so many parables in the Bible. What is a parable? Why did He use parables very often in His teachings? Was it to conceal or clarify the meaning?
I wanted to spend a few minutes answering above written questions.
Why did Jesus teach in parables?
Definition of a Parable
A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. The Lord Jesus while on earth frequently used parables as a means of illustrating and describing profound, divine truths. Such Stories are easily remembered, with characters bold, and the symbolism is rich in meaning.
Parables were also a common form of teaching in Judaism. Earlier in His ministry, Jesus employed numerous graphical analogies using simple things that would be familiar to everyone (salt, bread, sheep, etc.) and their meaning was very clear in the context of His teaching. Parables required much more explanations; hence at one point in His ministry, Jesus began teaching using parables majorly.
On one occasion his disciples asked Him, why he speaks to people in parables?” Jesus answered them: “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them, it has not been granted. To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
This is why I speak to them in parables, because ‘they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand. Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:
‘You shall indeed hear but not understand, you shall indeed look but never see. Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted, and I heal them.’(Matthew 13:10-15).
From this point on in Jesus’ ministry, when He spoke in parables, He explained interpreted to His disciples. But those who had continually neglected and undermined His message were left in their spiritual blindness to wonder about the meaning.
Jesus also spoke a clearly about the difference between those who had been given “ears to hear” and those who persisted in unbelief—ever hearing, but never actually perceiving and “ always trying to learn but never able to reach a knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:7).
The disciples had been blessed with the gift of spiritual discernment by which things of the spirit were made clearer to them. Because they accepted wholeheartedly the truth from Jesus, they were given more and more truth. The same applies today to all believers who have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit who guides us into all truth (John 16:13). He has opened our eyes to the light and reality of truth and our ears to the blessed words of eternal life.
Jesus understood that truth is not sweet and palatable to all ears. That is, those who have no interest nor regard towards the deep things of God.
So why did Jesus speak in parables?
To those with a genuine thirst for God, the parable serves as both an effective and memorable medium for the conveyance of divine truths. The parables of Jesus contain a great amount of truth in very few words—and His parables, rich in imagery, are not easily forgotten. So, the parable is a blessing to those with willing heart and ears. But to those with unwilling hearts and ears, the parable stands as an instrument of both judgment and mercy.
The parables of Jesus are an embodiment of most of his fundamental teaching. They are very simple, memorable stories, often times with humble imagery, each with a singular message.
A major example was when Jesus likened the Kingdom of God to yeast (an image usually for corruption) or a mustard seed. Like his aphorisms, Jesus’ parables were often mind-boggling, surprising and paradoxical as the case may be.
The parable of the Good Samaritan, as an example, turned expectations on their head with the despised Samaritan proving to be the wounded man’s neighbor. The parables were simple and memorable enough to survive and endure in an oral traditional era before being written down years after Jesus’ death.
Numerous Bible scholars claim Jesus’ parables appear only in the three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). However, if we enlarge and broaden our views furthermore, it seems that Jesus’ three-part story about the sheep, gate, and shepherd in the book of John 10 can also be considered a parable especially as it chronologically falls right after the related parable of the lost sheep in Matthew 18:12-14
List of parables of Jesus
- The Sower (Matthew 13:1,2; Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:1-18)
- The Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30)
- The Mustard Seed (Matthew 13:31, 32 Mark 4:31,32)
- The Seed Planted in the Ground (Mark 4:26-29)
- The Leaven (Matthew 13:33)
- The Concealed Treasure (Matthew 13:44)
- The Pearl (Matthew 13:47-50 )
- The Casting of the Net into the Sea (Matthew 13:47-50)
- The Two Debtors (Luke 7:40-43)
- The Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:23-35)
- The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)
- The Friend at Midnight (Luke 11:5-13)
- The Rich Fool (Luke 12:16-21)
- The Wedding Feast (Luke 12:36-38)
- The Fig Tree (Luke 13:6-9)
- The Lost Sheep (Luke 15: 3-7)
- The Great Supper (Luke 14:16-24)
- The Lost Coin (Luke 15:8-10)
- The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32)
- The Unjust Steward (Luke 16:1-12)
- The Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31)
- The Unjust Judge (Luke 18:1-17)
- The Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18:9-14)
- The Laborers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16)
- The 10 Pounds (Luke 19:11-27)
- The Two Sons (Matthew 21:28-32)
- The Tenants (Matthew 21:33-46 Mark 12:1-12 Luke 20:9-18)
- The Marriage Feast (Matthew 22:1-13)
- The Wise and Foolish Virgins ( Matthew 25:1-13)
- The Talent (Matthew 25:14-30)
- The Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46)
What do you think about Jesus’ parables? Do you like them? Please leave your comment below?