The Parables of Jesus

by: Bill Bratt


What is a parable and why did Jesus speak in parables?

Letís begin by reading about the Parable of the Sower as recorded in Matthew 13:1-9 : "On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. {2} And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. {3} Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: "Behold, a sower went out to sow. {4} "And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. {5} "Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. {6} "But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. {7} "And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. {8} "But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. {9} "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!""

This is an interesting story. Why did people come to hear Jesus preach?

They didn't have radios, televisions, movies, VCR's, nor the myriad forms of entertainment that we have today.

Here was a man of whom they had heard many stories about. A man who had healed the sick, cast out demons, and fed thousands with only a few loaves of bread and a few fish.

They came out of curiosity. They came to see Him heal people and to do miracles and to perhaps to get a free meal as when He fed the 5,000 and the 4,000. They wanted to be entertained. They enjoyed his stories and yet they did not fully understand them. They understood his stories only from a physical point of view.

WHY? From verse 3 we see that Jesus spoke in PARABLES. Did you understand this parable? How did you understand it? Jesusí own disciples did not understand this parable! How did they come to understand it? The answer is that later when they were alone with Jesus, they asked Him to explain the parable to them. We should appreciate that the explanations to most of Jesus' parables are recorded in the Bible for us today. The parable of the "mustard seed" is an exception for which Jesus left it for us to interpret.

What is a Parable?

Webster's Dictionary defines the word "parable" as: "a usually short fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle."

In most cases a parable is a story drawn from everyday life. These parables are usually symbolic or metaphoric in nature and often convey a significant spiritual lesson. Average people can relate to the imagery in the parable. As the person is listening he can visualize the image or symbol whether it is a seed, a weed or a pearl and he can associate the parable with the imagery that is being used.

Why Did Jesus Use Parables?

Jesus began His ministry preaching in the synagogues, but after several confrontations with the Pharisees, especially after He had healed a man on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-6), the Pharisees were plotting to kill Him. Jesus had to be careful not to cause His own premature death. He had to fulfill Godís plan of preaching the gospel for three and one half years and being crucified on the Passover for the sins of all mankind.

Jesus changed His method of preaching. He began teaching by the lakeside (Mark 4:1-2) and He spoke in parables.

The Jews of Jesusí day were very familiar with the parabolic method of preaching. Some Rabbis of Jesusí day used parables. Letís notice a couple comments from Alfred Edersheim who states in his book "The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah" in referring to "parables": "the placing of one thing by the side of another. Perhaps no other mode of teaching was so common among the Jews ....Yet every ancient Rabbinic work is literally full of parables."

Jesus used parables as a method of comparison, by placing physical elements side by side with spiritual elements. In other words, an earthly story with a godly meaning.

Jesus used the parabolic method to create interest among his listeners. Their interest had to be aroused in order to keep their attention. Parables are short stories that make you think. A synonym for a parable would be a "riddle". We are all familiar with the riddle: "What is black and white and red all over?" The answer to this riddle is a "newspaper" which is black and white and read all over.

The parabolic method was even used in the Old Testament. One example would be the story of the ewe lamb that Nathan told to David when David had gotten Bathsheba pregnant and had killed Uriah her husband.

What Did Jesus Say His Reason Was for Using Parables?

Letís continue in Matthew 13:10-13 : "And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?" {11} He answered and said to them, "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. {12} "For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. {13} "Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand."

How many times have you heard people say that Jesus spoke in parables to make the meaning clear? That is not what He said! To the average person Jesus spoke in parables so they would not understand, but He revealed the parables to His disciples, so that they would understand. This is "insider" information. Jesus revealed this parable to His disciples "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven."

We are very fortunate as "end time" disciples of Jesus to have this "insider" information of the "parables of Jesus" revealed to us in the pages of the Bible.

Jesus quotes Isaiah 6:9-10 as He continues in Matthew 13:14-15: "And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: 'Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; {15} For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.'"

The hearts of the people of Jesusí day, Isaiahís day and even the people of our day are hardened to Godís truth, Godís law and Godís way of life. "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be" (Rom 8:7 ) .

In order for man to change, he must repent and "submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. {8} Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." (James 4:7-8 ).

Did you notice what happens if you turn your affections to God and see with your eyes, and hear with your ears and understand with your heart?

God says: "So that I should heal them." What a fantastic blessing to be healed supernaturally by God Almighty! We all should desire this phenomenal blessing.

Letís continue with the next two verses: ""But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; {17} "for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it" (Mat 13:16-17 ).

The prophets and righteous men of old would have enjoyed seeing Jesus in the flesh preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God. We, today, are very blessed to have the Bible, the written word of Jesus, to read and study to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God. The Bible has been preserved for us who are living in the "end time". We have the opportunity to read and study the parables of Jesus and to read His explanations of these parables.

The Parable Explained!

Letís read Jesusí explanation of this parable that gave to His disciples: "Therefore hear the parable of the sower: {19} "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. {20} "But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; {21} "yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. {22} "Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. {23} "But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty" (Mat 13:18-23 ).

Jesus gave four different examples in this parable as to how people react to Godís calling. People have choices to make. Will you let Satan snatch away the truth of God? Will you stumble when persecution arises and forsake Godís way of life? Will you let the cares of this world choke Godís word that He has given you? Will you receive Godís seed of truth and bear forth fruit ? To do this we must seek the kingdom of God first! ""But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Mat 6:33 ). These parables in Matthew 13 are called the "kingdom parables", because they focus toward the "Kingdom of God." Each parable is designed to motivate those who understand to really want and desire God's Kingdom. Take the time to read through the parables of Jesus and focus your mind on the Kingdom of God!

In Conclusion: How will you react to Godís calling and the message of the Kingdom?