Jesus often used parables to teach. Why did He use them? What is their function? And why didn’t His Apostles use them as extensively? These and other questions will be answered in this introduction to the parables of Jesus.
ROBERT >> Did you know that nearly a third of Jesus’ teachings appear in the form of parables?
How would you define what a parable is?
And why did Jesus so often use parables in his teaching?
SINGING>> Speaking the truth, speaking the truth,
speaking the truth, speaking the truth in love.
ROBERT >> What is a parable?
How would we define the word?
What does it really mean?
Well, our English word parable comes from the Greek word parabole. And that really is a compound word. It puts two words together: Ballo, to throw, literally; and para, literally, alongside. So literally it’s to throw alongside. The idea is that of a comparison. A parable is a comparison, comparing one thing with something else, or as some have put it, I think very well, an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.
Jesus is going to take things that we’re familiar with, stories that concern things concerning this world that we know about, and he’s going to use that to illustrate a spiritual lesson. He’s going to make a heavenly application to these earthly stories. And so that’s the idea of a parable.
I want you to notice also that parables are not fables. Fables are stories that use unreal elements or impossible situations. They’re not really true to life.
For example, back in Judges the 9th chapter in your Old Testament, you’ll see an example of a fable. And it’s to teach about Abimelech, who kills his brothers. And he does that to secure the kingdom for himself. But Jotham escapes, and he reproves him in this fable here in Judges 9. I just want to read a little bit of this fable so you can get a taste of what we’re talking about.
In verse 8 it says, “The trees once went forth to anoint a king over them. And they said to the olive tree, Reign over us!”
You see here in this passage that this is not a parable, something true to life; it’s a fable. It’s impossible. Trees don’t get up and run around and talk to each other and talk about being kings and reigning over us. No, that’s a fable. But parables are different.
Parables are always true to life. Let me give you a simple example of what we’re talking about concerning a parable. Look with me in Luke 8:5-8.
Luke chapter 8, beginning in verse 5. Jesus says, “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold. When He had said these things, He cried, He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
Now, that’s a parable. Jesus speaks of an earthly story that, again, we all recognize and are familiar with it. Somebody’s going out sowing seed. And it falls on different ground. Some falls on the pathway, some fall on the rock, some fall among the thorns, and then there’s some on the good ground. We all understand that story. We can visualize that and imagine it. And then he says, He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
Listen, I have a greater lesson that I want you to learn from that story. I have a heavenly message, a spiritual message that I’m going to make from that story. And Lord willing, we’ll begin to look at some of these parables, and we’ll see the meanings that Jesus was trying to put forth. But there’s something else I want you to notice about parables. Parables are normally intended to teach one
For example, if you’ll look with me in Luke chapter 10, we have a very familiar parable. And I want to read it to you. Probably most of all of you will recognize this. Here it says, “Then Jesus answered and said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. And so he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you. So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves? And he said, He who showed mercy on him. And then Jesus said to him, Go and do likewise.”
Yes, this is the parable of the good Samaritan. And it was given in answer to the question, who is my neighbor? And so it is a parable with one main point, helping us to see that a neighbor is anyone who is in need that we can help. But frequently, as you’ll look at parables, you’re going to find not just one primary lesson, but you’re also going to find some supplementary lessons embodied within the parable. The parable of the good Samaritan not only teaches us how to be good neighbors and that we ought to be good neighbors, but it teaches us what mercy really looks like. You see in the parable it’s not passing by on the other side, but you see in the parable it’s doing something for the person in need.
Let me look back at that parable with you for just a moment. You’ll notice when the Samaritan saw the man that he had compassion on him. And it says in verse 34, he went to him, he bandaged his wounds, he poured oil and wine on it, he set him on his own animal, and he brought him to an inn, and he took care of him. And then remember, he even left money there for the innkeeper to take care of him. We’ve got to be careful. As we look at parables, we don’t want to miss the great lesson, and we want to see all the lessons that Jesus has for us; but don’t misuse a parable by teaching something inconsistent with what Jesus intended or with what the Bible teaches elsewhere.
Parables are so important and so helpful, and we can learn so much from them. And so I want you to think about why Jesus would use parables. Why do you think Jesus would so often use parables?
I think most of all us can see that parables are attention-getters, aren’t they? Jesus would use parables to get people’s attention so they would listen to what he has to say.
Parables are so easy to listen to because they capture our imagination. They paint pictures in our mind. And so for this reason alone, we could see why Jesus would want to tell these stories just to get people’s attention. But also, doesn’t it make it easy for us to remember? When you can imagine these things in your mind, when you see these pictures, you don’t quickly forget them.
Who cannot recall the parable of the good Samaritan, or the parable of the prodigal son?
I know I just read that story of the good Samaritan to you, but how many of you had already heard that story and remembered it?
Or the parable of the prodigal son, don’t you all remember that story, how the young boy left home, and he spent all of his inheritance, and he wound up feeding the pigs in the pig pen?
And then he came to himself, and he went back home, and his father received him, they had a great party for him. You remember that parable, how the older son was jealous of that son and envious of him and didn’t want to receive him?
Do you remember the parable of the prodigal son?
Do you remember the parable of the good Samaritan?
These parables Jesus used not only to get our attention, but to help us to remember. Here’s something else about parables that’s so important. Jesus would use the parables because they would reveal the meaning to some, but the meaning, the lesson would be concealed from others.
Let me read to you from Matthew chapter 13, where Matthew explains Jesus’ use of parables in this way.
Matthew chapter 13, beginning in verse 10, “And the disciples came and said to Him, Why do You speak to them in parables? 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. 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. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 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; 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 ad turn, so that I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; 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.”
And so Jesus would use these parables for the very reason of concealing the message from those who don’t truly desire it, to conceal it from those whose hearts are not good and right; but at the same time to reveal it to those who are seeking the truth, who are desiring the truth of God’s word.
Let’s notice something also about the parables and the fact that they are convicting. They convict us of our sins. In fact, some parables actually cause us to pronounce our own doom.
A great example of this is found in Luke the 7th chapter, when Jesus was visiting in the home of a Pharisee, and a sinful woman came into that home. The man, the Pharisee had not welcomed Jesus with the anointing of oil or with the washing of his feet or a kiss of greeting; but look at this woman who came in here in Luke 7:37,”And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table at the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wipe them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with fragrant oil. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.”
Now, it’s right here that Jesus answers this Pharisee and begins to tell a parable. In verse 40, “Jesus answered and said to him, Simon, I have something to say to you. So he said, Teacher, say it. And he said, There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more? Simon answered and said, I suppose the one whom he forgave
more. And He said to him, You have rightly judged.”
Here you see this Pharisee, Simon, recognizing that the one who owed the greatest debt was the one who loved the most. And you’ll notice in verse 47, where Jesus says, “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”
The Pharisee had actually pronounced his own doom because he was the one who owed so much. But it was the woman who owed even more, being the sinner that she was. And so we see here that she loved the Messiah most. And the Pharisee failed to appreciate the forgiveness that Jesus Christ has made possible for him. There’s something else about parables that we read in Matthew 13:35, and that is the fact that Jesus used the parables as actually a fulfillment of prophecy.
In Matthew chapter 13, read with me verse 35. “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world.”
So Jesus, that long-awaited Messiah that had been prophesied in the Old Testament, actually showed him to be that one in the use of parables. Now, there’s a lot of questions that we might want to think about before leaving this lesson today.
How many parables did Jesus speak?
I counted 45 story parables in the New Testament. And there are also many other sayings, like, The blind lead the blind; or, You are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world; If your eye offends you, pluck it out. Jesus spoke many different kinds of parables. But let’s ask today, how widely was Jesus’ use of parables?
In Matthew chapter 13, look at verse 34. “All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them.”
There was a time when he wouldn’t speak to the multitudes except in parables. But ask this question: Did Jesus’ apostles make as much use of parables as he did? Can you explain why not?
Look at Ephesians the 3rd chapter, and I want you to notice a very important principle about the teachings of the gospel. Yes, when Jesus was on this earth, he would often speak in parables. He would speak of the kingdom that was to come. He was speaking of the Lord’s church. And he used those parables until the time would come when the Holy Spirit would be poured out on the apostles and as they would lay their hands on others who would prophesy, who would teach. But before that, the parables were used. But in time, the Holy Spirit would be poured out on these apostles and these prophets, and they would make plainly known the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Notice here in Ephesians the 3rd chapter, look in verse 3.“How that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets.”
In time past, God had made promises about the coming savior and deliverer, the Messiah. He had not only made many promises, but there were many prophecies about this one who was to come, and Jesus spoke the parables of the kingdom. But here in Ephesians we see that these things of God’s kingdom are made known plainly. And that’s what Ephesians 3 is all about, how that these things have been now we revealed to us and made known to us, these great lessons of Christ and his church. Who are we supposed to look for in a parable? I believe this is the most important question of all. Who are we to look for in a parable?
Here we find it in Matthew chapter 21. Look with me at verse 45. Now
when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them. So often in the teachings of Jesus Christ, particularly in his parables, he wants those who are hearing the parable to see themselves, to see what it is in their heart or in their life that needs to be corrected, to see what lesson needs to be learned, to see what spiritual application Jesus is making to each of these parables. You might think this morning about the parables of Jesus that are personally meaningful to you and why.
What are those parables that you remember, and what are those great lessons that you have learned? Let me encourage you to tune in to The Truth In Love each and every Sunday morning as we take a look at some of the parables of Jesus together. And let us remember that the Lord has given to us a plain and simple understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ so that everybody can understand it.
Jesus wants you to know how much he loves you and what he’s done for you. And he gives us this message of good news so that we can be set free from our sins, so that we can live for him, and so that we can know eternal life someday with him in heaven. If you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who paid the price for your sins at Calvary, you’ll want to turn away from those sins, and you’ll willingly and boldly confess your faith in him as the Christ, the Son of God, and you’ll give yourself to him in the waters of baptism just as Christ gave himself for you. You can become a Christian today, you can live the Christian life.
And we hope that you would let us know here at The Truth In Love how we can help you towards heaven today.
SINGING>> I know that my redeemer lives and ever prays for me.
I know eternal life he gives from sin and sorrow free.
I know, I know that my redeemer lives.
I know, I know eternal life he gives.
I know, I know that my redeemer lives.
I know that over yonder stands a place prepared for me.
A home, a house not made with hands, most wonderful to see.
I know, I know that my redeemer lives.
I know, I know eternal life he gives.
I know, I know that my redeemer lives.
SINGING>> Years I spent in vanity and pride,
caring not my Lord was crucified,
knowing not it was for me he died on Calvary.
Mercy there was great,
and grace was free; pardon there was multiplied tome;
there my burdened soul found liberty, at Calvary.
Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan;
oh, the grace that brought it down to man;
oh, the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary.
Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
pardon there was multiplied to me;
there my burdened soul found liberty, at Calvary.
ROBERT >> I’m so glad that you’ve watched our program today and do hope that the lesson has been a blessing to you, helping you on your journey towards heaven. Let me encourage you to consider carefully the words that have been spoken. Like those fair-minded Bereans in Acts 17:11, search the scriptures to see if what is said is really so. Every week on this program we strive to speak the truth in love.
Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free,” John 8:32.
And he warned us that there are many false prophets in the world, and for us to test the spirits, to see whether they are of God, 1
It is certainly not our intention to lead anyone astray, but to help everyone find the way that God has set out for us in his word, the Bible. Our motivation is a genuine love for your soul, its salvation in heaven forever with God. So please let us know how we can help you towards heaven today.
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Whatever your need, please let us know what we can do to help you towards heaven today, and don’t forget to join us again next time right here on The Truth In Love.
SINGING>> Sing to me of heaven, sing that song of peace.
From the toils that bind me it will bring release.
Burdens will be lifted that are pressing so,
showers of great blessing o’er my heart will flow.
Sing to me of heaven,
let me fondly dream of its golden glory, of its pearly gleam.
Sing to me when shadows of the evening fall, sing to me of heaven,
sing the sweetest song of all.
Sing to me of heaven tenderly and low till the shadows o’er me rise and swiftly go.
When my heart is weary, when the day is long,
sing to me of heaven, sing that old, sweet song.
Sing to me of heaven, let me fondly dream of its golden glory,
of its pearly gleam.
Sing to me when shadows of the evening fall,
sing to me of heaven, sing the sweetest song of all.