What are the Parables of Jesus
Jesus always spoke in parables, but what are they? Why did Jesus use them? What are some examples of parables in the Bible?
In this article, we’ll talk about the parables of Jesus and how we can use these parables in the Bible to improve our lives.
What is a Parable?
Think of a parable as a short story or an analogy. To teach people, Jesus would often tell stories that seemed unrelated to the experiences of those around Him. But those who knew what they were listening to would be able to understand the moral of the story and apply it directly to their present situation.
Why Did Jesus Teach in Parables?
So why did Jesus teach in parables? Would it surprise you to find out that Jesus’s disciples also had the same question? Here’s a conversation the disciples had with Jesus about this very topic that can be found in the 13th chapter of Matthew.
1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake.
2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore.
3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed.
4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.
5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.
6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.
7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.
8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.
9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”
11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.
12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.
13 This is why I speak to them in parables:
“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’
16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.
(Matthew 13 as found in the NIV)
Jesus is preparing people to follow Him. And some people are at different points in that journey. Consequently, Jesus spoke in a way that resonated with those who were prepared to hear His word. For those who weren't prepared, He helped them learn as much as they were ready for.
What are the Parables of Jesus About?
Jesus' parables cover a wide variety of topics. Each parable strives to illustrate one or more of Jesus’ most important teachings.
The parables cover topics such as:
How heaven is shared
How heaven works
How God leads the lost
How to be a good person
How to care for your neighbor
The 10th chapter of Luke contains an account of a man who asked what it meant to be a good person. When Jesus answered him plainly, the man pushed back to justify his own life.
And this is when Jesus gave us the parable of the Samaritan.
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[c]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d]”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.
31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.
32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.
34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.
35 The next day he took out two denarii[e] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
(Luke 10 as found in the NIV)
In Numbers 19:11 the Law of Moses dictated that, “Whoever touches the dead body of any person shall be unclean seven days.” Unclean people were unable to participate in religious rituals on behalf of themselves and others. So it makes sense that the Priest and Levite (being religious leaders) would strictly adhere to the Law of Moses and avoid the man they thought was dead on the side of the road.
But the Samaritan (a person belonging to a religious minority in Israel) would not have the same qualms about risking uncleanliness. In this parable, Jesus taught that it was more important to stop and help those in desperate need than anything else.
The Lost Sheep
Sometimes it’s easy to lose patience with someone. But Jesus taught a better way in the 18th chapter of Matthew.
10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.
11 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?
13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.
14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.
(Matthew 18 as found in the NIV)
Jesus understands the worth of a soul. Jesus taught people to never give up on one another.
The Pharisee and the Tax Collector
This last parable of Jesus comes from the 18th chapter of Luke. In this parable, Jesus compares and contrasts the attitudes of two different people in their worship of God.
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:
10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.
12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
(Luke 18 as found in the NIV)
In this parable, Jesus shows that those who are truly humble, those who recognize their shortcomings and focus on their imperfections rather than the imperfections of others are the ones who will lead better lives.
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