Stories Jesus Told: Life-Changing Lessons in the Parables We Love
[Inside: an introduction to parables]
Parables Move Us
Everybody loves a good story. A good story makes us feel something. We relate to the characters and we feel what they feel. We identify with the events in the story, and it’s like we’re right there living it with them! Stories help us understand abstract concepts and teach us important life lessons.
Jesus told stories. Parables. We’ve probably all heard some of Jesus’ parables at one time or another. They’re the stories we love.
What’s a Parable?
A parable is a simple story that uses something familiar from nature, from cultural tradition, or from everyday life to teach or explain an abstract concept. Rabbis – Jewish teachers – commonly used parables as illustrations to explain the main points of a lesson. They told a parable – or simple story – and then clearly explained what the point of the story was.
However; rabbis kept some teachings more secretive. In these teachings, they didn’t clearly state the point of the parable. Rabbis saved these teachings for their closest disciples and taught them in private. Only their most dedicated students, the ones who paid the closest attention and possessed inside information, figured out the point of these parables.
Why did Jesus Speak in Parables?
Jesus Spoke in Parables to Reveal
First, Jesus used parables to reveal the truth to all who were open to receiving it.
A parable uses comparison to convey meaning.
The Greek word παραβολή (parabol-ay’) means to lay one thing alongside another.
Jesus intended to teach people about something they had never experienced – the kingdom of heaven. They had no point of reference to help them grasp what the kingdom of heaven was like. So, Jesus helped them understand the kingdom by laying something similar that they were very familiar with – things from their everyday lives – right beside it.
Jesus Spoke in Parables to Conceal
Second, Jesus used parables to conceal the truth from those who were not open to receiving it.
He explained this in Matthew 13:10-16.
Matthew 13:10-16 NLT
10 His disciples came and asked him, “Why do you use parables when you talk to the people?”
11 He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not. 12 To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. 13 That is why I use these parables,
For they look, but they don’t really see.
They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand.
14 This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says,
‘When you hear what I say, you will not understand.
When you see what I do, you will not comprehend.
15 For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes— so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.’
16 “But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.
The religious leaders in Israel met Jesus’ ministry with increasing opposition. These leaders, who claimed to represent God, rejected the clear evidence of God’s work in Jesus’ ministry. They questioned Jesus’ authority and felt threatened by his influence. Because of this, they worked hard to dream up ways to trip Jesus up and discredit him.
Then there were the people who knew Jesus and his family from his childhood. They knew he was a carpenter’s son from Nazareth. They took offense with him because he wasn’t what they expected him to be. Jesus wasn’t a typical carpenter’s son. He wasn’t a typical Rabbi either. He didn’t fit inside their box; and so, they rejected him too, even though it was clear to them that there was something special and amazing about him.
None of these people were open to what Jesus had to say. Their deaf ears prevented them from hearing the truth Jesus spoke, and their hardened hearts prevented them from understanding. So, Jesus spoke in parables to conceal his message even further. What little understanding they possessed was taken away from them.
Grace & Judgment
Parables were both an act of grace to those who “had ears to hear” and a judgment on those who rejected Jesus and refused his message. Those who hardened their hearts to his message heard only puzzling riddles. But those who genuinely sought after Jesus were invited to lean in a little closer. With them, Jesus took time to clearly explain what his stories meant.
For Those Who Have Ears to Hear
With that, let’s lean in, and hear what Jesus was teaching about the kingdom of God in the stories he told; the parables we love.
Read more sample chapters of our new eBook by Lori Anderson, “Stories Jesus Told”…
Lost & Found: The God Who Searches for Us
*the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin
The Good Neighbor: Loving Like Jesus Loves
*the parable of the good Samaritan
Forgive as You Are Forgiven: A Story of Mercy
*the parable of the unforgiving servant