“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock” (Matthew 7:24 KJV). Using a simile, Jesus, the son of God, began to tell an engaging story to the crowds in simple yet profound language they could all understand. Without a seminary degree or specialized speech training, the Anointed One engaged multitudes of people with stories of common life that enlightened the listeners with spiritual truths. These stories evoked thought and stirred the spirit, emotions, and intellect. As Jesus ended the story of the wise man and foolish man, “the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (28-29).
Many of the simple and memorable stories which Jesus told are called parables. A parable is a similitude, or a narrative, of common life that conveys a lesson, moral, or duty. The Greek word for parable “literally denotes a placing beside…. It signifies a placing of one thing beside another with a view to comparison” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary). As Thayer’s Greek Definitions states: “A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.” It is a comparison or analogy drawn from nature or human circumstances to teach a spiritual lesson. Jesus used metaphors and stories that were pertinent to the culture. Jesus taught the truth about an unfamiliar subject by comparing it to things that were familiar to the people. He explained and illustrated deep truths with well-known imagery such as the lessons of the farmer sowing seed or the traveler on the way to Jericho (Good Samaritan). These illustrations were relatable to the time and generation to which He spoke and had great relevance in understanding and meaning to the hearer.
Parables comprised more than one third of Christ’s teachings. Many of the stories were simple and easy to understand. Often, His parables, while detailed and interesting, were told to convey a singular truth or message. Christ, a master teacher, is an example to be emulated still today. His illustrative teachings and application of life lessons under the power of the Holy Spirit are not easily forgotten.
The parables of Christ, which are much easier to understand and to remember than a dry, theological discourse, reveal details about God, His character, the kingdom of God, etc. Much doctrinal truth is found in the simplicity of the parables. The deceptiveness of sin and the forgiveness of the Father are immortalized in the powerful story of the prodigal son. The importance of prayer is seared into the memory with the parable of the importunate widow. A tale of the ten virgins forever reminds us of the importance of living ready for the unexpected return of the bridegroom. The story of the lost sheep reveals the loving nature of the seeking Savior for the lost. The beautiful parables of Christ are gems of truth and are worthy of continual study and sharing with others. ■