December 20, 2020

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. Then He spoke many things to them in parables (Matthew 13:2-3).

Jesus was a consummate teacher. He used a number of methods to reveal and emphasize spiritual truths. One such method of teaching is the parable. A parable is a story told to illustrate a truth. Telling stories using familiar characters and activities was a favorite way for ancient rabbis to hold an audience's attention while illustrating an important moral point.

A common description of a parable is that it is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Many of the parables Jesus taught were taken from the agrarian culture of the day because many of the Jews were involved in farming. His parables can be thought of as extended analogies that compare two things or ideas. Although a number of spiritual truths can be drawn from a parable, it almost always has a singular point or application. 

Jesus told many parables to emphasize God’s truth. In fact, at least for a time in His ministry He relied heavily on story-telling: He did not say anything to them without using a parable (Mark 4:34). He also used parables to hide spiritual truths from those people who did not believe or have faith in Him. All parables are short, but some are very brief.

Parables are designed to force the listener to make judgments on the events of the story. As a result, the listener had to make similar judgments in his/her own life. They force the listener to make a decision or come to a moment of truth. At times Jesus had to explain the parables to His disciples in order to assist the development of their faith in Him.

The number of parables in Scripture differ depending on who you ask and their categorizing of the various teaching tools used by the biblical authors. Some parables are clearly identified as such. Others are not specified as parables, but clearly match the reasonable definition of the word. Using the broadest definition of all parabolic instruction (such as Proverbs 25:11), the number of parables can reach around 250. Some count about 100 parables in the Bible. About 30 parables are attributed to Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). It is interesting that the Gospel of John has no recorded parables of Jesus. 

“Thank You, Jesus, for making spiritual truth understandable and applicable to us. Revealing such truth enables us to better understand who You are and how Your Kingdom operates. Help me to be able to teach Your truth to others in a simple, yet meaningful way to others. To Your honor and glory I ask, Amen.”


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