One of the ways that Jesus taught was the use of parables. Parables are stories or witty sayings that teach a spiritual truth. There are about 39 of them in the Synoptic Gospels but not a one in John’s Gospel. The word Parable comes from the Greek words “Para” which means beside or around, and “Ballo” which means throw. Parable means to throw beside or around, or place beside. A parable is a word picture that illuminates a profound spiritual lesson.
John Macarthur says that Jesus makes a shift to using parables as a response to opposition from Pharisees. Jesus used parables as part of His set of teaching tools. As Jesus traveled about He would use many different methods to teach and parables where a regular part of His teaching style.
Some people would say that Jesus used parables to help explain spiritual ideas and make His teaching easier to remember. Our passage today says that parables actually hide spiritual truth from those are not given the meaning. Matthew 13:11-15 says “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.”
“‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.”
Jesus is saying that spiritual understanding of the parables is given to some and not to others because God wants things hidden from them.
1 Corinthians 2:6-16 14 “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
Yet parables are not cryptic, like a coded message you take every other word or letter while reading backward. They also do not have secret associations like nursery rhymes “Mary, Mary, quite contrary how does your garden grow? with silver bells and cockle shells and pretty maids all in a row.” Mary being bloody Mary, Mary the first of England. Silver bells and cockle shells refer to torture implements used on people she hated and murdered. Pretty maids all in a row are the graves of miscarriages, because she bore no heir to the throne.
A better way of understanding a parable comes from Peter, Paul and Mary’s statement of rock and roll music, “but if I really say it, the radio won’t play it, so I lay it between the lines.”
Take Perter, Paul and Mary’s “Puff the Magic Dragon” To some it’s just a song about a boy who grew up. To others it’s about the death of joy in life. The tragic loss of our joy that is still waiting there in the cave for us to return. I will tell you it has nothing to do with smoking marijuana.
Think about this poem by Robert Frost
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
To some it is just a picture of a man on a ride who took the time to enjoy the woods, but what it is really about is depression, and the writers desire for death which seems inviting but to far off for his liking.
Here is my own parable; The Bible is like a doll kept in a display case or a tool kept locked in a box which gives no joy or use to anyone unless it is taken out and read” Where is your Bible? On a shelf, in a box, will you bring it to church, to study? Is it handy at home so you can quickly make use of it?
So, a parable has meaning that you can only get through the work of the Holy Spirit. Everyone may get a surface meaning but there is something that lies beneath that only the Holy Spirit can give you.
This tells us more than a surface reading of the parable is required to get the full meaning of it.
Parables also have layers like and onion. New ideas come to us as we look at it from different angles. The Parable of the lost son has something new to say as you take the Father’s perspective of the event, or the brother who stayed home, then it does if you only look at it from the lost son’s perspective.
So, the intent of looking at the parables Jesus told is to dig deeper into them and have the Holy Spirit reveal their deeper meaning. I pray that you will enjoy our look at the parables of Jesus.