PARABLES OF CHRIST:
COMPARISONS WITH A PURPOSE

Throughout His ministry, Jesus taught life lessons by using a variety of different parables.  To understand the purpose of the parables of Christ, I go to the explanation of Jesus Himself.

The very first parable that Jesus used is the parable of the sower teaching the lesson about how important it is to hear the word of God.  After He told this parable, “the disciples came and said to Him, ‘Why do You speak to them in parables?’”  (Matt. 13.10).  Listen to how Jesus answered them.

Matthew 13.11-17:  “He answered and said to them, ‘Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.  For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.  Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.  And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:  'Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; for the hearts of this people have grown dull.  Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.'  But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear”

Notice how often the word “hear” or “hearing” is used as Jesus explains His use of parables. 

  • “hearing they do not hear”
  • “Hearing you will hear and shall not understand”
  • “Their ears are hard of hearing”
  • "hear with their ears”
  • "blessed are…your ears for their hear”

The purpose of the parables of Christ is to help us become better listeners.  They are designed to help us better understand what Jesus is teaching.  Let's go back and break down what Jesus said in reference to the purpose of parables.


The Parables of Christ Helped the Disciples

He said, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given” 

The idea of a mystery does not imply that something is incomprehensible.  It means that something has been hidden or concealed.  Once enough information is made known, then the secret is revealed, and the mystery is solved  (Eph. 3.1-5). 

Those things that related to the coming of Jesus, the death of Jesus, the establishment of the church, the salvation of grace through faith were mysteries.  They were unknown.  It was not until Jesus came and taught His disciples were those things that were previously unknown, now made known.

In reference to this point, the apostle Paul wrote...

Ephesians 3.3,4:  “by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets”

Jesus is telling us that there are many spiritual truths which are hard to grasp because they are unknown.  These mysteries have been given to His disciples in the first century because it was their responsibility to go out and teach these mysteries to the world. 

There were many prophets of the Old Testament who desired to see and hear these things, but were unable (1 Pet. 1.10-12).  Why?  Because it was not given to them.  It was given to these specific disciples 

Not everyone was called to be a preacher or teacher.  Therefore, the divine revelation that was to be preached and taught throughout the world was made known to these certain individuals who were with Jesus.


The Parables of Christ Helped the Hard-Hearted

The parables of Christ were to help illustrate and drive home the specific lessons that He had in mind.  The Parables of Christ were to be a learning tool that would to help His audience better understand.   

Why was such a method of teaching by parables necessary?  Jesus explains that “whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”   (Matt. 13.12).  As a point of fact, Jesus was not intentionally hiding the truth.  He was expressing the idea that some were not interested in learning.

Many are the opportunities to hear and learn from Jesus.  However, some were uninterested.  Jesus said that the one who has a desire to learn will gain understand in abundance.  In contrast, those who have no desire to learn, even those things that he understands will not make sense in light of what Jesus teaches.

These were individuals whose “hearts…have grown dull.”  These were individuals whose  “ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed.”  (Matt. 13.15). 

  • If you are one who will listen and hear what the Bible says, but then choose not to accept what the Bible says, then your ears are hard of hearing and you have closed your eyes to the truth.
  • If you can read the words of Jesus who says, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16.16), but close your eyes and stop your ears from hearing because you will not accept the role of faith and baptism in salvation, then Jesus is describing you.
  • If you have an unforgiving heart and will not release someone from their prison of guilt after they wronged you, then these verses are describing you. 

Jesus said that there were some who would not listen to Him, and would close their eyes to the truth “lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.”  (Matt. 13.15). 

Jesus desires to heal those whose lives are broken as a result of their bad choices.  Jesus is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”  (2 Pet. 3.9).  If these individuals who were uninterested in the truth and refused to listen to Jesus would just open their eyes and listen with their ears, Jesus would help them.

How interesting that Jesus explained the purpose of parables in a context of the parable of the sower.  Here is a parable about the different ways that people listen.

  • Some refuse to listen and understand because it goes against their preconceived ideas. Jesus likens them to the seed that falls by the wayside.  (Matt. 13.19)
  • Some will listen and understand, and even put into practice what Jesus taught.  Then they will find that living the life of a Christian is difficult, and they give up.  Jesus likens them to the seed that falls on the stony places.  (Matt. 13.20).
  • Some will refuse to hear Jesus because they do not want to give up their sinful pleasures. Jesus likens them to the seed that falls among the thorns.  (Matt. 13.22).
  • Some will listen and put the teachings of Jesus into their lives, and as a result they live fruitful and productive lives.  Jesus likens them to the seed that falls on good soil.  (Matt. 13.23).

We are in a context of how well people listen and understand.  This is why Jesus spoke in parables.  He wanted to make His message as simple and as easy to understand as possible. 

In my sermons, I do not merely state the facts.  The facts and principles that I teach in my sermons are then supported by illustrations that help clarify and drive home the meaning of the lesson.  I’m sure you do the same when you are trying to help someone understand something.

In like manner, the parables of Christ were used to make those who are dull of hearing have an easier time grasping His teachings.


The Parables of Christ Help Us All

He wanted to use analogies and illustrations, and tell stories to really drive home His lesson.  Those who had trouble listening and whose hearts were not into spiritual matters, He used things like fig trees and farming, and other things that people could understand.  In doing so, Jesus could convey ideas that they might otherwise find confusing.

  • When I read the parable of the Good Samaritan, it is easy for me to understand that God expects me to help others who are in need.  (Luke 10.25)
  • When I read the parable of the Faithful Servant, it is easy for me to understand that I need to be prepared for the Day of Judgment.  (Matt. 24.45-51)
  • When I read about the parable of the Unforgiving Servant, it is easy for me to see that if I want God to forgive me, then I must be forgiving to others.  (Matt. 18.21)
  • When I read about the parable of the Barren Fig Tree, it is easy for me to understand that God expects me to change and be productive in my life.  (Luke 13.6-9) 

The parables of Christ make spiritual lessons easy to understand.

 

> > The Purpose of Parables


New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.