Jesus told stories often during His time with the disciples. They were not ordinary stories. These stories were special in that they often contained hidden truths. These stories are Parables.
What is a Parable?
In short, a parable, also called a similitude, is a short, metaphorical story. These are also called similes. A simile is a figure of speech comparing one thing with another thing of a different kind. It makes a description more emphatic or vivid.
Parables were, more often than not, fictitious or symbolic.
Why did Jesus speak in Parables?
“That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.” Matthew 13:35
The parables of Jesus spoke the language of the time. The words and illustrations related to those things familiar to them. And He did not speak to the multitudes that came to listen in any other way.
“All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them:” Matthew 13:34
But to the disciples, Jesus said thus:
“And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.” Luke 8:9
Speaking in parables is a fulfillment of prophecy. The hardness of the hearts of the people caused Isaiah to prophesy they would hear and not understand. See Isaiah 6:10 and Matthew 13:10-15.
Are Parables difficult to understand?
Some parables can be difficult without keys to unlock them. Jesus knew the twelve, like the multitude, would not grasp everything He spoke in parables. So Jesus explained the meaning to them.
“And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. …And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables? …But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.” Mark 4:10, 13, 34
To the people of the day, those not chosen to comprehend did not understand. But we have the Holy Ghost and the Scriptures to aid us in understanding exactly what Jesus meant. Yet without study, we too can miss the true meaning behind a parable.
Let’s look at a few…
The Parable of the Sower
Sower parables are the most quoted today. We have taken the object being sown to be whatever we choose. Even so, Jesus always has one thing in mind.
What does a sower usually sow? Seed, right? In God’s Word, what is seed to represent, usually? The Word itself! Have we taken it to mean money or income? Did it ever mean money?
“The sower soweth the word.” Mark 4:14
Jesus made a point of stating seed is the Word being sown into the heart of mankind. Money has no relevant value in the kingdom of God or the kingdom of Heaven.
Some would argue that last statement. Still, while money may AID in the spread of the gospel, it is not REQUIRED.
“Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way.” Luke 10:4
See how Jesus sent the disciples out? Without money bag, food bag or pouch, or spare sandals (he did not mean for them to go barefooted). He told them to avoid showy salutes (greetings, salutations) and spectacles like the Scribes, meant to attract attention (Luke 20:46). How did that turn out?
“And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing.” Luke 22:35
Even in the instance where Paul spoke of sowing seed, it meant sowing into the material needs of the less fortunate among the believers.
“Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;” 2 Corinthians 9:10
It should be noted that the translators added an extra ‘your’, seen in italics. So it originally read “bread for food”. Then it can be interpreted, “God gives supply to those who sow and multiplies it, as well as your righteousness.”
The Strong Man and Blasphemy
In Mark 3:23-29, Jesus said the only way Satan can defeat a Child of God, he must first cause them to yield to sin. He does this through temptation and deception. Once yielded, Satan can steal from them (spoil their house). Steal what?
The Word! This is the only thing Satan wants to take or keep from a Christian. The example of Satan taking the possessions of Job was unique. It is in a different context that we should not apply anywhere else. I will write about that in a future article.
Jesus also said if someone speaks evil of the Holy Ghost, that person speaks evil of Him. They can never find forgiveness and is in danger of eternal death.
Think about it. When Judas betrayed Jesus, it was blasphemy! Judas, in essence confessed by his actions, that;
- Jesus was evil. (John 5:18)
- His works were of the Devil. (Matthew 9:34)
- He made Himself the Son of God. (John 19:7)
This is what the Jews accused Jesus of and why they wanted Him eliminated. We know from Jesus’ own words he committed the unforgivable.
“While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.” John 17:12
Lazarus and the Rich Man
This parable in Luke 16:19-31 describes what happens when we die. If taken as written, Abraham’s bosom is Heaven according to most readers. Others see it as a place where the righteous wait in rest (Paradise) until Judgement Day. And it’s also believed Hell is a place of torment.
What does this parable reveal?
The Rich Man (The Jewish Nation) being made rich with the Bread of Life, passed by the beggar (The Gentile Nation) daily. He ignored the beggar, considering him no better than a dog. See Mark 7:24-30 for an example.
No matter the lifestyle, it is appointed for men to die, and afterward receive judgement (Hebrews 9:27). Note that neither men dealt with any type of judging. They went directly to their judgement (final sentence).
You may experience adversity in righteousness, but there is an eternal rest and reward. (Luke 16:25)
In contrast, you can have all the pleasures of this life you desire but it may cost your soul. (Luke 16:25)
No matter how you live your life, once you die, your eternity is fixed. (Luke 16:26)
No one travels from one state to another. Some teach you may be able to enter Heaven after a time of purification in torment. (Luke 16:26)
The dead cannot be summoned, nor are they sent to speak to the living! (Luke 16:27)
I will write a separate article on this parable. The message in it is so powerful and is often overlooked.
Imagine being in Heaven seeing and hearing the lost burning and screaming in torment throughout eternity. Does this sound right? Let’s see if it is…
“For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.” Ecclesiastes 9:5
“The dead praise not the LORD, neither any that go down into silence.” Psalms 115:17
“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Revelation 21:4
First of all, Solomon states the dead do not know anything. They received their reward and are forgotten. David said the dead cannot praise the Lord and they are silent.
Now see what John said? If all those things are no more, who will be in torment? We cannot explain this away by saying it only applies to the saints. In the end. God will do away with death, sorrow, crying, and pain. Forever!
So the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is a fictional story Jesus used to explain some greater truth. And the listeners knew Jesus spoke metaphorically.
Jesus said we would know the Truth
“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” John 16:13
Jesus promised us truth. And truth comes by the Holy Spirit. So when reading parables, remember they are symbolic of a greater truth. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to quicken your understanding and the promise is, He will!
I hope you found this article helpful. Have a bible question? Tell me what to write about.
If you liked this article, then please subscribe. You can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.