Why in parablesIn the Gospel of Matthew, as well as the others, we are introduced to a very Jewish style of teaching made famous by Jesus, that of the parable. Creating stories using everyday situations, Jesus would teach deep topics in a culturally relevant way so that everyone would have an opportunity to learn and understand.

So what is a parable?

In Stories of Intent, Klyne Snodgrass nicely defines them as “a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application to tease it into active thought” (p. 7). It was never Jesus goal to think for people, but rather to force people to look beneath the surface for the Truth. As He many times said, “he who has ears to hear, let him hear…”, and that is still His goal today.

The parables achieve many goals, some of which are:

  • They illustrate truth and make it clear by comparison with something that is already familiar.
  • They impart instructions and rebuke without causing offense.
  • They create interest and hunger for more information.
  • The stories are always true (and some even happened)!
  • Their words and details should be interpreted both literally and spiritually.
  • The similarity between the point illustrated and the illustration itself should always be noted.

Quite early in Christianity (about 100 years in) – the Church started making a habit of over-allegorizing the parables. Classic theologians like Origin can almost be seen performing literary acrobatics in their attempts to formulate some deep spiritual meaning out of an otherwise very practical story.

So why did Jesus insist on teaching this way? Why not simply say what He meant in a direct manner so that everyone listening could understand?

  • By using parables, Jesus was able to reveal truth in more interesting ways that would cause the story to be repeated (even until this day!). (Matt 13:10-11, 16)
  • By using parables, Jesus was able to engage those listening to him. (Matt 13:11-12, 16-17)
  • By using parables, Jesus was able to convey mysteries by comparing them with things they already understood. (Matt 13:11)
  • By using parables, Jesus was able to conceal truth from disinterested hearers and rebels at heart. (Truth isn’t cheap!) (Matt 13:11-15)
  • By using parables, Jesus was able to offer truth to those who really were hungry and wanted more of it. (Matt 13:12)
  • By using parables, Jesus was able to take truth away from those who did not want to work for it. (Matt 13:12)
  • Jesus used parable in order to fulfill prophecy (Matt 13:14-17)

As you read through the Gospels and the teachings of Jesus, ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand the deeper things Jesus was teaching. Avoid making them more complicated, but look for the basic truth and allow the Holy Spirit to build off of that.


Be Fruitful & Multiply,