Jesus was a storyteller. Did you know that one-third of the recorded words of Jesus are in story form? He told stories all the time. Jesus called His stories “parables” and verse 3 says, “He told them many things in parables.” Verse 34 records, “Indeed, He said nothing to them without a parable.”
What is a parable? A parable is a fictional but true-to-life story that teaches a specific spiritual lesson. “Parable” means “something laid alongside.” Jesus would lay out a scenario, something familiar that people could relate to. Then He would lay alongside it some spiritual truth. So a parable builds a bridge of understanding from the familiar to the unfamiliar.
A parable is not like a Shakespearean play, which may teach something about human nature. It is not like one of Aesop’s fables, which may teach a moral lesson. A parable teaches us about the Kingdom of God.
In verses 11-17 Jesus answered a question from His disciples: “Why do You speak to them in parables?” His answer reveals three reasons. First, Jesus used parables to coach His disciples. He would tell a parable to a crowd and let His disciples chew on it. Then when they were alone He would explain the meaning. Every farmer knows that you have to plow the ground before you can plant the seed. Parables plow the ground.
Second, Jesus used parables to confuse His opponents. When the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus with a trick question, He would often answer with a parable that would send them away scratching their heads, confused and confounded. Jesus was not going to share His family secrets (v.11) with those who hated Him.
Third, Jesus told parables to challenge the uncommitted. Parables make you think. They stick in your mind and sit there begging to be interpreted. They challenge those who are riding the fence to make a decision.
When I read a parable, I try to find myself in it and I try to find Jesus in it. Am I weed or wheat? Am I stony soil or fertile soil? Am I a good fish or a bad fish? Is Jesus the seed, the sower, the priceless pearl, the hidden treasure?
I hope you enjoyed the parables of this chapter today. Meditate on them. Jesus will reveal the meaning to His disciples: “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven” (v.11).