A study of Jesus parables – An introduction
By Terry Cheek
For August will you join me in a new series of articles. Our Lord and Savior spoke wonderful words of salvation, forgiveness, and encouragement while He walked the earth. Some of His teachings were done in parables and beginning this month I want to invite you to join me in a study of them.
To begin with, it is important we understand what a parable is. If nothing else gets explained in this month’s article, I hope to leave you with a better understanding of our study and most importantly the teaching of Jesus Christ through parables.
Parables are not isolated to the words of Jesus and the New Testament, the Old Testament itself contains parables as well. We may visit some Old Testament parables as well when we finish the spoken word of Christ. For now, let’s take a quick look at the parable. A parable is nothing more than a figure of speech. And, the principal function of a figure of speech is to communicate ideas. We find parables in the form of similes, metaphor’s, and similitudes also there are simple stories that qualify as parables. The story-parable was the one most often used by Christ.
We find the word parable interpreting the Greek word “parabole” which is also translated as a proverb in Luke 4:23. Yet Luke 4:23 will be one of the parables we study. I share this not to confuse you, but to show you there is knowledge in words and how they are used. This is important to know as we move forward with this study.
Why would Christ want to use a parable? After all, they can be rather tricky to understand. Christ himself answers this question in Matthew 13:10-17. From this passage, we learn that Christ used parables to pass along knowledge to some yet hide it from others. Upon first reading, this sounds rather cruel. Jesus sheds light on this from Matthew 13:11-13 KJV “He answered and said unto them because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them, it is not given. (12) For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. (13) Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.” Christ speaks in parables because there were two types of people listening to Him, those who believe in Him and those who don’t. The believers need to be disciplined but the unbelievers do not need their confusion increased. An unbeliever has enough to be responsible for, adding to that burden would be unkind, to say the least. So, we know that Jesus teaches in parables to disciple His believers and show grace to the unbeliever.
Quoting Dwight Pentecost “1In order to properly interpret the parables, one must observe certain principles. The first principle, one that the Lord Himself stated, is that the parables concerned “the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 13:11). The kingdom of heaven is that sphere over which the sovereign God rules… A second important principle in interpretation is to observe the immediate context. Parables were never spoken in a vacuum. In each instance that Christ spoke a parable, He was explaining some question or problem that His hearers were facing. Each parable thus was designed to solve a problem or to answer a question…. This will lead to a third important principle of interpretation; namely, the parable itself must be studied to determine what is the point at issue…. There is a fourth principle. Since a parable transfers truth from the known to the unknown realm, the interpreter must study the item or matter in the parable to which allusion is made and from which truth is to be transferred….It is impossible to discover the truth in a parable by superimposing our culture on the culture of Christ’s environment. The interpreter of parables, then, must become thoroughly conversant with the history, geography, culture, and customs of biblical times.” Of all the parables given by Christ, only two were interpreted by Him, the parable of the sower and the parable of the weeds.
This introduction to our study may not be what you were really expecting but I assure you as we get deeper into it you be glad to have this information. Join us in September as we begin unpacking the parables of Jesus Christ. Until then may God keep you firmly in His grip and bless your daily walk with Him.
1J. Dwight Pentecost. The Parables of Jesus: Lessons in Life from the Master Teacher (Kindle Locations 161163). Kindle Edition.
Terry is the Executive Director and broadcaster of The Inspiring Word media ministry. You can contact Terry by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or by visiting www.theinspiringword.org