The Purpose of Parables
Let’s go back to our childhood for a moment. The Tortoise and the Hare. The Boy Who Cried Wolf. The Monkey and the Jar of Peanuts. Any of those sound familiar? Well, these are all examples of stories meant to teach us lessons about life. They have a surface-level meaning, but they also invite us to dive beneath the surface to discover a deeper truth.
Jesus was a master of this teaching style. His stories, called parables, have influenced individuals and societies since the first century! He pulled together the wisdom of Jewish tradition, the commonality of the Aramaic language, and the dialogue-oriented style of Greek learning to weave these masterful stories. His parables taught moral lessons, but they did so much more than that! They were our King’s favorite way to show us His Kingdom. He used these common, everyday items and occurrences to illustrate just how good God is, what it means to be His people, and what His Kingdom is really like.
This Kingdom Jesus was introducing is so different from any earthly kingdom, so Jesus communicated it in a very different way—a way that drew one of two responses—arrogant dismissal or humble obedience.
Jesus closes out the Parable of the Sower, which has been called a parable about parables, with the phrase: “He who has ears, let him hear!” Since 99.9% of Jesus’ audience probably had working ears attached to their heads, what was He saying? Jesus was inviting, almost challenging, His disciples, then and now, to do the work of actually understanding. He knew and acknowledged, like we will if we’re honest, that we can hear something all day long, but so easily let it pass into one ear and out the other. Really hearing involves really listening. And here’s the thing about the word “hear” that Jesus used: It means “obey,” as well as “listen.” So even in Jesus’ closing line, He was giving us a clue, the key, to interpreting His stories … there’s something beneath the surface that we’re meant to discover and do something with.
Hopefully, you’re intrigued at this point, because over the next few days, we’ll dive into some of Jesus’ most famous parables. Some you’ll probably be very familiar with. Again, these stories have been shaping characters and cultures for centuries. But choose to pull out the earplugs of your preconceived ideas, pick up your spiritual shovel, and let’s dig beneath the surface together!
Prayer: Father, thank You for the parables of Jesus that reveal Your Kingdom to us. Please give me ears to hear what You have to say through these stories. I release my preconceived ideas and commit to doing the work of actually understanding. I invite You to speak to me. In Jesus’ name, amen.