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INTRODUCTION TO PARABLES

It is without a doubt that our young Christian lives -the Sunday School years- were made interesting and relatively easy because of parables and these truths have been etched in our minds to date and are vivid because of the imagery. A parable is the use of simple stories to convey a spiritual lesson. Mirriam Webster defines parables as a  short fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle. It employs an allegorical technique to convey a message. What we see in the fragments of our imagination has greater potency to stick more than a message outlined as a description. Parables equally have a way of magnifying the depth of a message and we become exposed to the truth in-depth and in richness

Parable descends from the Greek parabolē, “a comparison, analogy,” from paraballein, “to compare,” from the prefix para, “beside,” plus ballein, “to throw.” The sense of comparing, or throwing an idea beside another, is at the heart of the word. (Dictionary) The use of comparison is meant to invite us to determine the best way to act upon viewing the tale from an admirable and unadmirable perspective.

Strong’s Concordance :Parabole: a parable, comparison

Original Word: παραβολή, ῆς, ἡ
Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine
Transliteration: parabole
Phonetic Spelling: (par-ab-ol-ay’)
Usage: (a) a comparison, (b) a parable, often of those uttered by our Lord, (c) a proverb, an adage. https://biblehub.com/greek/3850.htm

Jesus, as a teacher- rabbi – as He was called, was more diverse and creative in sharing the gospel and he illustrated how we could maintain the goal of sharing the gospel while employing different techniques; storytelling and demonstration. He showed Himself as an excellent teacher and one filled with wisdom. 35% of what He taught was through stories. Today, the parables are still as relevant as they were years ago and while we may not relate with the specific day-to-day illustrations, they remain to be timeless truths. There are over 40 parables and they fit into various themes such as parables about God’s kingdom, repentance, and grace, and those that invite us to follow Jesus and run the race with endurance.

Role of Parables as used by Jesus

Attract audiences

Imagine you’re walking down the street and you see a preacher laying out the structure /setting of a manger with a donkey on the side with actors representing Mary and Joseph ready to act out the scene and on the other side, there is a preacher reading a text from a Bible standing all alone. What is more likely to pique your interest? I would say the former! In the same manner, rather than tell people to love their neighbor Jesus painted a picture of a good samaritan(Luke 10:25-37). Instead of saying that people should represent God and shine His light, He used the illustration of a lampstand(Matthew 5:13-16). Jesus used parables to attract audiences and there’s nothing that draws people more than creative stories well articulated. People were arrested by the vividness and sometimes, the strangeness of these parables. He knew they would be more inclined to listen to Him if He linked His teaching to a fictitious basis. Yet even as He did that, He did not alter or dilute the message.

Expose and Provoke

Jesus used parables to invite readers to introspect and draw lessons. I am reminded of a similar occurrence that doesn’t necessarily feature as a parable in the New Testament: the story of David. Nathan was sent to David to give a story of an alleged oppressor while making direct reference to David following the Bethsheba incident and the death of Uriah. (2 Samuel 12:1-9) David was provoked and he gave righteous judgment from an onlooker’s perspective not realizing it was about him. He felt stripped and was able to assess the choice of his actions. Parables have a way of inviting us to internalize truth and to linger longer as we grasp what it means.

Determine the present and absent listeners

While Jesus’ message was for all, He knew that the use of parables would isolate the serious and less serious listeners and those who were merely there for outward signs and miracles alone. The use of parables meant that the listeners would be required to listen keenly and attempt to comprehend the messages. Familiarity, the fallacy of knowing it all can often creep into our day-to-day as we are continually exposed to the truth of God’s word and parables make sure the listeners do not graze through. There is a freshness that comes with parables that cannot allow us to quickly scheme through yet because we know how it ends we can be caught in the trap of viewing it at surface level.

“The parable conceals truth from those who are either too lazy to think or too blinded by prejudice to see. It puts the responsibility fairly and squarely on the individual. It reveals truth to him who desires truth; it conceals truth from him who does not wish to see the truth.”

Barclay
Reveal the heart of the listeners

Pharisees were what we would call the literate among the illiterates and because of their learned advantage, the use of parables would reveal where they had placed their hearts. Because they were smart, they were most likely to elevate themselves in dissecting the revelation and Jesus used the parables to filter those who were willing to receive the message of hope with humility and readiness to be transformed and learn. Even today, the message of Jesus should not seek to serve how knowledgeable we are or how smart. Parables remind us to be teachable and to learn to sit and linger at the feet of Jesus no matter how frequently we hear it

“Stories can “steal past those watchful dragons” of reason and religiosity and, in doing so, touch and even transform the heart.”

C.S Lewis
Ease in understanding and remembering.

Many of the parables that were used by Jesus factored in their day-to-day tools and experiences which made it rather easy to comprehend and apply these truths. Because of the relatable examples, it was easy to denote and connect with the lessons and easy to remember because it imagery sticks! This, however, does not make it irrelevant for us today. We can still understand parables as we study the context and utilize resources that are available.

Over these next weeks and months, we will look into each parable of Jesus as we see how to apply these truths today. Some of the questions to ask include:

  • What situation or problem is addressed?
  • What is the central point/theme?
  • What is the expected response to the parable?
"Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables? And he answered them, “To you, it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them, it has not been given." Matthew 13:10-11; Luke 8:10

4 thoughts on “INTRODUCTION TO PARABLES

  1. What an amazing introduction… True… Killing familiarity and coming to the feet of Jesus to learn

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