Barry Newman's Blog

September 24, 2012

The Parables of Jesus (part I)

Filed under: Parables of Jesus — barrynewman @ 9:48 pm

The Parables of Jesus


One of the best known things about Jesus is that he told stories that had a special meaning to be conveyed by the story.  They are generally referred to as parables. Indeed, he told them many things in parables (Matt 13: 3; Mark 4: 2; 4: 33, 34).  Some were quite lengthy and some were rather short.  Perhaps the best known parable is the one commonly called, “The parable of the Good Samaritan.”  Occasionally something that Jesus did has a semblance to a parable in that it appears to be a parable in action.

Jesus sometimes began a parable by saying, “The kingdom of heaven (or of God) is like …” (Matt 13: 24, 44, 45, 45; 20: 1; Mark 4: 30) thereby indicating that if one understood the truth “hidden” within the parable it pertained to God and his rule.  And the portrayal of his rule often entailed an indication of where things were amiss and what God would do about it.

One of the intriguing things about the parables of Jesus is that it is recorded that he taught in parables so that people would not understand. (See Matt 13: 10 – 17, 34, 35; Mark 4: 10 – 12; Luke 8: 9, 10). Although at least on one occasion even those opposed to him understood something of a parable they heard, partly because it was about them (See Matt 21: 45; Mark 12: 12; Luke 20: 19). His disciples and others, who seemed to have attached themselves more loosely to Jesus, were occasionally given an interpretation of the parable.  If this had not happened we would probably have difficulty understanding some if not many of the parables.  The way they are made part of gospel narratives should also help us understand them aright. That Mark can record that privately Jesus explained everything to his disciples (Mark 4: 34), probably indicates that we the readers should now also understand. However, commentators still differ as to their intended meanings.

People who have written extensively on the parables sometimes advise us to be careful not to read too much into them.  In the few explanations that Jesus gave he seems to have concentrated on only a few matters of significance. Consequently when the records contain no reference to an explanation being given by Jesus it has been suggested that we look for basically one or at most only a few significant truths in line with the explanations that Jesus gave.


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