Parables in the Bible

"Once upon a time ... there was Cinderella ... Snow White ... Sleeping Beauty ...."

What magic these words conjure up - fairy tale stories of which most, if not all of us, have heard and read. Perhaps in different languages, perhaps even with slight differences in the individual tales ... but stories nonetheless that have been passed down from parent to child over many years.

Stories can be fun; stories can be exciting; well-loved stories are remembered ... and that is one reason why Jesus told 'stories'. He wanted those who heard them to remember them.

But the stories Jesus told were different. They were called Parables.

When Jesus talked with the religious leaders, who thought they knew all about God, he used the kind of words and arguments that they used. But when he taught the ordinary people and his followers - or disciples - in particular, he used stories to explain God's Kingdom to them.

Every story is a picture and Jesus would illustrate his parables with day-to-day events that everyone would recognise. Jesus spoke to his followers of shepherds, fishermen, farmers and housewives, trees, plant and animals. When he told his stories people could relate to what he was talking about - but his parables were also a challenge.

To most people they were just stories, but for some they were a puzzle. What did the parables really mean? Why did Jesus teach in parables? Well, it was Jesus' way of teaching only to those who really wanted to learn, who were prepared to apply themselves to find out more.

And fortunately for those people,Jesus was prepared to help and he would explain the meanings of the parables to them when they asked him. The many people who were just inquisitive, however, and who did not want to hear and obey God's message - well, they remained 'in the dark'.

So what parables did Jesus tell? Here are a few I'm sure you will recognise ...

1 The Parable of the Sower Luke 8:1-14
2 The Wheat & the Tares Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
3 Hidden Treasure Matthew 13:44
4 The Lost Sheep Luke 15:3-7
5 The Prodigal Son Luke 15:11-32
6 The Good Samaritan Luke 10:25-37

Why not look them up and read them - and try and work out for yourself what message Jesus is giving.

Throughout his teachings, Jesus emphasised the need for his disciples to follow him and listen to what he had to say. He knew that one day he would have to leave them. He was to be killed, raised from the dead and ascend to heaven to be with his Father, God. But one day he would come back - and his disciples had to be ready for him.

In Matthew 24:42-44 Jesus told the story of a house owner who was robbed. Sadly, as with most robberies, it had been unexpected and the house owner was taken unprepared. Had he known when the thief was going to burgle the house, the owner would have been ready for him and would have been able to protect his belongings. But the thief arrived suddenly, at a time when the owner was otherwise occupied, and it will be like that for many people when Jesus comes back to the earth. They will be unprepared; they will not be expecting Jesus and will be taken by surprise; they will be caught off guard.

Disciples of Jesus, on the other hand, know that he is going to return and so must learn to keep watch. No one knows just when Jesus will come back, but if we are waiting patiently and watching carefully, we will be as ready as we can be for his arrival.

In another parable Jesus spoke of his return in this manner:

"But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is ... lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!"
[Mark 13:32,33,36 NKJV]


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