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Why did Jesus talk in Parables?

Some of Jesus’ most well-known teachings are told in the form of short fictional stories

called parables. For instance, this week, Jesus uses the Parable of the talents to shows us

that we should not squander out God-given skills and abilities but rather use them for the

greater glory of God. In total there are 40 parables recorded in the Bible. But why does

Jesus use these short, somewhat trivial stories to teach such important lessons to us, surely

it is easier to teach his followers about the Kingdom of God directly?

Many great teachers in history have used parables or other stories to convey moral

messages. However, unlike these other teachers Jesus’ parables were not meant to make

everything clear straight away, but rather provoke thought and allow people to see God’s

work from a different perspective. Parables show that learning is best done by you, rather

than for you. After hearing or reading a parable, I am sure many of you spend time thinking

about it; trying to understand what it means to you. This independent thinking allows us to

understand Jesus’ teachings on a more personal level. Which is vital when talking about the

concepts in the Bible. The stories in the Bible are set in the past and without an in-depth,

individual understanding it is hard to translate the Bible into a more modern context enabling us to live our lives by these concepts.

The concepts in parables also serve another purpose. Once you understand the concept at

the heart of a parable you are unlikely to forget it. Jesus’ use of parables enables his

followers to not only understand his message but to also tell others about it as well. This

ability to pass on Jesus’ message without needing to teach it enables Christianity to spread

more easily; more people can hear and therefore more can believe.

The parables of Jesus’ bring the message of God in the form of a story. Jesus often used

them to illustrate that his initially small movement was the start of something great. He often

used metaphors which likened God’s kingdom to something initially small and insignificant

but that would later grow and change into something that has profound effects on us. For

instance, Jesus used the parable of the mustard seed to demonstrate the dramatic change

in the size of God’s Kingdom or the parable of the yeast to show that although now unseen

the Kingdom of God will have a great effect on the world in the future.

Many Israelites welcomed this message and were relieved to finally have a Messiah, but

some others took offence to Jesus’ teachings. This is where parables have another benefit.

To understand the message of a parable you have to think in depth about it, this is good for

open minded people who are willing to accept a new way of thinking. However, for those

who are confined by their existing beliefs (namely the Pharisees) this method of teaching

makes it harder for them to understand Jesus’ message and hence harder for them to arrest

him for blasphemy, buying Jesus more time to amass more followers.

The authors of the Synoptic Gospels preserved these parables, enabling us to read and

ponder what is considered to be Jesus’ exact words. They invite us to imagine God’s

Kingdom at work in our lives. They offer new surprises and challenges to us, and they allow

us to connect with the Kingdom of God on a deeper more individual level, more so than any

other of Jesus teachings.

Written by Leon D'Mello

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