Blog Devotionals

Why Jesus Used Parables to Teach

April 29, 2024 | Sam Rainer

A parable is a little story with a big meaning. Jesus used simple examples from everyday lifeto shed light on spiritual truths. What are the purposes of the parables in the gospel accounts of Christ? They make abstract teachings concrete and more meaningful. The word “parable” is a combination of two Greek words. “Para,” which means alongside. And “ballo,” which means to throw. Parables are stories a teacher “throws alongside” a lesson to help illustrate truth.

Even more importantly, Jesus used parables to inspire action and call for a response. Parables are not fun riddles to solve. Parables are meant to prompt action. About one-third of Jesus’ instruction came in the form of parables. The goal of a parable is to see yourself in the story. In the case of Matthew 13 and the Parable of the Soils, are you the hard soil, rocky soil, thorny soil, or good soil? I will reveal more in my sermon on Sunday.  

Now, in the Matthew 13 parable, we are the dirt. It’s an appropriate description. We are nothing unless God works (or sows) in us. We are nothing without the seed (or His Word) taking root in us. The Parable of the Soil is about the condition of your soul. How well do you hear and respond to God’s Word?

As He teaches, Jesus pleads with His students: “Listen!” He wants people to hear His words and also respond affirmatively. Ultimately, there are two kinds of responses to Jesus. Those who are like productive soil—they hear and respond. And those who are like unproductive soil—they do
not listen.  

When the seed (or God’s Word) reaches the soil (us), it will either be accepted (take root) or rejected (it dies in the ears of the hearer). At this point in Matthew, the responses to Jesus become increasingly polarized. Those who oppose Jesus don’t consider His views as a difference of
opinion. They see Him as a threat to their power.

So, Jesus teaches in parables to prompt people to make a decision about Him. Jesus does not speak in parables to withhold the truth. Instead, He uses parables to elicit a faith response. In Matthew 13, there is a weight placed upon the hearer. You have a choice to make when presented with the truth of Christ. Thankfully, we are blessed to have a clear message from God. He tells us exactly what we need to do.