The word parable is Greek, and means a setting side by side, a comparison. In parables divine truth is presented by comparison with material things. Parables have been called “earthly stories with heavenly meanings.”
Why did the savior teach using parables
From our Lord’s words (Matt. 13:13-15; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10 in the Bible) we learn the reason for this method. It was to veil the meaning. The parable conveys to the hearer religious truth exactly in proportion to their faith and intelligence. To the dull and uninspired it is a mere story, “seeing they see not,” while to the instructed and spiritual it reveals the mysteries or secrets of the kingdom of heaven.
The Lord stressed that he was quoting Isaiah 6: 9-10 and emphasized that he had to use parables because the people themselves were in spiritual darkness. “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” (Matthew 13: 15 in the Bible) Jesus, therefore, did not use the parable to obscure the truth, but often as a subtle invitation to think about it and make changes to start growing spiritually.
For example, Jesus described two sons, one of whom promised obedience but never obeyed, and the other, who openly rebelled, only to repent and obey later. (Matt. 21:28-31 in the Bible). He asked the chief priests and elders which of the sons was more responsive to God, and they selected the disobedient son who repented. Jesus’ parable symbolized their own sins hidden as religious leaders.
Parables recorded in the New Testament
Matthew. (1) The tares. (2) The hidden treasure. (3) The pearl of great price. (4) The draw-net. (5) The unmerciful servant. (6) The laborers in the vineyard. (7) The two sons. (8) Marriage of the king’s son. (9) The ten virgins. (10) The talents.
Mark. The seed growing secretly.
Luke. (1) The two debtors. (2) The good Samaritan. (3) The importuned friend. (4) The rich fool. (5) The barren fig tree. (6) The lost piece of silver. (7) The prodigal son. (8) The unjust steward. (9) Lazarus and the rich man. (10) The unjust judge. (11) The Pharisee and the Publican. (12) The ten pieces of money.
John has no true parables but presents two allegories: the good shepherd (John 10: 1 – 16 in the Bible) and the vine and the branches (John 15: 1-7 in the Bible).
Application of parables
The parables the Savior used were pictures of human life and commonplace incidents at his time that could be understood by every listener. The application of a parable can apply in every age and circumstance.
We need to be careful not to center on the story Jesus told, but to learn Jesus’ purpose in using that particular Parable story and how it could apply today.
Jesus’ parables are a rich resource that can be used to understand the Lord’s gospel principles, testimony of his work, his own attitudes about our relationship to God and our fellowmen, and the prophecy contained in parables, particularly prophecies about becoming ready for Christ’s second coming.
In future articles I will discuss some of the parables and how they can apply to us in our day and circumstances.
Dallas Jones is the local leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some of the article was taken from the Bible Dictionary. For a more detailed discussion call (231) 383-8359 or send an email to [email protected]