What excites you? Are you a big sports fan? Does watching your favorite sports team in a close game get your adrenaline flowing? What is your passion; what captivates you? Have you ever been really excited by someone or something? Has your mind, your heart, ever become engrossed in an unique experience to the point that you were unaware of what was going on around you? To some in may be a sporting event. To others a good book or movie. To me it is the beauty of God’s creation. I love just to sit and enjoy the view of peaceful calm lakes, snow-covered mountains, gentle moving streams or to take a walk along a peaceful ocean beach.
The issue of modern civilization is the furthest thing from my mind when I am absorbed in the beauty of God’s creation. I get a similar feeling when Jesus speaks to me in Scripture. He is a master at story telling. He speaks with authority. He taught as no man had taught before. Blue and purple He used simple stories (parables) from every day life to convey hidden truths about the kingdom of God. Like a skillful artist, Jesus painted beautiful pictures with short and simple words. In our imagination, we can join his original audience as they hang on every word. When Jesus spoke, his listeners were absolutely spellbound.
For two thousand years, Christians and non-Christians alike have admired the teaching ability of Jesus. As a teacher Jesus employed a variety of techniques to implant his message upon the minds of his hearers. He is a master teacher in both his method and message. Jesus uses vivid every day illustrations as one of His most powerful teaching methods. In these parables He uses common, every-day experiences of life of His original listeners as illustrations to communicate the most important truths any teacher has ever delivered.
As I study His teaching I can sense His presence. I can hear His voice as He speaks to us through these simple but powerful illustrations. These powerful parables will enable us to grow spiritually like never before. They will transform us into His likeness.
This method of teaching using vivid everyday illustrations is very powerful and makes it easier to remember. It draws the image or word picture on our memory. For example, how many of us can remember the stories of the “Three Little Pigs” or “Goldie Locks and the Three Bears”? I am sure many of us remember the key points of these stories. Yet it probably has been years since many of us have read or heard these stories. This is the same with Jesus’ parables. We do not have a bunch of principles to memorize and soon forget. These down to earth illustrations burn themselves into our memory.
Approximately one-third of Jesus’ recorded teaching is found in the form of these everyday illustrations, which are called parables. Some of the best know sayings of Jesus are from His parables. For example the words “prodigal son” and “good Samaritan” and their general meaning are well known to most of the world. When we think of a “prodigal son” we think of a wayward and rebellious child. The phrase “good Samaritan” brings to mind a helpful and caring person. These are general thoughts conveyed by these parables, however, Jesus had a deeper meaning than has been captured by the above phrases. During this study we will be investigating these deeper meanings.
The word “parable” is derived from the Greek word “parabole” which means “to place beside, to cast alongside”. It “signifies a placing of one thing beside another with a view of comparison”. This method of comparison of the “known” (earthly) truths with the “unknown”(heavenly) truths shed further light on the unknown. Jesus is placing the known next to the unknown so that we may learn”. It is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. When Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like….”, He was placing an earthly thing beside a heavenly truth for the purpose of teaching about the kingdom.