Preaching in Parables

Preaching in Parables

All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable.
—Matthew 13:34

We preachers learn sooner or later that people may forget our sermon title, the scripture references, the points of our sermon, or even the point of our sermon, but they always remember the stories. I think that explains why one of Jesus’ favorite ways to teach was through stories. Jesus would often take whatever truth He was trying to communicate and wrap it around memorable stories that we call parables.

The word parable comes from a Greek word that means, “to lay alongside of.” And that’s what parables do. They take eternal truths and lay them alongside stories of everyday life.

Jesus chose to communicate great issues about life and eternity through everyday stories. As we study His parables, we need to understand a few things about parables. First of all, parables are not allegories. In an allegory, every character or element in the story is representative of something else. But in a parable, there is only one truth that Jesus is trying to communicate to us.

Second, parables have to be understood in the culture in which they are written. Quite frankly, some of Jesus’ parables seem strange to us. At times they seem unfair because we are reading them with a 21st-century Western mind-set. But to understand Jesus’ parables, we need to be able to smell the aroma and feel the dust of the Jewish villages. And that is what we are going to do as we examine these parables—look at the culture in which they were written.

And finally, parables have to be read in context. These are not isolated stories Jesus told to entertain people. Instead, every parable Jesus told had a context to it. Jesus told each parable in order to address an important issue or to answer a question. So it is important that we understand the setting of these parables.

In Matthew 13, the Bible tells us that Jesus begins to speak in parables. Why did Jesus use this teaching method? In verse 13, Jesus explained to His disciples that He was speaking in parables in order to obscure the truth to people who had rejected Him. That seems strange to us. Why would Jesus purposefully obscure the truth? When people reject the truth of God, God hides His truth from them. And that’s what was happening here. Jesus spoke in parables to obscure the truth from those who had rejected Him and to teach the truth to those who had a desire to know Him.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Matters of the Heart,” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2008.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.