The Parables of Jesus – A necessary foundation
Like newborn babies,
thirst for the pure milk of the word
so that by it you may grow in your salvation.
Surely you have tasted that the Lord is good! 1 Peter 2:2,3
A large portion of what is recorded of the spoken words of Jesus is his use of parables (stories) to teach and illustrate points. Because of the sheer volume of parables Jesus taught, we need to recognise that they are foundational in the forming of our conceptual understanding of the principles he taught.
Parable of the sower
Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said; ‘Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.’ Then Jesus said, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’ When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. he told them, ‘The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on teh outside everything is said in parables so that ,
“they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!”
Then Jesus said to them, ‘Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word ; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop – thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown. ‘ Mark 4:1-20
From this parable we can see that Jesus was teaching that not everyone who hears or even embraces his words goes on to be fruitful.
The devil (otherwise known as Satan), will do all he can to hinder your growth to become a fruitful Christian.
It is also important to know that the Christian life will not be easy. Persecution will arise for your faith as well as many distractions in this life that willl try and take you away from your faith.
This parable highlights the reality of true and false conversion. Some people may be calling themselves a Christian today, and have heard the word, but the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in have caused them to become unfruitful.
Jesus later warns in another parable about unfruitful Christians : ‘And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Matthew 25:30
When Luke retells this parable of the sower sowing seeds, he relates the good ground to having a good heart. The only way the heart can be good is through repentance. This highlights the importance of the previous lesson, not just as a once off but as a lifetime practice.
Parables of true and false conversion
One of the major themes that comes through the parables (stories) that Jesus taught is the idea of true and false conversion.
Jesus told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ “An enemy did this,” he replied. The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ “No,” he answered, “because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ Matthew 13:24-30
Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.’ He answered, ‘The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.’ Matthew 13:36-43
Here we can see that out of the Kingdom of God (which includes what we would call the church today) there is and will be people that are an offence to God – False converts. They are in God’s Kingdom, like weeds amongst the wheat. We can take this to mean there might be whole congregations that are ‘a part of the Kingdom of God’ but are actually an offense to God. This could also mean that sitting side by side in a church, there may be genuine Christians sitting alongside the ‘weeds’ or the ‘unfruitful’. The time for doing the weeding is not now, and it is not up to us. It is important however to realise and understand this warning from Jesus, and to make sure we are growing in righteousness rather than lawlessness.
Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 13:47-50
The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my diner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ But they paid no attention and went off – one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend’, he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are invited, but few are chosen.’ Matthew 22:1-14