Jesus of Galilee
The use of parables is a realistic method of showing principles of life in action. The short narrative provides a comparison, making a moral or religious point through natural or homely situations. If we look to the Greek word "parabole," it is defined as a placing side by side.
Jesus told parables because it is easier to hold in memory a teaching in story form, and eventually the principle that it illustrates will become clear. But remember that he was not writing about someone else; he was writing in every parable and story about you -- and your own potentialities -- so that by seeing how someone else handled a situation you might see more clearly how to put these teachings to practical use.
Jesus presented his ideas dramatically through narration of commonplace incidents. While the rabbis were good story tellers, their tales tended to be more pedantic in order to prove points of law, whereas Jesus spoke with vigor and originality to clarify the great Truths he was teaching.
Any simple unlearned man would find warmth in the humble familiarity of these tales that bring him the assurance of salvation. While the pastor finds moral precepts to teach his flock, the child of God finds Truth and Wisdom flowing like a fountain from the depths of every word and parable. I find an amazing thing: it is the enduring vitality with which these parables are charged.
One day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the Sea of Galilee to teach. But the crowds gathered about him, pressing so close that he got into a boat and the whole crowd stood on the beach.
And he taught them saying; "A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on the rocky ground where there is not the depth of soil. Immediately they sprang up but when the sun rose they were scorched; and since they had no root they withered away. Other seeds fell among the thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.
"Where other seeds fell in good soil and they brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
All this Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed he said nothing to them without parables. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet:
"Why do you speak to them in parables?" the disciples asked, and he answered them, "To you it was given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to him who has will more be given and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand lest they should turn again and be forgiven. For them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
"But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it."
Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field."
He answered, "If you do not understand this parable how will you understand all the parables? Hear then the parable of the sower:
"The seed is the Word of God. The ones that drop along the path are those who have heard when the word is sown and then Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in their hearts, and they are not saved." This is done in many ways. Doubt is one of the most prevalent.
"In like manner are the ones sown upon the rocky ground, who, when they hear the word immediately receive it with joy, but have no root in themselves and believe it for awhile, and then when temptation or tribulation arises on account of the word; immediately they fall away.
"And others are the ones sown among thorns; they are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the delight in riches and the desire for other things enter in and choke the word, and their fruit does not mature.
"But those that were sown upon the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it, holding it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience -- thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold."
By "hearing," Jesus referred not merely to understanding the meaning of the parable, though many people understand it according to their own level of soul-growth. He meant more -- the Living Word, which is in this time coming to more of God's children on earth and taking root within each to change him into a child of God.
The Kingdom of Heaven
Speaking of God's kingdom, he told them another parable. "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till it was all leavened." The yeast or the leaven disappeared from view with the flour. But presently it bubbled up and lifted up the whole mass.
"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who on finding one pearl of great value, went out and sold all that he had and bought it.
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net which was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into vessels but threw away the bad. So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth."
"Have you understood all this?" They said to him, "Yes." And he said to them, "Therefore, every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old."
If a scribe (in those days), or a trained churchman in the present times, can turn to the experiences of the Christ and the reality of God in his own life, then he has the experience of the background of the old religious precepts, along with the new religious truths. This can make for a highly useful servant of God, providing he can become truly a child of God to accept this.
Another parable he put before them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men were sleeping his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.
"So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the householder came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?' He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' The servants said to him, 'Then do you want us to go and gather them?' But he said, 'No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.
" 'Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.' "
And he said, "The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how.
"The earth produces of itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come."
And when his disciples came to him again he explained further, saying, "He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed means the sons of the kingdom; the weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels.
"Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age.
"The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.
"Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear."
And he said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade."
With many such parables he spoke the Word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.