What Is A Parable And Why Did Jesus Use So Many?
Jesus used parables to teach about the Kingdom of Heaven, loss and redemption, love and forgiveness, and prayer (to name a few themes). If Jesus considered parables an effective teaching tool, then we can also use them to paint word pictures of certain truths.
But what is a parable?The Gospel of Luke has the largest total number of parables (24) and 18 unique parables. #apologetics #churchhistory #biblefacts Click To Tweet
What is a parable and how can we use them?
Parables are practical, simple stories that we can use in our everyday conversations to illustrate truths in relatable ways.
Our Bibles render the Greek word parabolḗ into English as
a teaching aid cast alongside the truth being taught. This casts additional light by using an arresting or familiar analogy, (which is often fictitious orStrong’s Concordance 3850
metaphorical,but not necessarily).
A parable is a simple story illustrating a truth by comparing two things side-by-side.
The parable of the blobs
As a retired teacher of students with moderate to severe disabilities, I have a plethora of stories, most of them quite hilarious (to me anyway). One such story occurred early in my teaching career and involved a young man I will call John.
John was essentially non-verbal and diagnosed with autism. Although he rarely said a word, he was one of the funniest students I ever had the pleasure of teaching. His body language left no doubt about his thoughts!
Once a month, I took my students to an indoor swimming pool on the campus of a local college. I always made sure that all of my students went to the restroom before getting into the pool, for obvious reasons, and that day was no exception.
We had been in the pool for about 30 minutes when I noticed something strange. There were several brown blobs floating in the water – all around John. As I began to investigate, John and I made eye contact. I still hadn’t made the connection between John and the “floaters,” but John knew that my light bulb of awareness was getting ready to burn brightly. He immediately began attempting to dunk the blobs. Unfortunately for him, they bobbed right back up to the surface.
Suddenly someone yelled, “Poop in the pool!” Chaos commenced, as everyone attempted to exit the pool in any way possible – including John, who had somehow managed to remove his swimming trunks. The mayhem intensified as I attempted to keep John in the pool while wrapping a towel around him. Have you ever tried to wrap a towel around someone while in water? It’s next to impossible!
Keep in mind this was an elite college.
As the staff member turned more shades of red and purple than an over-ripe tomato, the futility of the situation hit me. I managed to haphazardly tie the towel around John’s waist, John was still trying to hide the blobs by dunking them, and the staff member threw a five-gallon pickle bucket at me so that I could “scoop the poop.” Yes, a pickle bucket.
So I did what any responsible teacher would do.
I started laughing. And laughing. I laughed until I cried, literally. The chaos stopped, and the pool area became eerily silent, as everyone stared in amazement at the teacher scooping poop with a five-gallon pickle bucket. As the futility of my task became obvious, my laughter turned into full-blown guffaws. Finally, in resignation (and probably disgust), the staff member relieved me of my duties, and I climbed out of the pool.
Now I’m sure you’re wondering what kind of biblical truth is hidden in my story. Well, I’m glad you asked!
Sin is like a blob
Sin is like John’s “blobs.” Just as John tried to hide his evidence of wrongdoing, so we try to hide sin. However, in the same way, that he couldn’t make his “blobs” disappear from sight, neither can we make our sins disappear from God’s sight. They just keep coming up to the surface of our lives.
God can remove our blobs
In contrast to my unsuccessful efforts, God can (and does) completely remove our sins. Psalm 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
What is our responsibility with our blobs?
In 1 John 1:9 we are given our responsibility. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We cannot pretend that we have no sin, and expect God to overlook it. God doesn’t ask questions; His forgiveness covers all sins, but we must confess them.
What happened at the pool?
In case you were wondering, my class was never invited back to swim again. The college never forgot our little debacle, and all the apologies in the world did nothing to appease them.
One of my favorite verses is Hebrews 8:12. “For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and will remember their sins no more.”
Pay close attention to the wording of that verse. God didn’t say He would forget their sins. He said that He would remember their sins no more. To forget something is an unintentional act.
However to remember no more is a deliberate act. God doesn’t just forgive and forget. He forgives and remembers our sins no more!
Parables are practical, simple stories that we can use in our everyday faith conversations to illustrate truths in relatable ways. We can use parables in our evangelism efforts and as instructional aids when teaching Scriptural truths to adults or children.
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