- A parable is a simple illustrative story that teaches a moral or spiritual lesson(s).
- Some parables are referred to as allegories meaning that they are more detailed and elaborate e.g. parable of the sower, the parable of the wheat and tares and the parable of the rich land owner.
- A parable can have one or several meanings.
Jesus used parables in his teachings for the following reasons:
- To attract listeners because the stories were enjoyable.
- It was a common teaching method at that time.
- To make his listeners think for themselves and make individual judgment/to enable listeners to think critically.
- To make it easy for the people to understand the complicated theme of the unseen kingdom.
- To avoid direct confrontations with the Pharisees, the scribes and the Sadducees.
- To isolate serious and keen listeners from the rest of the group.
- He was to keep His identity a secret until He finalizes His mission.
- To fulfill the O.T prophecies.
- This helped in shaping their altitudes to Jesus and in bringing them to a closer and a new relationship with him.
- The use of parables made the teachings of Jesus quite interesting. Jesus was a gifted teacher and story teller.
- By using parables, those who heard would easily remember them and be able to refer to them.
- Jesus used parables as a way of making them respond to the teachings.
The characteristics of Jesus’ Parables
- Parables are stories.
- They deal with familiar situations/ they are derived from familiarn situations.
- They are vivid/ short.
- They lead to a climax/ they start simple but leading to the main objective/ main point.
- They marshal comparisons/ puzzles/ proverbs.
- They present a parallel between spiritual reality and everyday happenings which is not immediately obvious/ they are told in relation to the kingdom of God.
- Sometimes are related to a surprise element/ sometimes they end unexpectedly.
- Some lack introduction.
- They are usually unexplained/ they need to be explained/ had hidden meaning.
- They are told with a distinct objective/ purpose.
- Allegorical elements are not excluded but not dominant.
Reasons why a Christian in Kenya today may find it difficult to understand the parables in Luke’s Gospel
- Kenyan culture is different from that of 1st Century Palestinee.g. Kenyans are not familiar with grape growing, use of wineskins and the four seasons.
- The original setting or meaning has not been preserved and thus Christians lack clues to their meaning.
- The parables often have to be explained and thus they loose their directness and immediate meaning.
- The circumstances in which these parables were told are different.
- The Kingdom of God to which many of them relate is difficult and a controversial subject.
- Many different meanings have been suggested; often these are allegorical and the alternatives are at times confusing.
- Not all situations Chritians we do know about the parables help them to understand and apply them e.g. the parable of the Patch and Wineskins designed to show that Judaism and Christianity could not be patched together. The connection is hard to see and one has to search for a compparable case in the Kenyan stuation.
- African story telling has social interpretation while parables of Jesus have spiritual truth.
- The parables often take up Jewish ideas, concepts and traditions which are not familiar to Chistians today e.g. the idea of Israel as a vineyard.
- Christians do not know what to do with the parables; should they just try to understand what they signified in the time of Jesus or in the early Church or try to see a message for themselves. The interpretation of the parables will depend on the individual understanding and position.
- Vernacular translations of the Bible such as vineyard to “shamba” or garden may help in understanding the parable but distorts the original meaning of the parable.
(a) The parable of the Sower - Luke 8:4 – 15
- Jesus told the parable of the Sower to a crowd who had come to listen to Him as He preached the gospel.
- He told them a story about a farmer that went to sow seeds. They fell on different soils as follows:
ii. On rocky ground where the plants dried up.
iii. Among thorny bushes, where the plant was choked up by thorns.
iv. On fertile soils, where the plant grew and yielded a hundred fold.
Jesus interpreted the parable in the following way:
- The seed is the word of God.
- The seeds along the path are those who have heard, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts that they may not believe and be saved.
- The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word receive it with joy, but these have no root, they believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away.
- The ones that fall among thorns are those who hear, but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares/ riches/ pleasures of life and their fruit does not mature.
- The ones in the good soil are those who on hearing the word, hold fast in an honest and good heart and bring forth fruit with patience.
- Christians should spread the word of God to others.
- Christians should avoid worldly pleasures that may hinder them from true Christianity.
- Christians should remain faithful to the word of God and blessings shall be given to them.
- The spreading of the word of God faces many obstacles which lead to lack of spiritual nourishment.
(b) The parable of a lamp under a bowl.- Luke 8:16 – 18
- No one can light a lamp and cover it with a bowl or hide it under a bed.
- Instead they should put it on a stand to illuminate a room.
- Jesus is the light.
- The disciples are those on whom the light shines upon.
- The parable illustrates the work of the disciples.
- The disciples had a duty to pass on what they had learnt from Jesus to other people and not to keep to themselves i.e. the disciples had to spread the word of God.
- They had to have steadfast conviction so that they preach God’s word to bear good fruit.
- Jesus cautioned the disciples that their mission involved “giving” in order to “receive” i.e. if they did not preach God’s word and bear fruit they would loose even the little measure of spiritual knowledge that had been given to them. Therefore, those who lack faith cannot accomplish anything.
- The disciples would be blessed if they succeeded in their mission, with more knowledge. That those who have faith in Jesus shall be added and shall receive grace in abundunce.
- Christians should strive to love the word of God.
- They should guide others to the light of the kingdom through the word of God; the truth will be revealed to the whole world.
c). Jesus’ true family - Luke 8:19 – 21
- Those opposed to his Messianic title wanted to use this occasion to ridicule him.
- Jesus reaction shows that true faith is spiritual not earthly.
- His family covers all people and not blood relatives.
- Jesus family comprises those who hear and act on his word.
- Christians form a family whose kingdom of God and Jesus is the head.