And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it. But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples. – Mark 4:33-34
A parable is a story that features imagery from the everyday life of the listeners. Parables are told to move the audience to respond to the message. Great communicators use figurative language such as metaphors, similes, proverbs, and parables to help people understand and remember the message.
The King of the Jews was no exception! He used figurative speeches throughout His ministry. His intent was to reveal spiritual truths and elicit a response from everyday folk through their everyday lives. When He taught His disciples in private, He expounded differently.
Although Jesus uses parables for most of His public teachings, He was not the first. Examples of Old Testament parables include Nathen’s story to David (2 Samuel 12:1-10) and Ezekiel’s eagle story (Ezekiel 17). Many people could hear truth but did not understand it. Storytelling became a viable option for a few reasons. Parables reveal truth to those who seek it. However, it can conceal the truth from those who don’t wish to understand the meaning or depth that underlines the story.
As believers and researchers of The Faith, we find ourselves at a faux pas. We have been incorrectly taught that parables were real events. We are not often aware of the cultural details that shape the point of the parable. For example, the parables of Jesus took place in 1st century Palestine but oftentimes, we know very little about the culture during that time. In wisdom, we should consult resources to understand the cultural background, pay attention to the indicators of the occasion and audience of the parable. It makes a difference!
During study, pay attention to the ending of the story. The climax is critical and usually involves some sort of shock value to help unlock the message. Currently, we may pass over a Samaritan being the hero of a story (Luke 10:29-37). That is until you appreciate the shock value because you understand Jews and Samaritans despised each other!
Determine the correct context of the parable and then apply it.
IT'S JUST A STORY!