Last month I got slightly sidetracked from my normal questions about faith where I ask you, my readers, to consider what you believe and why and I told a story about Rogene and my cat. Now this may have certainly seemed like a strange thing to do on a blog centered on God, his son, his worshipers and the universe which he created. Or is it? I called this story a parable, separating it from just any other story a person might tell someone else as a joke or just something interesting they’ve experienced or heard about. So what then is a parable?
According to the Webster’s Online Dictionary (1), a parable is: “a short story that teaches a moral or spiritual lesson; especially: one of the stories told by Jesus Christ and recorded in the Bible.” While similar to the telling of a child’s bedtime story in hopes that the moral will, perhaps through osmosis, soak into the child’s mind and be part of who they become, parables are much more than that. After Jesus told the Parable of the Sower, his disciples came privately to him and asked him what the parable meant. While a sincere question from a student to a respected teacher, Jesus was somewhat surprised and dismayed by the question being asked.
The Holy Bible (King James Version – KJV) then records Jesus asking, “Know ye not this parable? and how then will you know all parables?” In other words, Jesus was disappointed that his disciples had not been taught what he considered even the very basics of spiritual communication and knowledge. He then goes on to lay the foundation of understanding his, and scriptural, teachings.
To do this he goes through the parable he had just told his audience line by line, word by word, showing how each word which had obvious meaning to everyone in the physical world had an equally, yet perhaps more important parallel meaning in the spiritual sense. Let’s look at how he did that as recorded in the King James Version of the Holy Bible in the books of Matthew and Mark:
First in the book of Mark, Chapter 4, he told the parable to a larger audience on a ship, and it was recorded by Mark (KJV) as follows:
- Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow:
- And it came to pass as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.
- And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth:
- But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away,
- And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.
- And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some and hundred.
- And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. (2)
Now notice that he did not give any explanation as to why he told this story to the gathering of people who were simply following him due to his reputation or stories about him. But when his disciples came privately to him they asked him why he taught them in parables to which he stated that it was given to them (his disciples) to know the “mysteries” of the kingdom but to others they would not be known. He then was asked to explain the sower parable to which he gave the following foundational teaching of how to understand the spiritual, allegorical language of parables and prophecy.
11 And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:
12 That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.
13 And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?
14 The sower soweth the word.
15 And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.
16 And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;
17 And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.
18 And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,
19 And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.
20 And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred. (2)
Now please notice what Jesus is doing here; he’s essentially giving a vocabulary lesson as if he were teaching the disciples a new language. He tells them that the “sower sows the word.” Now this makes the sower a believer or preacher, does it not; and the seed the sower scatters is the word of God. He then goes on to explain the concepts of the “wayside,” “stony ground” and “thorns.” The clearest definition is most obvious for the word, “thorns,” where Jesus states clearly that those who are actually thorny bushes are those who “hear the word (of God), and the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.” It may be helpful to compare Mark’s record of this teaching with that found in Matthew’s telling of the event in Matthew 13:3-9. Now the words of the parable can take on a new meaning seldom taught even in the churches. The “interpreted” version, from Matthew’s record of the parable, would read as follows:
“Behold a Son of Man (Jesus) went forth to speak; and when he spoke some words fell by the ones without understanding, and the wicked ones came and (caught them away) catching them up: some fell upon tribulation where they had not much foundation: and forthwith they, with joy, received it, because they had no (maturity) root in self of foundation: And when the persecution, because of the Word, was up, they were (offended) and because they had no (maturity) in self they (were) offended. And some fell among the cares of the world and deceitfulness of riches: and the cares of the world and deceitfulness of riches with joy received it, and chocked them. But others fell into understanding, and brought forth righteousness, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Who have ears to hear, let them hear.” (3)
What an amazing concept this was for Jesus to teach. That built within the parable was the spiritual meanings of the teachings which the Master Teacher was trying to convey. And as a person looks upon the scriptures in the Hebraic cultural origins it becomes obvious that all of their Scriptures were recorded in this way. While stories are used in all religious backgrounds to make spiritual points more clear, it has been the fact that the Hebrews recorded these things in writing, and have rigorously protected their historical accuracy, which makes it possible to, even today, be able to delve into the “mysteries” of the Word and learn what it truly means.
And the parables are just the beginning. This spiritual language can awaken one to an otherwise hidden universe only dreamed of by those less aware. The gift of prophecy becomes clear. The view of the mundane no longer is possible to be seen any longer as boring. A tree is no longer just a tree to be ground into paper, but represents things beyond nonspiritual man’s comprehension.
Have you had an experience with parables which has changed your life once you understood their “hidden” meanings? Has a story you’ve heard your parents, a preacher, or even some other spiritual leader such as the Buddha or the Christ, himself, has told helped change your life? Please take a few minutes to respond to this post and tell us about it here. Telling your story about hearing stories being told and how they affect you is much like the little child who experiences going to the Grand Canyon Park one summer, but never tells her friends or teachers nor anyone else what she saw. By the time she was a young woman, nearing thirty, she doubted that she had that experience at all, and even doubted that the Grand Canyon even existed even though her younger sister had told everyone she knew of her experience and had just got a job there as a park ranger.
- Robbins, R.O., What the Righteous Desire to See, E.T.M. Publishing, 1990, pg. 50-51 (Out of Print).