Understanding the Parables of Jesus Christ

“Understanding the Parables of Christ”
Mark 4:33


  • What is a parable? A story told that also has a truth involved.
  • Jesus parables were simple word pictures with spiritual lessons.
  • Jesus would describe these truths of God by using common everyday life happenings.
  • Jesus’ parables would leave many people astounded and has given students of the Bible something to ponder for 2000 years.
  • Jesus was a master storyteller.


I. THINK About The Parables

  A) Storytelling

  • If you want to catch someone’s attention…tell a story. Jesus did.
  • It is a wonderful way to tell a truth, yet keep your listeners captive.
  • Jesus stories were many times an example of true incidents in people’s life. What made it a parable was this…with that story, Jesus also had a hidden truth of God that could be found in it.
  • In real life everyday telling a story does not necessarily mean it is true. Some stories are false.
  • When Jesus told a parable, it may not have necessarily happened, but it could happen. Jesus never gave names. Never even implied that a certain person was involved. He just told a story and allowed the listener to use their own imagination so that they could apply the example to themselves.

  B) Parable speaking

  • Look at our text verse of Mark 4:33…And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it.
  • I want us to notice that it says… “…spake he the word unto them.”
  • What is “the word?” I believe that it is the same “word” that you find in John 1:1…In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
  • The “word” is God. In other words, when Christ spoke, it was the very word of God that spoke.
  • Now we look at Mark 4: 34) But without a parable spake he not unto them: This means that when Jesus spoke to this particular group of people on this certain day…He spoke in parables only.
  • Now this is quite strange to us because talking to people in such a way they won’t understand would cause them to do two things… 1) leave dumbfounded, not understanding what He said, or 2) follow Him and wait to hear more, hoping to get an explanation.
  • But we learn also of this verse… “… and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.” Christ waited until “they (His disciples)” were all alone, then he explained the parables.

II. Why Speak In Parables?

  A) Isaiah has a vision of Jesus’ glory

  • Look into Isaiah 6:9…And he (God) said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.
  • Jesus will tell “this people” the parables, they will hear but not understand. They will see Christ but not grasp the fullness of what he said.
  • 10) Make the heart of this people fat(the hearts grown dull), and make their ears heavy(ears are hard of hearing), and shut their eyes(they have closed their eyes);
  • The concept here is that the people of Jesus time will allow their hearts to grow dull to the sensitivity of the Holy Spirit showing them the truths. They have listened to the mundane leaders of the churches for so long adding to the Law, and adding their own little twist.
  • 10b… “lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.
  • In other words… unless they believe what they see and hear which brings an understanding to the heart, they will not be converted and healed from their sin.

  B) What would cause Jesus to start teaching in parables?

  • Speaking in parables would hide the truth from those who have not the discipline or desire to seek out Christ’s meaning.
  • It is Divine judgment on those who criticized, mocked and riled Him in unbelief.
  • Note Matthew 13:15… “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed;” Jesus said that their unbelief was stubborn and deliberate.

  C) You are accountable for what you hear and reject

  • Some may say… “Well what does it matter if people don’t believe what they hear?”
  • Look at Luke 12:48a…But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.
  • If a person did not know or not understand the message of God, His Laws or etc. then he will be lightly punished. God’s Divine judgment will be light. This does not include those who avoid God or his teachings. Of such will be a severe punishment.
  • Now the rest of verse 48b…For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
  • If you have much knowledge or much understanding, then much obedience is required.
  • The best view of this verse in short is this…The degree of judgment/punishment from God is dependent upon your knowledge or understanding of God’s Word. Remember, playing dumb does not fool an omniscient (all knowing) God.
  • But you will be accountable for what you do know and understand.

  D) Two purposes for Jesus Parables

  • Jesus had two main reasons for the parables…
  1. To hide the truth from those who thought they were better and smarter than everyone else and thought that they couldn’t learn anything from Jesus.
  2. To give the truth to those who hungered and thirsted for righteousness.
  • How do I know that is the two purposes? Jesus said the very same thing to His Father in Matthew 11:25…At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. 26) Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.



III. Jesus Did Not Always Speak In Parables

  A) He started preaching normally

  • Matthew 5 Jesus gave the Beatitudes. They were not parabolic.
  • Most of “The sermon on the mount” was straight preaching, and teaching to all.
  • He did close the sermon with a parable of the wise and foolish builders (Matt. 7:24).
  • Please do not be confused. Many misinterpret this verse in Mark 4:33…And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it. 34) But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.
  • The word “them” is referring to a certain group of people at a this time only.
  • This was the new style of Jesus preaching publicly during His final year on earth while in the Galilean ministry.
  • Jesus was provoked to change because of the hard-hearted, deliberate unbelief, and rejection of the Word of God by certain people filled with pride.

  B) The Parables are for those who love Him

  • Look into I Corinthians 2:7…But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
  • This verse where Paul is explaining to the Corinthian church about Christ crucified and spiritual wisdom is not talking about the parabolic teachings of Christ, but rather the “mystery” meaning the things that only men of God understand.
  • 8) Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
  • See, none of the “princes” or rather the religious leaders did not know at the time because they were too hung up in their own little rituals and understanding.
  • 9) But as it is written (in Isaiah 64:4), Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
  • Paul is referring to Isaiah’s prophecy of the revelation of Jesus Christ which is to come in the New Testament age.
  • Paul then begins to tell the Corinthians in verse 10) But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit:
  • It is the Holy Spirit of God that will help us to know the things of God.
  • 10b)…for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
  • Paul said in Ephesians 4:11…And he(God) gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12) For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
  • God gave people who do not understand the “mystery” of God someone to teach them. Pastors, evangelists, teachers, apostles, etc.

IV. Details of the Parables

  A) An exact count of the Parables of Jesus

  • First of all, it is impossible to get an exact account of the parables of Jesus Christ.
  • WHY? It depends upon your method of counting.
  • A parable is not just an analogy. It is like a story with a spiritual lesson to be learned from it.
  • A parable just stretches the comparison into a longer story with a spiritual truth hidden in the story.
  • Most of Jesus parables required an explanation.

  B) Other types of parables

  • There are many “sayings” that are considered to be parabolic.
  • They are called…
  1. Metaphors- “the curtain of night” or “all the world’s stage”
  2. Similes- “Strong as a horse” or “tighter than bark on a tree.”
  3. Fables- A fictitious story meant to teach a moral lesson.
  4. Allegories- a story in which people, things, and happenings have a hidden or symbolic meaning.
  • A parable is much like mentioned above, but only spread out in a lengthy story.
  • The word “parable” is used 49 times in the Bible.
  • However, in the Old Testament the Hebrew word for “parable” is “mashal” meaning a proverb.
  • In Matthew 15:11… Jesus said…Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
  • Down in verse 15 for example, and Peter asks Jesus to “explain this parable.”
  • Well, it is actually not a parable. It is actually a “proverb.” It has no plot, no characters, or no series of events. Yet scripture calls it a parable.
  • John’s gospel did not include one parable.
  • Matthew and Luke contained all but one parable.
  • Mark had six parables one that was not included in Matthew or Luke (4:26-29).
  • Luke 10:23…And he turned him unto his disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see: 24) For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.