Jesus taught many things to His followers using parables, or symbolic stories carrying deep truths pertaining to living a life of faith and happiness. Today, God continues this method of teaching. Before we ponder how Jesus teaches us in parables today, let’s look at why Jesus taught using parables in the Gospel.
“All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables. He spoke to them only in parables, to fulfill what had been said through the prophet: ‘I will open my mouth in parables, I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation of the world’.” (Matthew 13:34-35)
In this passage, we see Jesus first use parables to fulfill the prophecies of the Old Testament and to reveal truths concerning reality. In Matthew 13:13, Jesus tells us:
“This is why I speak to them in parables because look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand”.
The conclusion we can draw from this is Jesus taught using parables for His listeners to take a deeper look into what He was saying. Yes, He simply could have come out and explicitly stated what He wanted to teach, but instead, He hid His message in a narrative to draw His listeners in and make them think more deeply.
The use of a narrative also allows for deeper truths to be revealed. For instance, with the lost sheep parable in Luke 15, Jesus is describing God’s love and His desire for each of us to be saved. By understanding that no shepherd in his right mind would leave 99 sheep alone so he can find a single sheep allows us to more deeply understand the truly incomprehensible love that our Father has for us. The story allows us to understand this better than Jesus simply saying, “it is incomprehensible how much God loves you!”
What’s even better is that we needed to spend time with this passage to fully understand this truth. Most people miss this portrayal of deep mind-blowing love God has for us just after one reading. It’s through thinking about it more and more in prayer that can bring about the clearer understanding.
Cooler still – God still uses parables to teach us today, not just in stories, but in symbols as well. In fact, the daily fabric of our reality contains symbols that point to deeper truths about us and our relationship with God that we can perceive if we take the time to reflect upon them. Not only does this mean God is still speaking to us and teaching us with parables, but we are living in the parable.
Our relationships, daily experiences, and the things we use each day can all point us to God. In this way we can see our very lives as parables that point us to God and help us develop a better relationship with Him. By doing this we can better understand that nothing in our life is meaningless and without purpose. God has special intentions for us and has specific lessons He wants for each of us. By reading our lives like a Bible passage and prayerfully interpreting them, we can discover the meaning God wants for us and ultimately leads us closer to Him.
To better understand what this means, let’s look at some examples:
The Universe. What a beautiful analogy for God! There is so much we simply do not know about space. We only have a partial understanding of the part of space that we inhabit. The size and mystery of the universe is a beautiful stepping stone that at least helps us grasp the idea of the vastness and mystery of God!
Exercise/Athletic Activities. All sports and physical activities beautifully sync up with the spiritual life. Whether there is a need for focus, commitment, consistent effort, developing talent, or even teamwork, exercise shows us a physical representation of what happens when someone expends energy on the goal of growing closer to God – it gets easier and they get stronger!
Desk Work. A desk supports you in your efforts and allows you to carry out your plans for success each time you use it. Just like that desk supports you with you even noticing it most of the time, so too can God hold up your very existence and support you as you go about daily life to succeed in your spiritual life.
Eating. Everyone may already know of this, but what a beautiful analogy for how God spiritually feeds us when we turn to Him. Just like we need physical nourishment to survive in the natural world, we need spiritual sustenance as well.
Physical Growth and Development. This easily points to our spiritual growth and development. We can enter the faith life at 40 years old, and still be “babies” in the faith. I am personally amazed by how much spiritual development has taken place since my conversion years ago!
Springtime. I love when the plants and trees begin to blossom again with their colors returning to the landscape of nature! This is such a wonderful analogy for the soul in communion with God. In fact, the soul of the one is in communion with God is far more beautiful than anything else found in nature.
There are so many more levels of experience in our lives through which one can learn amazing lessons about God and our friendship with Him. You probably have already begun to think of other examples on your own!
Looking for examples of parables found in our lives is the beginning of seeing reality as God sees it. The earth is meant to be a place of reflection through which we grow in our relationship with God. While many instead seek other things that pull them away from Him, I invite you to begin viewing your life through this spiritual lens that seeks out the lessons of the parables we live in.