A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. – Matthew 21:8
This verse is one of the few places where the Gospels record that Jesus’ glory is recognised on earth. Jesus boldly declared himself King, and the crowd gladly joined him. But these same people would bow to political pressure and desert him in just a few days. Today we celebrate this event on Palm Sunday. That day should remind us to guard against superficial acclaim for Christ.
What they are:
Such large crowds gathered round him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. – Matthew 13:2-3
Jesus used many illustrations, or parables, when speaking to the crowds. A parable compares [hair] something familiar to something unfamiliar. It helps us understand spiritual truth by using everyday objects and relationships. Parables compel listeners to discover truth, while at the same time concealing the truth from those too lazy or too stubborn to see it. To those who are honestly searching, the truth becomes clear. We must be careful not to read too much into parables, forcing them to say what they don’t mean. All parables have one meaning unless otherwise specified by Jesus.
He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said – Mark 4:2
Jesus taught the people by telling parables, short stories using familiar scenes to explain spiritual truth. This method of teaching compels the listener to think. It conceals the truth from those who are too stubborn or prejudiced to hear what is being taught. Most parables have one main point, so we must be careful not to go beyond what Jesus intended to teach.
While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable – Luke 8:4
Jesus often communicated spiritual truth through parables – short stories or descriptions that take a familiar object or situation and give it a startling new twist. By linking the known with the hidden and forcing listeners to think, parables can point to spiritual truths. A parable compels listeners to discover the truth for themselves, and it conceals the truth from those too lazy or dull to understand it. In reading Jesus’ parables, we must be careful not to read too much into them. Most have only one point and one meaning.
How Jesus used them:
Matthew 13:2-3 (See above)
Why Jesus used them:
The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” – Matthew 13:10
When speaking in parables, Jesus was not hiding truth from sincere seekers, because those who were receptive to spiritual truth understood the illustrations. To others they were only stories without meaning. This allowed Jesus to give spiritual food to those who hungered for it while preventing his enemies from trapping him sooner than they might otherwise have done.
Why many did not understand them:
He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,
“ ‘though seeing, they may not see;
though hearing, they may not understand.’ – Luke 8:10
Why didn’t the crowds understand Jesus’ words? Perhaps they were looking for a military leader or a political Messiah and could not fit his gentle teaching style into their preconceived ideas. Perhaps they were afraid of pressure from religious leaders and did not want to look too deeply into Jesus’ words. God told Isaiah that people would hear without understanding and see without perceiving (Isaiah 6:9), and that kind of reaction confronted Jesus. The parable of the sower was an accurate picture of the people’s reaction to the rest of his parables.
©Dodgsons, KingsWay, 1973.