Jesus wasn’t the first to teach using parables.
After the king had committed adultery and murder, “the Lord sent Nathan to David” (2 Samuel 12:1). Nathan told the sinful king a parable. “There were two men in a certain city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very large flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing except one small ewe lamb that he had bought. He raised her, and she grew up with him and with his children. From his meager food she would eat, from his cup she would drink, and in his arms she would sleep. She was like a daughter to him. Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man could not bring himself to take one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for his guest” (2 Samuel 12:1-4).
David listened to the prophet, believing that the story was a factual account, and erupted saying, “As the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die!”(2 Samuel 12:5). Nathan replied, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7).
That Jesus would teach in parables was prophesied in the Old Testament. “Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! I will open my mouth in a parable…” (Psalm 78:1–2, ESV). He clearly fulfilled this. “He was speaking the word to them with many parables like these, as they were able to understand. He did not speak to them without a parable. Privately, however, he explained everything to his own disciples”(Mark 4:33–34).
Jesus knew that lectures and speeches are soon forgotten, so the Great Teacher painted word-pictures. Who can forget the image of a father racing to embrace his wayward son or the portrait of the broken and battered traveler resting on the back of the Samaritan’s donkey?
Jesus concluded His great Sermon on the Mount with a parable.
“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. It collapsed with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24–27, see also Luke 6:46-49).
Jesus had preached on topics such as prayer and fasting, marriage and divorce, alms and anxiety, and he concludes with a story of two houses. One house was built on a sure foundation. They other was constructed on shifting sands.
Jesus’ parables are not just clever little stories. “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astonished at his teaching”(Matthew 7:28–29). Jesus’ parables are proclamations of the Gospel that demand a response. The sermon and the story demand a response. Are you building your house on God’s Word and the truth of the Master’s message?