Teaching in Parables
IN Christ's parable teaching the same
principle is seen as in His own mission to the world. That we might become acquainted with
His divine character and life, Christ took our nature and dwelt among us. Divinity was
revealed in humanity; the invisible glory in the visible human form. Men could learn of
the unknown through the known; heavenly things were revealed through the earthly; God was
made manifest in the likeness of men. So it was in Christ's teaching: the unknown was
illustrated by the known; divine truths by earthly things with which the people were most
The Scripture says, "All
these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; . . . that it might be fulfilled
which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter
things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world." Matt. 13:34,
35. Natural things were the medium for the spiritual; the things of nature and the
life-experience of His hearers were connected with the truths of the written word. Leading
thus from the natural to the spiritual kingdom, Christ's parables
are links in the chain
of truth that unites man with God, and earth with heaven.
In His teaching from nature,
Christ was speaking of the things which His own hands had made, and which had qualities
and powers that He Himself had imparted. In their original perfection all created things
were an expression of the thought of God. To Adam and Eve in their Eden home nature was
full of the knowledge of God, teeming with divine instruction. Wisdom spoke to the eye and
was received into the heart; for they communed with God in His created works. As soon as
the holy pair transgressed the law of the Most High, the brightness from the face of God
departed from the face of nature. The earth is now marred and defiled by sin. Yet even in
its blighted state much that is beautiful remains. God's object lessons are not
obliterated; rightly understood, nature speaks of her Creator.
In the days of Christ these
lessons had been lost sight of. Men had well-nigh ceased to discern God in His works. The
sinfulness of humanity had cast a pall over the fair face of creation; and instead of
manifesting God, His works became a barrier that concealed Him. Men "worshiped and
served the creature more than the Creator." Thus the heathen "became vain in
their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened." Rom. 1:25, 21. So in
Israel, man's teaching had been put in the place of God's. Not only the things of nature,
but the sacrificial service and the Scriptures themselves--all given to reveal God--were
so perverted that they became the means of concealing Him.
Christ sought to remove that
which obscured the truth. The veil that sin has cast over the face of nature, He came
draw aside, bringing to view the spiritual glory that all things were created to reflect.
His words placed the teachings of nature as well as of the Bible in a new aspect, and made
them a new revelation.
Jesus plucked the beautiful
lily, and placed it in the hands of children and youth; and as they looked into His own
youthful face, fresh with the sunlight of His Father's countenance, He gave the lesson,
"Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow [xxxin the simplicity of natural
beauty]; they toil not, neither do they spin; and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in
all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." Then followed the sweet assurance
and the important lesson, "Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which
today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of
In the sermon on the mount
these words were spoken to others besides children and youth. They were spoken to the
multitude, among whom were men and women full of worries and perplexities, and sore with
disappointment and sorrow. Jesus continued: "Therefore take no thought, saying, What
shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (for after all
these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of
all these things." Then spreading out His hands to the surrounding multitude, He
said, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these
things shall be added unto you." Matt. 6:28-33.
Thus Christ interpreted the
message which He Himself had given to the lilies and the grass of the field. He desires us
to read it in every lily and every spire of grass. His words are full of assurance, and
tend to confirm trust in God.
So wide was Christ's view of
truth, so extended His teaching, that every phase of nature was employed in illustrating
truth. The scenes upon which the eye daily rests were all connected with some spiritual
truth, so that nature is clothed with the parables of the Master.
In the earlier part of His
ministry, Christ had spoken to the people in words so plain that all His hearers might
have grasped truths which would make them wise unto salvation. But in many hearts the
truth had taken no root, and it had been quickly caught away. "Therefore speak I to
them in parables." He said; "because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear
not, neither do they understand. . . . For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their
ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed." Matt. 13:13-15.
Jesus desired to awaken
inquiry. He sought to arouse
the careless, and impress truth upon the heart. Parable
teaching was popular, and commanded the respect and attention, not only of the Jews, but
of the people of other nations. No more effective method of instruction could He have
employed. If His hearers had desired a knowledge of divine things, they might have
understood His words; for He was always willing to explain them to the honest inquirer.
Again, Christ had truths to
present which the people were unprepared to accept or even to understand. For this reason
also He taught them in parables. By connecting His teaching with the scenes of life,
experience, or nature, He secured their attention and impressed their hearts. Afterward,
as they looked upon the objects that illustrated His lessons, they recalled the words of
the divine Teacher. To minds that were open to the Holy Spirit, the significance of the
Saviour's teaching unfolded more and more. Mysteries grew clear, and that which had been
hard to grasp became evident.
Jesus sought an avenue to
every heart. By using a variety of illustrations, He not only presented truth in its
different phases, but appealed to the different hearers. Their interest was aroused by
figures drawn from the surroundings of their daily life. None who listened to the
could feel that they were neglected or forgotten. The humblest, the most sinful, heard in
His teaching a voice that spoke to them in sympathy and tenderness.
And He had another reason for
teaching in parables. Among the multitudes that gathered about Him, there were priests and
rabbis, scribes and elders, Herodians and rulers, world-loving, bigoted, ambitious men,
who desired above all things to find some accusation against Him. Their spies followed His
steps day after day, to catch from His lips something that would cause His condemnation,
and forever silence the One who seemed to draw the world after Him. The Saviour understood
the character of these men, and He presented truth in such a way that they could find
nothing by which to bring His case before the Sanhedrim. In parables He rebuked the
hypocrisy and wicked works of those who occupied high positions, and in figurative
language clothed truth of so cutting a character that had it been spoken in direct
denunciation, they would not have listened to His words, and would speedily have put an
end to His ministry. But while He evaded the spies, He made truth so clear that error was
manifested, and the honest in heart were profited by His lessons. Divine wisdom, infinite
grace, were made plain by the things of God's creation. Through nature and the experiences
of life, men were taught of God. "The invisible things of Him since the creation of
the world," were "perceived through the things that are made, even His
everlasting power and divinity." Rom. 1:20, R. V.
In the Saviour's parable
teaching is an indication of what constitutes the true "higher education."
Christ might have opened to men the deepest truths of science. He might have unlocked
mysteries which have required many centuries of toil and study to penetrate. He might have
made suggestions in scientific lines that would have
afforded food for thought and
stimulus for invention to the close of time. But He did not do this. He said nothing to
gratify curiosity, or to satisfy man's ambition by opening doors to worldly greatness. In
all His teaching, Christ brought the mind of man in contact with the Infinite Mind. He did
not direct the people to study men's theories about God, His word, or His works. He taught
them to behold Him as manifested in His works, in His word, and by His providences.
Christ did not deal in
abstract theories, but in that which is essential to the development of character, that
which will enlarge man's capacity for knowing God, and increase his efficiency to do good.
He spoke to men of those truths that relate to the conduct of life, and that take hold
It was Christ who directed
the education of Israel. Concerning the commandments and ordinances of the Lord He said,
"Thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou
sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest
when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall
be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house,
and on thy gates." Deut. 6:7-9. In His own teaching, Jesus showed how this command is
to be fulfilled--how the laws and principles of God's kingdom can be so presented as to
reveal their beauty and preciousness. When the Lord was training Israel to be the special
representatives of Himself, He gave them homes among the hills and valleys. In their home
life and their religious service they were brought in constant contact with nature and
with the word of God. So Christ taught His disciples by the lake, on the mountainside, in
the fields and groves, where they could look upon the things of nature by which He
illustrated His teachings. And as they learned of Christ, they put their knowledge to use
by co-operating with Him in His work.
So through the creation we
are to become acquainted with the Creator. The book of nature is a great lesson book,
which in connection with the Scriptures we are to use in teaching others of His character,
and guiding lost sheep back to the fold of God. As the works of God are studied, the Holy
Spirit flashes conviction into the mind. It is not the conviction that logical reasoning
produces; but unless the mind has become too dark to know God, the eye too dim to see Him,
the ear too dull to hear His voice, a deeper meaning is grasped, and the sublime,
spiritual truths of the written word are impressed on the heart.
In these lessons direct from
nature, there is a simplicity and purity that makes them of the highest value. All need
the teaching to be derived from this source. In itself the beauty of nature leads the soul
away from sin and worldly attractions, and toward purity, peace, and God.
Too often the
minds of students are occupied with men's theories and speculations, falsely called
science and philosophy. They need to be brought into close contact with nature. Let them
learn that creation and Christianity have one God. Let them be taught to see the harmony
of the natural with the spiritual. Let everything which their eyes see or their hands
handle be made a lesson in character building. Thus the mental powers will be
strengthened, the character developed, the whole life ennobled.
Christ's purpose in parable
teaching was in direct line with the purpose of the Sabbath. God gave to men the memorial
of His creative power, that they might discern Him in the works of His hand. The Sabbath
bids us behold in His created works the glory of the Creator. And
it was because He
desired us to do this that Jesus bound up His precious lessons with the beauty of natural
things. On the holy rest day, above all other days, we should study the messages that God
has written for us in nature. We should study the Saviour's parables where He spoke them,
in the fields and groves, under the open sky, among the grass and flowers. As we come
close to the heart of nature, Christ makes His presence real to us, and speaks to our
hearts of His peace and love.
And Christ has linked His
teaching, not only with the day of rest, but with the week of toil. He has wisdom for him
who drives the plow and sows the seed. In the plowing and sowing, the tilling and reaping,
He teaches us to see an illustration of His work of grace in the heart. So in every line
of useful labor and every association of life, He desires us to find a lesson of divine
truth. Then our daily toil will no longer absorb our attention and lead
us to forget God;
it will continually remind us of our Creator and Redeemer. The thought of God will run
like a thread of gold through all our homely cares and occupations. For us the glory of
His face will again rest upon the face of nature. We shall ever be learning new lessons of
heavenly truth, and growing into the image of His purity. Thus shall we "be taught of
the Lord"; and in the lot wherein we are called, we shall "abide with God."
Isa. 54:13; 1 Cor. 7:24.