Most Bible teachers experience a slight shudder when we're asked to explain parables. You see, they're incredibly difficult to get *exactly* right, and while all Christians have the responsibility to teach the Word to others accurately, those with the gift of teaching, and those who choose to take on the role of Bible teacher, have an even greater responsibility to do so - I would freely label it as "tremendous."
I feel the same way right now. Going verse-by-verse through the Gospel of Matthew, we have come to chapter thirteen. Chapters thirteen, fifteen, sixteen, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-four, and twenty-five all feature prominent parables. As such, I'd like to do some overview and frame our focus in a few ways before we launch into all of that.
First up, what is a parable? It is simply a little story, an analogy, to present a broader truth in a concise, memorable, relatable manner.
Second, parables are often very heavy in symbolism. The easiest ways to interpret these symbols are when Jesus either explains them directly, or when we can cross-reference them with other mentions in the New Testament. When studying parables, it is critical to take extreme caution in using the Old Testament to interpret symbols - sometimes the symbols are consistent throughout the Bible, but sometimes this can lead you to the opposite meaning.
Third, a parable may have more than one meaning, but from what I have seen, there is usally one broad meaning to each parable with many facets and many applications. This is where I get to state one of my disclaimers that those who know me in person know I use a lot: I do not claim or pretend to have "the one" correct view of Scripture. And I do not claim or pretend to have the complete picture. Every human has a limited scope, so I don't believe any human ever has or ever will be able to interpret every possible facet and manifestation of a parable unless it has been revealed to them directly by God Himself. So please, don't take what I say about the parables as "the" correct interpretation. Explore them for yourself, and share your insights with us!
Fourth, a lot of parables have similar overall messages. Be on the lookout for commonalities as we study.
Alright, we'll start our journey into parables this Thursday, starting with the Parable of the Sower in chapter thirteen. Fortunately, we're starting with an easy one - Jesus Himself interpreted it directly for His disciples, and His explanation is recorded in Scripture. ;-)