Definition: A parable is a comparison of two things, often done through a story that has two meanings.
Jesus Christ did much of his teaching in parables. These tales of familiar characters and activities were a popular way for ancient rabbis to hold an audience's attention while illustrating an important moral point.
Parables appear in both the Old and New Testaments but are more easily recognizable in the ministry of Jesus. After many rejected him as Messiah, Jesus turned to parables, explaining to his disciples in Matthew 13:10-17 that those who sought God would get the deeper meaning, while the truth would be hidden from unbelievers.
Pronunciation: PAIR uh bul
Also Known As: Allegory
One of Jesus' most famous parables is the story of the Prodigal Son. It is closely tied to the parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin. These accounts demonstrate God the Father's heart of love for lost souls.
Another well-known parable is the account of the Good Samaritan:
One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: "Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?"
Jesus replied, "What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?"
The man answered, " 'You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.' And, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' "
"Right!" Jesus told him. "Do this and you will live!"
The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
Jesus replied with a story: "A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.
"By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.
"Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, 'Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I'll pay you the next time I'm here.'
"Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?" Jesus asked.
The man replied, "The one who showed him mercy."
Then Jesus said, "Yes, now go and do the same." (NLT)
Jack Zavada, a career writer and contributor for About.com, is host to a Christian website for singles. Never married, Jack feels that the hard-won lessons he has learned may help other Christian singles make sense of their lives. His articles and ebooks offer great hope and encouragement. To contact him or for more information, visit Jack's Bio Page.