Teaching in Parables

24 Jan

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 familiar. {COL 17.1}
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
18
are links in the chain of truth that unites man with God, and earth with heaven. {COL 17.2}
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. {COL 18.1}
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. {COL 18.2}
Christ sought to remove that which obscured the truth. The veil that sin has cast over the face of
nature, He came
19
to 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.
{COL 18.3}
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 [in 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 little faith?” {COL 19.1}
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. {COL 19.2}
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.
20
{COL 19.3}
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. {COL 20.1}
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. {COL 20.2}
Jesus desired to awaken inquiry. He sought to arouse
21
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.
{COL 20.3}
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. {COL 21.1}
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
22
Saviour 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. {COL 21.2}
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. {COL 22.1}
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
23
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. {COL 22.2}
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 upon eternity. {COL
23.1}
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
24
down, and 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. {COL 23.2}
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. {COL 24.1}
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.
25
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. {COL 24.2}
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
26
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. {COL 25.1}
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
27
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. {COL 26.1}

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