The word parable literally means “a placing alongside of” for the purpose of comparison. A parable is a teaching tool. Jesus often told a story from real life—about a woman who lost a coin, a shepherd watching over sheep, or a worker in a vineyard—and used that story to illustrate a spiritual truth.
When Jesus places such a story alongside a spiritual truth, the comparison helps us to understand His teaching more clearly. Jesus’ story of the good shepherd (John 10:11,14), for example, helps us understand that Jesus watches over us and guides us, just as a shepherd watches over and guides sheep.
The New Testament contains several kinds of parables:
A simile involves a likeness that employs the words like or as. It uses something we already know in the natural world as a word picture to illustrate a spiritual truth. In Matthew 10:16, Jesus said, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.”
A metaphor implies a likeness. In John 10:7 (NIV), Jesus said, “I am the gate for the sheep.” This metaphor teaches that Jesus is the way of salvation.
Jesus also told stories to illustrate spiritual truth. For example, in Luke 15:11-32, Jesus told the story of the prodigal son to show that God accepts repentant sinners and that we should too.
Lesson:Jesus, the Master Teacher, often told stories and parables to help us understand profound spiritual truths.