I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old—things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. — Psalm 78:2-3
I watch in wonder as my wife picks a children’s book off the shelf and wows our granddaughters with its story. I listen with admiration to the adventures of my brother, who starts children’s libraries in remote places where schools do not have books, paper, or pencils. Stories are powerful, life-changing, and memorable. That’s why Jesus taught in parables.
Sometimes Jesus took stories from the Old Testament, changed a few details, and delivered them with a new thrust to his audience. For example, in Ezekiel 31 and Daniel 4 we find stories about kingdoms portrayed as a tree that grows larger than any other, providing food and shelter for all the earth’s creatures. Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed,” which starts out small but grows big and wide, providing shelter like a tree for the birds of the air. This is a picture of how God’s good news can spread everywhere and provide refuge for all, making a difference for the entire world.
Jesus’ parables present pictures about life in God’s kingdom. As parents, grandparents, and mentors, we can retell the Bible’s stories to others—young and old—so that they too may grow to “put their trust in God” (Psalm 78:7). We can also tell about God’s work in our own lives. Imagine—God can speak even through us!