The parables are short, visual metaphors that Jesus used to teach people about himself and the nature of God’s kingdom and character. These stories represent a third of Jesus’s public teaching recorded by the gospel writers who chronicled Jesus’s ministry.
Jesus, the master communicator, chose to speak using parables that are memorable and relatable. These stories don’t rely on religious language or technical theological terms that can be confusing to many. They reference familiar every-day objects that have cross-cultural significance—fathers, sons, valuable coins, sheep, fertile fields, good neighbors. The narratives are universally entertaining on a surface level; but for those with ears to hear and eyes to see, they convey deep spiritual meaning and truth (Luke 8).
One scholar of the parables summed it this way:
… it is quite wrong to find the whole of Christian theology in the parable of the Prodigal Son and to forget that there are parables of judgment … and that in every case Jesus is throwing into bold relief one aspect of the truth, then when we put the parables all together we shall gain an unmatched insight into the mind of the Master Teacher.
(Barclay, William. The Parables of Jesus, 1970, p. 17)