Jesus spent his youth and early adulthood in the city of Nazareth, in the land of Galilee. Almost nothing is known of this period of His life, except for the incident at the Temple told in Luke 2:41-51.
At about age 30, Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan by John the Baptist and began His public ministry. He selected 12 disciples who would carry on his ministry after Him. He traveled through the regions of Galilee, Samaria, and Judea, teaching in the synagogues and speaking to the crowds of people who followed wherever He went. He preached about the kingdom of God, repentance, and love for all people. The gospels tell how He healed the sick wherever He went and performed many other miracles.
Jesus' public ministry lasted about three years, and He found many followers among the Jews of Palestine. However, He had enemies, too. Jesus was very critical of the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of His time. He said they observed the letter of the Jewish law, but defiled its spirit by living lives of greed and sin. These religious leaders plotted to kill Jesus, and eventually forced the Roman governor, Pilate, to order His crucifixion on Friday, the eve of Passover, in about the year 30 A.D.
The Bible tells that Jesus arose from the dead on the following Sunday, and He remained on Earth another 40 days before ascending into heaven. Jesus, Himself, said He was the Son of God, the Christ, the Messiah awaited by the Jews. He said His death and resurrection were all part of God's mysterious plan of salvation.
Jesus often spoke in parables, using common images of nature and agriculture, to deliver His spiritual messages. Many people, often including His disciples, were left baffled by the parables. Jesus explained His parables to his disciples in private, but many of the explanations have not been recorded in the Gospels.
With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them (the crowds that followed Him), as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything. (NIV, Mark 4:33-34)
Why did Jesus speak in parables? Why not just explain everything in plain language? Jesus, Himself, had this explanation:
When (Jesus) was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, "'they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!'" (NIV, Mark 4:10-12)
It seems that Jesus constructed His parables so only those who were pure of heart and receptive to His teachings could understand them. Jesus' enemies and the merely curious were left baffled. This seemingly harsh attitude may be Jesus' way of making His message available and inviting those who wish to understand and believe while never forcing anyone to know and accept His truths. If Jesus had spoken in plain language, the sheer power of His personality and message might have forced many to believe, even against their own will. By speaking in parables, Jesus made it possible to decline the invitation to understanding and commitment found in the parables. (Marshall, p. 869)
The parables serve a second purpose as well. How can you explain to someone an experience they have never had? How would you explain the beauty of a sunset to someone who had never seen one? The parables are skillfully painted mental "pictures" to help us understand the kingdom of God and other spiritual things we have never experienced ourselves. The New Bible Dictionary expresses it this way:
The parables are the appropriate form of communication for bringing to men the message of the kingdom, since their function is to jolt them into seeing things in a new way. They are a means of enlightenment and persuasion, intended to bring the hearers to the point of decision. Jesus, as it were, stands where his hearers stand, and uses imagery familiar to them to bring new and unfamiliar insights to them. (Marshall, p. 867)
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (NIV, John 14:26-27)
Therefore go and make disciples in all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and then teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you; and be sure of this- that I am with you always, even to the end of the world. (TLB, Matthew 28:19-20)