Readers of the New Testament know that Jesus used terms familiar to his listeners. Such terms as sheep, water, light, paths, and trees took on meanings of eternal import as the Master clothed them with dignity and truth that burned visual images into the hearts of listeners.
The objects of his imagery—whited sepulchers, millstones, tares, whited fields with harvest—were present nearly everywhere. A listener need only look around to be reminded of the Savior’s teachings.
But time and space have made some of these figures of speech less clear. And in our urban and industrialized world, the once-common sights of Jesus’ day are now seen by far fewer people.
So, to help readers more fully understand and appreciate the terms and imagery of Jesus, the
Ensign commissioned the photographic essay that follows. The scenes, sights, and objects were all photographed in the towns, hills, and environs that Jesus would have walked.
The sequence uses figures of speech gathered from all four Gospels. The order does not represent one particular sermon of Jesus, yet is arranged to be in harmony with all of his teachings.
Here, then, is the imagery of the Master.
Photography by Don O. Thorpe
And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain … and he opened his mouth, and taught them.
I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
Behold, there went out a sower to sow.
And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.
And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth:
But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.
And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.
And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred.
The sower soweth the word.
And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.
And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;
And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.
And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,
And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.
And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.
Mark 4:3–8, 14–20
The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;
Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.
Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.
And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.
The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:
But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.
But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.
So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?
He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?
But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.
Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;
The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.
Matt. 13:24–30, 38–39
What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath. …
For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him.
So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14:28–29, 33
Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; 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.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Matt. 6:26, 28–29, 33
Woe unto … hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanliness.
Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes.
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.
Verily, verily, I say unto you … the shepherd … putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
John 10:1–2, 4–5
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the
resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. John 5:28–29
Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near:
So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors.
Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom:
And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven.
But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you. …
And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;
Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.
Luke 21:10–12, 25–28
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.