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21 Parables of Jesus Explored

Today we will explore parables, our Lord Jesus often taught in parables, short allegorical stories with metaphorical meaning. This was a novel teaching device he explains in Matthew 13:10-16 was to fulfil prophecy and to be grasped by those with the Holy Spirit and understanding:


The disciples said to Jesus, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He answered and said to them, “Because to you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but it is not given to them. For whosoever has, to him more shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever does not have, even that which he has shall be taken away. Therefore, I speak to them in parables: because though they see, they do not see; and though they hear, they do not hear, neither do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Esaias is fulfilled, which says: ‘By hearing you shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing you shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and they have closed their eyes; unless at any time they see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted, and I will heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.


Here is a summary of a selection of 21 of the parables taught by Jesus, may we have eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart that understands:

1. The Parable of the Sower

The Parable of the Sower is found in the books of Matthew (13:1-23), Mark (4:1-20), and Luke (8:4-15). The parable describes a farmer who sows seeds on different ground - a path, rocky ground, thorny ground, and good soil.

1. The seeds that fall on the path are eaten by birds, symbolising the word of God being sown in a person's heart, but is quickly taken away by Satan.

2. The seeds on the rocky ground sprout quickly but wither in the sun due to shallow roots, reflecting those who initially receive the word of God with joy but fall away in times of trial due to lack of firm faith.

3. The seeds sown among thorns grow but are choked by the thorns, illustrating individuals who hear God's word, but life's worries, wealth, and pleasures distract them.

4. Finally, seeds sown on good soil yield a fruitful crop, representing those who hear God's word, understand it, hold it in an honest and good heart, and persevere, thus producing much fruit.

2. The Parable of the Weeds

The Parable of the Weeds, found in Matthew 13:24-30, describes a farmer who sows good seed in his field. As both the good seed and weeds grow, the farmer's servants ask if they should pull out the weeds. He tells them no, fearing they may uproot the good crops. He suggests waiting until harvest to separate the wheat from the weeds. This parable illustrates the world's current state, having both the good (believers in Christ) and bad (sinners), but God will separate them at the end of times.


3. The Parable of the Mustard Seed

The Parable of the Mustard Seed is found in Matthew 13:31-32, Mark 4:30-32, and Luke 13:18-19. It describes the Kingdom of God as like a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds, which, when planted, grows into a large tree where birds can perch and nest. This illustrates that the word of God, though it may seem small at first, can grow into something large and powerful, influencing many lives. The parable signifies the growth of the Christian faith from small beginnings to worldwide reach.


4. The Parable of the Yeast

The Parable of the Yeast is found in Matthew 13:33. It tells of a woman who mixed a small amount of yeast into a large amount of flour until it worked through the dough. The yeast, in this case, represents the Gospel, which, though small in its beginnings, spreads throughout the world, causing transformative growth and change. It signifies that a little of the kingdom, like yeast, can have an enormous impact.


5. The Parable of the Hidden Treasure

The parable of the hidden treasure is found in Matthew 13:44, it goes: "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field." The hidden treasure represents the kingdom of heaven, while the man who found it signifies anyone who discovers the value of a relationship with God. The act of selling everything he owns shows the value one should place on the kingdom of heaven, implying it is worth giving up everything else to gain it.


6. The Parable of the Pearl

The Parable of the Pearl is a biblical story in the Gospel of Matthew. It illustrates the Kingdom of Heaven as a pearl of great value. A merchant, upon finding this pearl, sells everything he owns to purchase it. This parable signifies that the kingdom of Heaven is so valuable that one should give up all they have to attain it.

7. The Parable of the Net

The Parable of the Net is found in Matthew 13:47-50. It describes the kingdom of heaven as a large net thrown into the sea, gathering fish of every kind. Once full, the net is drawn ashore where the good fish are collected into baskets and the bad thrown away. This parable emphasises the last judgement where the righteous will be separated from the wicked, with the wicked facing a painful separation from God.


8. The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

The parable of the Unforgiving Servant is found in Matthew 18:21-35. Here, Jesus tells a story of a servant who, after being forgiven a large debt by his master, refuses to forgive a smaller debt owed to him by another servant. The master, upon discovering this, punishes the unforgiving servant for his lack of mercy. The parable is used to illustrate the importance of forgiveness in Christianity. As God forgives us our sins, we should also forgive others their wrongdoings.

9. The Parable of the Good Samaritan

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is found in the book of Luke 10:25-37. The story begins with a man who was travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho and was attacked by robbers. They beat him, stole his belongings, and left him half-dead. A priest and a Levite passed by the man but ignored him. However, a Samaritan, who was often despised by the Jews of that time, saw the man, and took pity on him. He dressed the man's wounds, put him on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The following day, he gave the innkeeper money to look after the man and promised to repay any extra cost on his return.

The parable is used to illustrate the concept of "loving your neighbour," even those who may differ from us. The Samaritan, in the story, showed compassion and kindness to a stranger, demonstrating that our 'neighbour' is not just someone of our own race or religion, but anyone who is in need.


10. The Parable of the Rich Fool

The Parable of the Rich Fool, found in Luke 12:16-21, narrates the story of a rich man whose land yielded plentiful crops. Instead of sharing, he built bigger barns to store his wealth. But God called him a 'fool' because he would die that night, leaving his wealth behind. The parable teaches that material wealth is temporary and spiritual richness towards God is what truly matters.


11. The Parable of the Lost Sheep

The Parable of the Lost Sheep is found in Matthew 18:12-14 and Luke 15:3-7. It tells the story of a shepherd who owns 100 sheep and realises one is missing. Leaving the 99 in the open field, he goes in search of the lost sheep until he finds it. Upon finding it, he rejoices and brings it back on his shoulders. Jesus explains that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who do not need to repent. It highlights God's immense love and mercy for every individual, and His desire to bring the lost back to Him.


12. The Parable of the Lost Coin

The Parable of the Lost Coin is found in Luke 15:8-10. It describes a woman who lost one of her ten silver coins. Instead of focusing on the nine coins she still has, she lights a lamp, sweeps her house, and searches diligently until she finds it. Upon finding the coin, she rejoices and shares her happiness with her neighbours. This parable represents God's relentless search for sinners and His joy in their repentance.


13. The Parable of the Prodigal Son

The Parable of the Prodigal Son is found in Luke 15:11-32. It tells of a son who asks his father for his inheritance early, squanders it on a life of indulgence and ends up in dire straits. He returns home, expecting his father's rejection, but his father welcomes him back with open arms and great joy, showing him unconditional love and forgiveness. This parable illustrates the Christian concepts of repentance, grace, and the forgiving nature of God.


14. The Parable of the Unjust Steward

The Parable of the Unjust Steward is found in Luke 16:1-13. It is about a dishonest manager who, when facing dismissal for squandering his master's wealth, shrewdly reduces the debts of his master's clients, earning their favour and ensuring his own future security. The master commends the steward for his shrewdness. Jesus uses this parable to teach that disciples should use earthly wealth wisely, to make friends and gain eternal dwellings. Despite the steward's dishonesty, it is his prudent use of resources that is praised. The parable underscores the importance of faithfulness in small matters as indicative of faithfulness in much, and the impossibility of serving two masters: God and money.


15. The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus

The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, found in Luke 16:19-31, is a story told by Jesus. It describes a rich man who lives in luxury while a poor man named Lazarus suffers at his gate, longing for the rich man's scraps. When they die, Lazarus is taken to Abraham's side (Heaven), while the rich man goes to Hades (Hell). The rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus with water to cool his tongue because of tormenting flames, but Abraham refused, reminding him of his life of comfort while Lazarus suffered. The parable serves to teach the importance of earthly actions, the existence of an afterlife, and the irreversible consequences of choices made in life.


16. The Parable of the Persistent Widow

The Parable of the Persistent Widow is found in Luke 18:1-8. It tells the story of a widow who continuously pleads for a judge to correct an injustice she has suffered. Despite the judge being neither God-fearing nor compassionate towards people, he eventually grants her justice to stop her incessant pleas. According to Christian interpretation, the parable is a lesson about the importance of persistence in prayer and the assurance that God will ultimately deliver justice.


17. The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector is told to illustrate the importance of humility in prayer. Found in Luke 18:9-14, the tale contrasts a prideful Pharisee who prays boastfully, with a remorseful tax collector who supplicates for God's mercy. Jesus concludes by saying that the humble will be exalted and those who exalt themselves will be humbled, challenging the societal norms where Pharisees were righteous and tax collectors were despised.


18. The Parable of the Tenants

The Parable of the Tenants, found in the New Testament books of Matthew (21:33-46), Mark (12:1-12) and Luke (20:9-19), is a story Jesus told to highlight how Israel's religious leaders had rejected God's prophets and would soon reject him, the Son. A landlord plants a vineyard, equips it and then leases it to tenants before travelling abroad. When harvest time arrives, he sends his servants to collect the fruits. But the tenants mistreat his servants, beating some and killing others. Despite this, the landlord sends more servants, but they are also mistreated. Finally, he sends his son, believing they will respect him. However, the tenants kill the son, hoping to inherit the vineyard. Jesus concludes, saying the landlord will rightfully judge these tenants, give the vineyard to others, and those who reject him (the son) will ultimately be destroyed. This parable foreshadows Jesus' own rejection and crucifixion.

19. The Parable of the Talents

The Parable of the Talents, found in Matthew 25:14-30, is a story told to illustrate spiritual stewardship and faithfulness. In the story, a master entrusts his three servants with his wealth in the form of 'talents', a unit of currency in ancient times. Two servants invest and multiply their talents, while one, fearing the master's wrath, hides his talent. When the master returns, he praises the first two servants for their faithfulness and productive work, but rebukes and punishes the third servant for his fear and inaction. The parable is often interpreted as a lesson to use God-given talents and opportunities to serve God and other people, rather than hoarding or wasting them.


20. The Parable of the Two Sons

The Parable of the Two Sons, found in Matthew 21:28-32, recounts a story of a man who asks his two sons to work in his vineyard. The first son initially refuses but later obeys, while the second son promptly agrees but does not follow through. The parable illustrates actions matter more than words and criticises those who claim to follow God's will but do not act accordingly. It also highlights God's forgiveness for those who repent and obey.

21. The Parable of the Ten Virgins

The Parable of the Ten Virgins is a story told by Jesus in the Bible in Matthew 25:1-13. It presents ten virgins, or bridesmaids, who took their lamps and went to meet a bridegroom. Five of them were wise and took oil with their lamps, while five were foolish and did not. When the bridegroom was delayed, they all fell asleep. At midnight, a cry was made that the bridegroom was coming. The foolish virgins found their lamps going out and asked the wise ones for oil, but were told to go buy their own. While they were gone, the bridegroom came, and those ready went with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. When the foolish virgins returned and asked to be let in, the bridegroom said, "I do not know you."

This parable is interpreted as a warning to be prepared for the Second Coming of Christ. Christians believe that the 'wise' virgins represent those who are ready and eagerly awaiting Christ's return, while the 'foolish' ones represent those who are unprepared.