During his ministry, Jesus Christ grew fond of teaching his disciples and gatherings using parables. While reading the Bible, Christians have come across the parables, with some finding others challenging to comprehend. Nevertheless, most Christians have taken a keen interest in the gospels and have been asking, what are the parables of Jesus?
The parables of Jesus were short illustrative stories that he used to expose the truth to his disciples and gatherings. Several parables have been written in Matthew, Mark, and Luke and have been used to illustrate different truths about the kingdom of God and the expectations of God for one to enter. The book of John does not have parables.
How many parables are there in the Bible? Why did Jesus use parables? What are the meanings of some of these parables? Why doesn’t the book of John have parables? These are some of the questions Christians harbor in their minds. In this article, we will discuss these questions and more on the parables of Jesus.
Why didn’t Jesus’ disciples understand his parables?
When Jesus taught using parables several times, the disciples ended up asking him for clarification since they did not understand some of the parables. Some biblical scholars have suggested that this happened because the parables had hidden meanings only Christ could decipher. Although the disciples were close to Jesus, they still needed to gain the knowledge Jesus possessed; thus, they found it challenging to decode the parables easily.
How many parables did Jesus use?
In the synoptic gospels, Jesus used over 30 parables to minister to his people. The number is not definite because some books share some parables while some stories, like the one of Lazarus and the rich man, are considered true stories Jesus told by some scholars.
The parables of Matthew
The gospel of Matthew has over 20 parables. The following are some of them.
The parable of the two builders
The parable of the two builders was told by Jesus Christ during the sermon on the mountain and is quoted in Matthew 7:24-27. The parable talks about two builders; one who built his house on the rock, and when a storm came, it survived. The other built his house on the sand, and when a storm came, it was swept away. The one who built him on a rock is considered wise, while the one who built on sand is considered foolish. Jesus explained that wise people heard his teachings, took them seriously, and compared them to the man who built his house on stone. Foolish people failed to take his teachings seriously and were like the builder who put his house on sand.
The parable of the children of the marketplace
The parable is recorded in Matthew 11:16-17. The parable by Jesus Christ aimed at those who had rejected his gospel, and the message of John the Baptist was brought around.
The parable of the unclean spirit
The parable of the unclean spirits is told in Matthew 12:43-45. The parable took aim at the Pharisees who were rejecting Jesus, yet he was casting out demons and cleansing people.
The parable of the tree and its fruit
This parable is found in Matthew 12:33-37 and was a lesson from Jesus that a good person is like a good tree that produces good fruits, which are good deeds. A bad person is like a bad tree that produces bad fruits, which are bad deeds.
The parable of the Strongman’s house
Jesus taught the parable in Matthew 12:29-30. Jesus was talking about his house, a strongman’s house that cannot be destroyed while watching. He also gave the message that anyone not on his side is against him and will eventually be destroyed.
The parable of the sower
The parable of the sower is recorded in Matthew 13:1-9. When Jesus went to the lakeside, he sat down and taught a large crowd. As he sat in a boat, the crowd stood on the shores. He talked about a man who went out to sow corn. He scattered seeds in the field. Some fell along the path and were eaten by birds. Some were on rocky grounds where they failed to grow well and eventually dried up. Some fell among thorn bushes which grew up and were choked by the thorns. Some seeds fell in good soil and germinated well and reproduced.
Jesus explained that the seeds that fell on the path represent those who receive the word of God, but the evil one comes and snatches what was sowed in them. The seeds that fell on rocky grounds stand for those who receive the message gladly, but it does not last long in them. The seeds that fell on the thorny bushes stand for those who hear the message, but the worries of the world and lust for riches choke the message out of them. The seeds that fell on good soil stand for those who hear and understand the message and bear fruit.
The parable of the wheat and the Tares
Matthew 13:36-43 gives the narration and the explanation of the said parable. Jesus explained that the sower sowing good seeds in the parable was him, and the field was the world. The good seeds are the children of the kingdom of God, while the tares are the children the devil sowed. He further explained that the harvest is the end of the world while the reapers are the angels of God.
The parable of the mustard seed
The parable of the mustard seed is taught in Matthew 13:31-32. In this parable, Jesus compared the kingdom of God to the mustard seed. Although his ministry was small then, he knew it would eventually grow.
The parable of the hidden treasure
The parable is found in Matthew 13:44 and compares the kingdom of God to a treasure hidden in a field that a mind finds and covers up. He then joyfully sells all his belonging to buy the land. The kingdom of God, like a hidden treasure, must be sought at all costs due to its value.
The parable of the pearl of great price
The parable is quoted in Matthew 13:45-46 and talks about a merchant who stops seeking pearls after finding a pearl of great price. Likewise, the kingdom of God is like the pearl of great price; once found, one does not need to continue searching.
The parable of the dragnet
Jesus explained in Matthew 13:47-50 that the kingdom of God was like a dragnet cast out in the ocean to catch fish. After that, the fishermen sit down at the shore to sort out the good fish from the bad ones. In the same way, angels will sort out the evil and righteousness from the kingdom of God, throwing the evil into eternal fire.
The parable of the lost sheep
Matthew 18:12-14 tells the parable of a man who has a hundred sheep, and one has gone astray, so he goes out looking for it. He rejoices when he finds the sheep that had gone astray. In the same way, the kingdom of God celebrates whenever a sinner returns to God, for His will is not for anyone to perish.
The parable of the two sons
The parable is quoted in Matthew 21:28-31 and teaches Christians that sinners who change and repent have a bigger chance of entering the kingdom than the Christians who make no point in working to improve their Christian life.
The parable of the wise and foolish virgins
Matthew 25:1-13 is the parable of the wise and foolish virgins waiting for the bridegroom. Five wise ones carried extra oil in their lamps, while five foolish ones did not. When the bridegroom came, he went with the five wise ones. The parable teaches that only the Christians who will be found prepared will be taken with Christ to heaven.
The parable of the three servants and the talents
The parable is recorded in Matthew 25:14-30 and talks about a master who gave his three workers five two and three talents, respectively, then set out on a journey. When he returned, the one who had five came forward with five more, the one who had two gave two more, and the one who had buried his talent gave back the one. The two who gave profit were appreciated, while the one who gave one was admonished and his talent given to the one who produced five more. The parable gives the message that to whom much is given, much is expected and that the kingdom of God does not have a place for lazy people.
The parables of Luke
The gospel of St Luke has over 20 parables. The following are some of the parables contained in the book.
The parable of the moneylender
Jesus taught this parable in Luke 7:41-43 and illustrated two men who owed someone fifty and 500 coins, but both get forgiven by the man. The parable tries to explain the relationship between God and sinners and how he can forgive even the biggest sins.
The parable of the Good Samaritan
The parable of the Good Samaritan is recorded in Luke 10:25-37, and Jesus was answering a question to a lawyer who had asked, “Who is your neighbor?” the parable talked about an injured man who was ignored by a priest and a Levite but was finally helped by a Samaritan. Jesus told the lawyer to be like the Samaritan and help needy people.
The parable of the friend in need
The parable of the friend in need is taught in Luke 11:5-13 and talks about a man who went to a friend at midnight to ask for bread to entertain unexpected guests. The friend did not want to wake up, but he woke up due to the man’s persistence, giving him everything he needed. By telling this parable, Jesus was teaching his disciples the value of hospitality, the need to be concerned about others, the need to persist in prayer, and that God answers prayers.
The parable of the rich fool
Jesus told his disciples the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:13-34. The parable was about a materialistic rich man who always kept things to himself. After a bumper harvest, he thought of building bigger barns to continue enjoying his life, but God took his life that night. The parable warned the disciples to trust not in material wealth but in God the provider.
The parable of the master’s return
Luke 12:35-40 tells the parable of the servants found awake by the master when he comes from the great feast. The master is Jesus Christ, and the awake servants are those he will find ready to take to heaven during his second coming.
The parable of the unfruitful fig tree
The parable is taught in Luke 13:1-5 and was a lesson from Jesus that he came to give sinners a chance to repent to make it to the kingdom of God just like the fig tree that was given a second chance to reproduce.
The parable of the great feast
This parable is taught in Luke 14:15-24 about guests who failed to show up by giving last-minute excuses. The host called in low-class people from the streets to celebrate. Jesus taught the parable to explain that the kingdom of God is open to many and that personal commitments to God can prevent someone from entering the kingdom.
The parable of the lost coin
The parable of the lost coin is narrated in Luke 15:8-10. Jesus taught about a woman who had ten coins but lost one, so she lit a lamp, searched, and found it. She was happy about this. Jesus explained that the lost coin is like a sinner who has repented, and the happy lady represents the angels who rejoice when a sinner repents.
The parable of the prodigal son
The parable of the prodigal son is taught in Luke 15:11. The story is about a man who had two sons. The younger asked for his inheritance and left to squander it. He ended up leading an impoverished life of eating with pigs. In the end, he went back to his father to ask for forgiveness and was received joyfully by the father. The parable was told to remind people that once they sin, they should repent and go back to God, and they will be forgiven.
The parable of the master and his servant
Found in Luke 17:7-10 Jesus taught this parable to remind people to follow all commandments without expecting appreciation, for that is their rightful duty.
The parable of the widow and the unjust judge
The parable is found in Luke 18:1-8 about a widow who consistently pestered a judge who feared nobody until he delivered justice to her. Jesus was teaching the importance of persistence in prayers.
Why are there no parables in the book of John?
The book of John does not use any parables; instead, John uses signs that point to Christ as the messiah in his illustrations. Biblical scholars have tried explaining why the book of John lacks parables but have yet to reach a common answer. Some scholars have claimed that John might have been written from a different source that was used for Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
Other scholars have claimed that since John was written to prove that Jesus Christ was indeed the savior, that is what he focused on, and he might have found the parables somehow unnecessary in his writing. Some have claimed that John did not include the parables because they were already included in the synoptic; therefore, he decided to focus directly on his messages.
All these scholars were giving their assumptions because, in the Bible, there is no tangible reason why John avoided the parables.