Parables of Jesus.

The Word “Parable” and its Associations. The essential idea in the word “parable” is that of comparison. It means, literally, “placing something alongside something else,” much like the image on the left, and in order to throw light on the latter. “Parable” is, therefore, most properly applied to a story of some familiar or, at least, intelligible incident which serve by comparison or contrast to illustrate some TRUTH less familiar or less readily understood and appreciated.

When Jesus rebutted the charge of casting out demons by Beelzebub with the similes that a house divided against itself cannot stand, and a strong man’s good’s cannot be plundered except the strong man first be bound, Mark says Jesus was speaking in parables.


Mark 3:23—35

 23 And He called them unto Him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan?

24 And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 

25 And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.

26 And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end.

Satan (through N.A.T.O.)          

The result of this consolidation is what is meant in God’s Word the KJV Companion Bible as THE GREAT TRIBULATION, which has never before been experienced by anyone, nay, and is unlikely too. If God did not shorten the duration, and send Christ to intervene, there would be no flesh left alive. But for the elect’s sake it will be cut short. Holy Scripture forewarns the church of Jesus Christ that it will suffer great tribulation in the days that lie ahead.  Tribulation is suffering that a man endures because he confesses Jesus Christ by word and by life. It is suffering inflicted on the members of Jesus' Church by the ungodly, unbelieving men who persecute them. In the future, there will arise a great kingdom headed by a mighty leader, which the Scriptures name Antichrist (Satan)


27 No man can enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.

28 Verily I say unto you, “All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme:”

29 But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.’

30 Because they said, ‘He hath an unclean spirit.’”

31 There came then His brethren and His mother, and, standing without, sent unto Him, calling Him.

32 And the multitude sat about Him, and they said unto Him, “Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee.”

33 And He answered them, saying, “Who is My mother, or My brethren?”

34 And He looked round about on them which sat about Him, and said, “Behold My mother and My brethren!

35 For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is My brother, and My sister, and mother.”


Similarly, Luke regards the stories about the new patch and the old garment, the new wine and the old skins, and the blind leaders of the blind, as parables.


Luke 5:36 And He spake also a parable unto them; “No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old.

This parable may refer to the Jewish Law, and the New Testament

Luke 6:39 And He spake a parable unto them, “Can the blind lead the blind? Shall they not both fall into the ditch?”

Can the shepherds of the modern churches, lead the flock? The answer is “No.”


These and other such parables are used to illustrate different TRUTHS by suggestive comparisons. The main idea of the word “parable” is thus here retained. The fourth Gospel uses a different word (Greek Paroimia) in the same sense of “enigma” or “riddle”


John 16:29 His disciples said unto Him, “Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb.”

These words were never used by mortal man. They were heard only from the lips of Him Who spoke with Divine authority; and on earth only on seven distinct occasions, in order to emphasise and call attention to the utterance He had just made.

Jewish teachers always referred to tradition, or to what some other teacher had said; and do so to this day.

1.      The first is in Luke 8:8, at the close of the first giving of the Parable of the Sower, before the formal calling and mission of the Twelve Apostles, which took place and is recorded in  Luke 9:1-6 This parable was repeated on a later occasion, when it was needed  to complete the setting of the eight parables which are grouped together in Matthew 13 (see Ap. 145); In this case it refers to the sowing of the good seed of the Kingdom: i.e. its proclamation by Jehovah’s servants, John the Baptist  and the Lord (as further explained in the Parable of the Marriage Feast in Matthew 22:1-7). See Ap.140.11. 

2.      The second occasion is recorded in Matthew 11:15, after the calling and mission of the Twelve. when we are bidden to give earnest heed to the important mission of John the Baptist, and to understand that had the people repented at his proclamation he would have been reckoned as Elijah the prophet (Matthew 4:5), in whose “spirit and power” he was to come. This was declared before his birth in Luke 1:17.


There are well-known examples of the effective use of parables in the O.T. In this way the prophet Nathan convicted David of sin, and in this way also the wise woman from Tekoa induced the same king to recall Absalom (2 Samuel 12:1—31; 2 Samuel 14:4—33). In our Lord’s own time, parables were probably often used in interpreting the lessons from the Law, and the Prophets, which were read each Sabbath in the Synagogues.  


Reference Table for the Parables of Jesus. The following table is given to simplify the student’s use of the present article, and to permit readier reference to the more detailed consideration of the parables in the commentaries in the Gospel.

Peculiar to Matthew

1.      The tares, 13:24—30

2.      The hidden treasure 13:44

3.      The pearl of great price 13: 45—46

4.      The dragnet 13:47—50

5.      The unmerciful servant 18:23—34

6.      The labourers in the vineyard 20:1—16

7.      The father and the two sons21:28—32

8.      The marriage feast 22:1—14 (Compare Luke 14:15—24).

9.      The ten virgins 25:1—13

10.   The differing talents 25:14—30 (compare Luke 19:12—27).

11.   The division of sheep and goats 25:31—46

Eleven (11) Denotes, disorder, and disorganisation: Because it is one, short of the number twelve.


Peculiar to Mark

1.      The growing seed 4:26—29

2.      The watchful porter 13:34—36 (Compare Luke 12: 35—40).

Two (2) Denotes difference: If two different persons agree in testimony, it is conclusive. Otherwise two implies opposition, enmity, and division, as was the work of the Second day. Compare the use of the word “double’’ applied to “heart’’, ”tongue’, ’”mind’’, etc..


Peculiar to Luke

1.      The two debtors 7:41—47

2.      The good Samaritan 10:25—37

3.      The friend at midnight 11:5—8

4.      The rich fool 12:16—21

5.      The watchful servants 12:35—40 (Compare Mark 13:34—36)

6.      The diligent (persistent) steward 12:42—48

7.      The barren fig tree 13:6—9

8.      The indifferent guests 14:15—24 (Matt 22:1—14)

9.      The unfinished tower 14:28—30

10.   The improvident (un-providing) king 14:31—32

11.   The lost coin 15:8—10

12.   The prodigal son 15:11—32

13.   The unjust but shrewd steward 16:1—13

14.   The rich man and Lazarus 16:19—31

15.   The condescending master 17:7—10

16.   The importunate (needing immediate attention) widow 18:1—8

17.   The Pharisee and the publican 18:9—14

18.   The ten pounds 19:12—27 (Compare Matt 25:14—30)

Nine (9X2) Denotes finality of judgement: It is 3x3, the product of Divine completeness. The number nine, or its factors or multiples, is seen in all cases when judgement is the subject.


Peculiar to John

1.      The bread of life 6:32—58

2.      The shepherds, fold, and door, 10:1—16

3.      The vine and the branches 15:1—6

Christ’s body as a temple 2:19—22

“Ye must be born again” 3:3

The serpent in the wilderness 3:14—15

The bridegroom 3:29

The water of life 4:13—14

Jesus’ “meat” 4:34

The fields white to harvest 4:35—38

“Rivers of living water” 7:38

The light of the world 8:12, 12:35, 46

The grain 12:24

Three (3) Denotes completeness:, as three lines complete a plane figure. Hence, three is significant of Divine perfection and completeness. The third day completes the fundamentals of creation-work. The 4th, 5th, and 6th days are the counterpart and repetition of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, and correspond respectively. (See the structure of Gen 1 : 3) The number, three, includes resurrection also; for on the third day the earth rose up out of the deep, and fruit rose up out of the earth.


The tares, Matthew 13:24—30

24 Another parable put He forth unto them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:”

25 “But while men slept, his enemy [Satan] came and sowed tares [poisonous weeds] among the wheat, and went his way.”

26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.”

27 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?”

28 He said unto them, “An enemy [Satan] hath done this.” The servants said unto him, “Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?”

29 But he said, “Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.”

30Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers [angels],’ “Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into My barn.’”


Matthew 13:36—43 Tares explained.

36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and His disciples came unto Him, saying, “Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field.”


1 John 5: 11-12.

11.  And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.

12. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.


The World that then was…2 Peter 3:5—6

5 For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:

6 Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:


37 He answered and said unto them, “He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man;” 

Genesis 2:7 7 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.


38 “The field is [represents] the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; (Gen 2:7) but the tares are the children of the wicked one; [Satan]

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, “Yea, hath God said, ‘Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?’’

It is wonderful how a snake could ever be supposed to speak without the organs of speech, or that Satan should be supposed able to accomplish so great a miracle. It only shows the power of tradition, which has, from the infancy of each one of us, put before our eyes and written on our minds the picture of a "snake" and an "apple" :  the former being based on a wrong interpretation, and the latter being a pure invention, about which there is not one word said in Holy Scripture.

Never was Satan's wisdom so craftily used as when he secured universal acceptance of this traditional belief:  for it has succeeded in fixing the attention of mankind on the letter and the means, and thus blinding the eyes to the solemn fact that the Fall of man had to do solely with the Word of God, and is centred in the sin of believing Satan's lie instead of Jehovah's truth.

The temptation of "the first man Adam" began with the question "Hath God said?"  The temptation of "the second man, the Lord from heaven" began with the similar question "If thou be the Son of God", when the voice of the Father had scarcely died away, which said "This IS My beloved Son".  All turned on the truth of what Jehovah had said. The Word of God being questioned, led Eve, in her reply,


1.      to omit the word "freely" (3:2, cp. 2:16); then


2.      to add the words "neither shalt thou touch it" (3:3, cp. 2:17); and finally,


3.      to alter a certainty into a contingency by changing "thou SHALT SURELY die" (2:17) into "LEST ye die" (3:3). 


The former temptation succeeded because the Word of God was three times misrepresented; the latter temptation was successfully defeated because the same Word was faithfully repeated.

The history of Gen.3 is intended to teach us the fact that Satan's sphere of activities is in the religious sphere, and not the spheres of crime and immorality; that his battlefield is not the sins arising from human depravity, but the unbelief of the human heart.  We are not to look for Satan's activities to-day in the newspaper press, or the police courts; but in the pulpit, and in professors' chairs.  Whenever the Word of God is called in question, there we see the trail of "that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan".  This is why anything against the true interests of the Word of God (as being such) finds a ready admission into the newspapers of the world, and is treated as "general literature". 


·        This is why anything in favour of its inspiration and Divine origin and its spiritual truth is rigidly excluded as being "controversial".

·        This is why Satan is quite content that the letter of Scripture should be accepted in Gen. 3, as he himself accepted the letter of…

Satan persecuted; and continues to persecute the Royal bloodline from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, down to Mariam of the house of Jesse; who Divinely brought forth the man-child Our Lord, Jesus Christ.


39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.

40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. [Cain’s children]


41 The Son of man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;

King of kings In Revelation 19:16 Jesus is given the full title “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 17:14 switches it: “Lord of lords and King of kings”). The title indicates someone who has the power to exercise absolute dominion over His entire realm. In the case of the Lord Jesus, the realm is all of creation in which He takes it from Satan who is, at present, prince of this fallen world. In John’s vision, Jesus is returning to judge the world and establish His earthly kingdom, as He predicted in Mark 13:26.

And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth [This verse speaks for itself].


43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.


Jesus’ Motive and Purpose in Teaching in Parables.

Mark suggests that Jesus adopted the method of teaching by parables when the ministry in Galilee had been in progress for some time. He seems to associate it with the period when, partly owing to the suspicion of the religious leaders and partly owing to pressure of the crowds, Jesus began to withdraw from the cities and the synagogues and preach in the open air and in desert places.

In connection with the use of parables the evangelist cites the passage from Isaiah about the people seeing and not believing, hearing and not understanding, and seems to suggest the parables were intended to conceal the secret of the Kingdom from those who were outside.


Mark 4:11—12  

11 And He said unto them, “Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the Kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:”

12 That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.”  

That, &c. Quoted from;

Isaiah 6:9--10

09 And He said, “Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.”

10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.

seeing…see blepo = to have the power of seeing, to use the eyes, to look at; used of the act of looking, even though nothing be seen.  Hence, to observe accurately and with desire; used of mental vision, and implying more contemplation than horao.

not. Ap 105 II me = no, not; expressing conditional negation, depending on feeling, or on some idea, conception, or hypothesis.

Hence, ou is objective.

           me is subjective.

           ou denies a matter of fact.

              me denies a matter of feeling.


              ou denies absolutely.

              me denies conditionally.


              ou negatives and affirmation.

              me negatives a supposition, and prohibits or forbids.


              ou is generally used with the Indicative Mood.

              me with the other moods of the verb.


perceive = eldon = to see: implying not the mere act of looking, but the actual perception of the object:

hearing…hear Po-ly-pto'-ton; or, Many Inflections The repetition of the same part of speech in different inflections.

be converted = return [to the Lord].

sins 2. hamartema = the actual sin.  The evil principle in action; the sinful act or deed.

be forgiven = Isaiah 6:10 above.


This suggestion conflicts apparently with the later passage;

Mark4:33 And with many such parables spake He the word unto them, as they were able to hear it.

We read that Jesus taught the people with such parables as they were able to hear, and also with the normal purpose of a parable, which is to elucidate (To make clear; to clarify; to shed light upon) and not to obscure the TRUTH.

This difficulty can be removed by recognising that Mark; or Jesus Himself as reported in Mark, treats the actual consequence of the teaching by parables as the Divinely intended result. This is totally in accord with the Hebrew way of thinking. The effect of the parables was to sift Christ’s hearers. The story of the sower is the story of Christ Himself. He spoke, and His words met with very different reception from different hearers. Some perceived and understood nothing of the deeper meanings of the stories to which they listened. In their case the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled, though Jesus taught them as long as they were willing and able to listen. Yet we can hardly doubt that Jesus adopted the method of parables in order to win a further hearing for TRUTH’S about the Kingdom, which were not familiar or welcome to the common people. Just as Nathan brought home an unwelcome TRUTH to David by means of a parable, so Jesus taught many things concerning the Kingdom which did not fit in with their preconceptions.

There would seem to be a good deal of force in the contention of A.B.Bruce that there is a parabolic mood—a state of mind in which one who is conscious of misunderstanding and opposition and “whose spirit is saddened by a sense of loneliness, frames for his thoughts, form which half conceal and half reveals them—and reveals them more perfectly to those who understand, but hides them from those who do not.” 


Subject Matter and Grouping of the Parables. When Jesus began to teach in parables, the main theme was the Kingdom of God. But as it stands, the parable of the Wheat and Tares is associated even more closely with the parable of the Drag-net, (Matthew 13:45—50} and the lesson of both is; to be the lesson which Paul commended to the Corinthians when he urged them to judge nothing before the time, (of the harvest) for obvious reasons.


1 Corinthians 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.


There are first parables told by Jesus in defence and explanation of His own conduct. Here we may place the two debtors, a parable told in the house of Simon the Pharisee. Also the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son.


Luke 7:41—43

41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.

42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?


In Luke all these parables are told to defend the actions of Jesus in befriending sinners. The parable of the lost sheep is also related in Matthew 18:12 to enforce the warning against despising little ones. However; these parables are more than defences: they are appeals intended to transform foes to friends and to turn critics into disciples; they constitute the parables of grace and set forth the wonder of God’s love.

We have, next, parables told to set forth the Christian character, and to commend more particularly the love of one’s neighbour—charity in action and the forgiving spirit, charity in the heart and the humility of those who know themselves to be God’s servants and God’s debtors. This group will include the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30—37), and of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:23—35). It may also include the parable from which Ruskin derived the phrase “Unto This Last” (Matthew 20: 1—16). The advice to take the lower seats at a wedding feast (Luke 14:7 forward), and the reminder that when we have done all we are still servants who have but done what they ought to have done (Luke 17:7 forward), also belong here if we follow Luke in regarding them as parables. The picture of the publican praying in the Temple should be included in this group.


The Parables peculiar to Matthew and Luke. We may here note two or three features of these parables peculiar to Luke. In the first place they illustrate many different sides of the teaching of Jesus, e.g. prayer, the need of persistence in prayer, the readiness of God to answer prayer, the need of sincere humility in prayer; riches, the poverty of the life which is taken up with the abundance of possessions (the rich fool), the sin of the selfishness which makes wealthy men ignore misery at their very doors (Dives and Lazarus), and the possibility of using temporal wealth to gain eternal life; the love of one’s neighbour overriding one’s antagonism’s (the good Samaritan); and the mercy of God welcoming the penitent (the prodigal son) and postponing judgement on the barren fig-tree)

“Some of these parables in Luke strike the note of humour. This is manifest both in the parable of the man who disturbs his neighbour at night with his ill-timed request for bread, and also in the parable of the guests who made excuses for failing to come to the feast when it was ready” (Says the A.B.C. Prof Wood); This is not humorous at all, but utterly sincere; it must be remembered that these parables, according to Luke, was drawn from Jesus by the pious explanation, “Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.” Jesus answers, that when the time comes, the invited guests will make any excuse to stay away!    

It is in Luke’s narrative that Jesus appeals to the action of bad men—the unjust judge, and the unrighteous steward—to illustrate a Truth about God or to point advice to disciples. These examples make quite clear the danger of treating the parables as allegories ("One problem with allegories is in fact the difficulty of determining what counts as source and what as target”).

God is not like the unjust judge, and Christians are not to be dishonest stewards, even though they might well be as farsighted as the man whose shrewdness the Lord commends.