With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, 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.
Gospel of Mark 4:33-34
Jesus often taught in parables, an ancient Eastern literary genre. The prophet Ezekiel, for example, wrote in parables, such as the eagles and the vine (17:1-24) and the parable of the pot (24:1-14). The word parable in Hebrew – mashal – is present in both vignettes (17:2 and 24:3).
A parable is a story about a familiar subject to teach an important moral lesson. The root meaning of the word parable means a placing side by side for the sake of comparison. The Gospel writer generally identifies a narrative with a spiritual meaning by specifically calling the lesson a παραβολή or parable. At times the Gospel writer begins the story with the word like, as “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard” (Matthew 20:1). Or Jesus may give an example from everyday life to convey a spiritual truth, such as the Parable of the Good Samaritan to teach love and mercy, or the Parable of the Friend at Midnight to teach persistence in prayer.
A parable envisions the whole narrative to generate the spiritual message, whereas a proverb, metaphor, simile, or figure of speech focuses generally on a word, phrase or sentence.
The Parables of Jesus are recorded in the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Some parables are common to all three Synoptic Gospels, such as the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:3-23, Mark 4:2-20, and Luke 8:4-15). Matthew relates ten Parables on the Kingdom of Heaven, seven of which occur in Chapter 13 and are central to his Gospel. Examples of parables unique to Matthew are the Weeds Among the Wheat (Matthew 13:24-30), the Unforgiving Servant (18:23-35), the Laborers in the Vineyard (20:1-16), the Two Sons (21:28-32), and the Ten Virgins (25:1-13). Mark has only one unique Parable, the Growing Seed (Mark 4:26-29). Several Parables are unique to Luke, such as the Parables of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), the Friend at Midnight (11:5-13), the Rich Fool (12:13-21), the Barren Fig Tree (13:6-9), the Invited Guests (14:7-14), the Lost Coin (15:8-10), the Prodigal Son (15:11-32), Lazarus and the Rich Man (16:19-31), the Persistent Widow (18:1-8), and the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (18:9-14).
The word parable does not appear in the Gospel of John. The related word παροιμιαν (figure of speech) appears in 10:6 and refers to the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18). Jesus, by calling himself the Good Shepherd, recalls the imagery of Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” and the Prophets (Isaiah 40:1-11, Jeremiah 23:1-8, Ezekiel 34:1-16). By doing so, he fulfills Old Testament prophecy as he identifies himself as the Messiah. The word παροιμίαν also appears in John 16:25 and provides insight into the message of Jesus: “I have spoken to you in figures of speech; the hour is coming when I shall no longer speak to you in figures of speech, but tell you plainly of the Father.”
The following chart lists important parables of Jesus Christ.
This list primarily includes those parables specifically named as such by either Matthew, Mark, or Luke.
|THE PARABLES OF JESUS CHRIST|
|The Speck and The Log||7:1-5||6:37-42|
|New Cloth on Old Garment||9:16-17||2:21-22||5:36-39|
|The Divided Kingdom||12:24-30||3:23-27||11:14-23|
|The Growing Seed||4:26-29|
|The Good Samaritan||10:29-37|
|The Friend at Midnight||11:5-13|
|The Rich Fool||12:13-21|
|The Barren Fig Tree||13:6-9|
|The Weeds Among the Wheat||13:24-30|
|The Mustard Seed||13:31-32||4:30-34||13:18-19|
|Pearl of Great Price||13:45-46|
|The Invited Guests||14:7-14|
|The Heart of Man||15:10-20||7:14-23|
|The Lost Sheep||18:10-14||15:1-7|
|The Lost Coin||15:8-10|
|The Prodigal Son||15:11-32|
|The Rich Man and Lazarus||16:19-31|
|The Persistent Widow||18:1-8|
|The Pharisee and The Tax Collector||18:9-14|
|The Unforgiving Servant||18:23-35|
|Laborers in the Vineyard||20:1-16|
|The Two Sons||21:28-32|
|The Tenant Farmers||21:33-45||12:1-12||20:9-19|
|Marriage Feast or Great Banquet||22:1-14||14:15-24|
|The Budding Fig Tree||24:32-35||13:28-33||21:29-33|
|The Faithful vs. The Wicked Servant||24:45-51||13:34-37||12:35-48|
|The Ten Virgins||25:1-13|
|Ten Talents or Gold Coins||25:14-30||19:11-27|
The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37) is a wonderful example of a narrative that provides spiritual guidance. Jesus gives the greatest commandment in Luke 10:27 – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He is then asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus answers with the parable by comparing the response of a Levite, a priest, and a Samaritan to a beaten man lying on the side of a road. The contrast is unsettling, for the Samaritans were generally despised in Jewish culture at the time. Whereas the Levite and priest were concerned about the ritual purity of the Old Covenant, ironically it was the Samaritan who was compassionate and hospitable to the injured man, extending the concept of love of neighbor for the New Covenant. The moral sense of the parable is to be loving and merciful as the Good Samaritan. Jesus instructs his listeners: “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37). The Parable of the Good Samaritan provides a sound basis for social justice.
Author: Jesus Christ Savior
Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.