New Testament

Gospels and Acts of the Apostles

What were some of the parables Jesus told?

The parable of the sower (Matthew 13:18-23). The lives of most of Jesus’ listeners were linked closely to farming. Accordingly, Jesus used imagery about seeds and ground to illustrate the various responses of people when they heard Jesus’ message about the kingdom of God. Jesus’ words were the seeds. Some people had minds and hearts like rocky ground. They received Jesus’ message just fine, but did not allow the message to take root. When persecution or trouble came their way, the message withered.

The parable of the weeds (Matthew 13:24-30). In this parable, a farmer sowed good seed in his field. At night, while everyone was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the good seed. The good seed grew alongside the weeds until the time of harvest. At that time, the farmer separated the healthy, useful crop from the weeds. He gathered the healthy crop into the barn, and burned the weeds. This parable illustrated to Jesus’ listeners that wicked people will exist alongside good people until the end of the world, at which time they will be separated for their final destinies.

The parable of the mustard seed (Matthew 13:31–32). In this parable, Jesus compared his message to a tiny mustard seed. Like the mustard seed, when Jesus’ message took root, it grew into a thriving tree.

The parable of the leavened bread (Matthew 13:33). In this parable, Jesus likened his message to yeast. His message is a powerful element that is life-giving just as yeast makes plain flour into fortifying bread. When Jesus’ message is taken into the hearts of his listeners, lives were transformed, and the message spread.

The parable of the king and his slave (Matthew 18:23–35). In this parable, Jesus likened his kingdom to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. One slave owed the king an immense sum he could not pay. The king ordered that the slave and his family be sold to make good on the debt. The slave fell to his knees and begged the king to forgive him the debt. Pitying the slave, the king agreed. As the slave went home, he came across a fellow slave who owed him a small sum. The first slave seized the other one by the throat and ordered him to pay up. The slave who owed the small sum begged to be forgiven, but the first slave refused and threw him into debtor’s prison. Some other slaves saw the injustice of what happened and told the king. The king ordered the slave who owed an immense sum to appear before him again. He scolded the slave: “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?” (NRSV, Matthew 18:33) The king had the slave tortured until he paid the entire debt.

The parable of the landowner (Matthew 20:1–16). This parable is unique to the book of Matthew. In this parable, Jesus likened the kingdom of heaven to a landowner who promised laborers a certain amount of payment for working in the vineyard. The landowner promised the laborers who had been working all day long a fair day’s wage. The landowner promised latecomers the same wage. Here Jesus made the point that a person who decides to follow Jesus late in the game will get the same reward as the person who follows Jesus his whole life.

The parable of the king who gave a banquet (Matthew 22:1–14). In this parable, Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. The king sent his slaves to summon the people who were invited to the banquet.

The people refused to come. Again, the king sent his slaves to summon the people who were invited to the banquet. Again, the people refused to come. They had various reasons for not coming—one had business to tend to, one had to farm. Still other people went so far as to abuse the king’s slaves. This time, the king got mad. He sent soldiers to destroy those people. This time, the king sent his slaves out into the streets “and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.” (NRSV, Matthew 22:10) Jesus illustrated how God sent prophets to tell the people about the Messiah. Many of them refused to listen. God opened the discourse to include Gentiles as well.


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