the inspired parables of Yeshua the Messiah
a study in brief --
PARABLE - from the Greek parabolē (παραβολή). A type of metaphorical analogy. A concise instructional story that figuratively illustrates a moral, or spiritual principle or lesson by way of a veiled subtext within the narrative.
"I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, Which we have heard and known, And our fathers have told us." - Psalm 78:2,3
"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them. Then Jesus said to
A depiction of the Parable of the Ten Virgins on stained glass windows in Scots' Church, Melbourne, Australia
Yeshua often taught with the use of parables. It was a method of teaching which afforded him some protection from the accusers who followed him around. They were omnipresent when the crowds would gather to hear him teach. The Pharisees, the Sadducees, the scribes, and others were always looking out for him to say something they could use to accuse him. They hated him without cause. The use of parables as a means of instruction, allowed him to disguise the true nature of the lesson, though it often left many hearers confused. For example, after telling the parable about the evil tenant farmers (Matthew 21: 33-49), its written that his accusers held back, and shied away;
depicting the parable of The Sower, St Edward the Martyr's Church, Corfe Castle, Dorset, England
depictions of the good shepherd, prodigal son, good Samaritan, and the sower. Section of a stained glass window in the nave of St. Mary's church, Saffron Walden, Essex, England.
And He said to them, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" But when He was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable. And He said to them, "To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables." - Mark 4:9-11
And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it. But without a parable He did not speak to them. And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples. - Mark 4:33,34
Matthew, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, recorded in his gospel that the prophetic words of Psalm 78 applied directly to Yeshua. His parables not only fulfilled prophecy from Psalms, but also established a prophetic type of teaching, unique to the Messiah. Of Yeshua's many parables, scholars identify three different types of parables used by the Lord, 'didactic', 'evangelical', and 'prophetic'.
Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.” - Matthew 13:34,35
1. The speck in the eye; Matt 7:1–6; Luke 6:37–43
2. The two houses; Matt 7:24–27; Luke 6:47–49
3. The two debtors Luke; 7:41
4. The unclean spirit; Matt 12:43–45; Luke 11:24–26
5. The rich man’s meditation; Luke 12:16–21
6. The barren fig tree; Luke 13:6–9
7. The sower; Matt 13:3–8; Mark 4:3–20; Luke 8:5–8
8. The wheat and the tares; Matt 13:24–30
9. The seed; Mark 4:26-29
10. The mustard seed; Matt 13:31–32; Mark 4:31–32; Luke 13:19
11. The leaven; Matt 13:33; Luke 13:21
12. The lamp stand; Matt 5:15; Mark 4:21; Luke 8:16; 11:33
13. The dragnet; Matt 13:47–48
14. The hidden treasure; Matt 13:44
15. The pearl of great value; Matt 13:45–46
16. The householder; Matt 13:52
17. The bridegroom; Matt 9:15; Mark 2:19–20; Luke 5:34–35
18. The patched garment; Matt 9:16; Mark 2:21; Luke 5:36
19. The wineskins; Matt 9:17; Mark 2:22; Luke 5:37
20. The harvest; Matt 9:37; Luke 10:2
21. The adversary at court; Matt 5:25; Luke 12:58
22. Two debtor servant; Matt 18:23–35
23. The Good Samaritan; Luke 10:30–37
24. The three loaves; Luke 11:5–8
25. The narrow gate; Matt 7:14; Luke 13:24
26. The guests; Luke 14:7–11
27. The great banquet; Matt 22:2–9; Luke 14:16–23
28. The wedding clothes; Matt 22:10–14
29. The cost of building the tower; Luke 14:28–30
30. The king considering war; Luke 14:31
31. The lost sheep; Matt 18:12–13; Luke 15:4–7
32. The lost coin; Luke 15:8–9
33. The prodigal son; Luke 15:11–32
34. The unjust steward; Luke 16:1–9
35. The rich man and Lazarus; Luke 16:19–31
36. The slave’s duty; Luke 17:7–10
37. Laborers in the vineyard; Matt 20:1–16
38. The talents; Matt 25:14–30; Luke 19:11–27
39. The persistent widow; Luke 18:2–5
40. The Pharisee and tax collector; Luke 18:10–14
41. The two sons; Matt 21:28
42. The wicked tenant farmers; Matt 21:33–43; Mark 12:1–9; Luke 20:9–15
43. The fig tree; Matt 24:32; Mark 13:28; Luke 21:29–30
44. The watchful householder; Matt 24:43; Luke 12:39
45. The man on a journey; Mark 13:34
46. Faithful and evil servants; Matt 24:45–51; Luke 12:42–46 - 49.
47. The ten virgins; Matt 25:1–12
Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: 'Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive'. - Matthew 13:13,14
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: "Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me." And He said, "Go, and tell this people: 'Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.' "Make the heart of this people dull, And their ears heavy, And shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And return and be healed." - Isaiah 6:8-10
By speaking in parables the Lord was employing an element of division, and separating, whereby those without the sincere hearts, lacking the eyes and ears, would not get the sense of the teaching. And if the meaning was unclear, Yeshua would take those close to him aside and explain the meaning of the parable. Others would only hear a senseless, irrelevant story that had nothing to do with the missionary work of this itinerant sermonizer. The figurative form of teaching, inherent in the parable, left his detractors no basis for incrimination.
And the vision of all this is become unto you as the words of a writing that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying: ‘Read this, I pray thee’; and he saith: ‘I cannot, for it is sealed’. - Isaiah 29:11
And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” And He answered and said to them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. - Matthew 13:10,11
There are many examples of prophetic parables, one example is found in the 'sower' which describes the work he himself was doing, sowing seed through his missionary efforts - to the Jewish people. Later, he knew non-Jews would be learning from the teachings. What he then describes, is the prophetic results of the seed sown.
Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: "Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" - Matthew 13:3-9
Scholars have identified some 43-51 different parables of the Messiah. The count varies somewhat, depending on your exact definition of what constitutes a parable. All of these are found in the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. They address such topics as the Kingdom, service, prayer, humility, love of neighbor, God’s concern for the lost, gratitude of the redeemed, being prepared for Christ’s return, judgement on Israel, and judgment within the Kingdom.
Some say there are no parables in the Book of John. However, this is an unclear distinction of semantics, perhaps a distinction without a difference, courtesy of learned scribblers. John, in fact, provides a number of similar types of teachings, but which aren't considered true 'parables', but rather, 'allegory'. An allegory is a form of teaching by telling a story having hidden spiritual meaning that transcends the literal sense of the sacred text. For example, chapter ten of John's Gospel contains a lengthy allegory, with a number of different lessons embodied in the allegorical words aside from the obvious prophetic statement.
them again, "Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father." - John 10:1-18
"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. - John 15:1-8
Another example of an allegorical teaching found in the Gospel of John was spoken privately to the apostles just prior to his arrest. The allegorical story of pruning the vine was meant to be reassuring;
Allegory, and parable are only two of many literary forms found in the Bible, especially seen in the gospels of the Christian Greek scriptures. It is written (Matthew 7:28,29) that upon hearing his teachings in the form of a parable, the crowds were astounded, because Yeshua taught as someone with authority, unlike their religious leaders.
The parable is likewise different from metaphorical statements such as, "You are the salt of the earth." A true parable may be regarded as an extended simile by the learned scribblers. (we of the ecumenical examiner are scribblers, of the less learned sort). The following is a numerical list of Yeshua's parables, and where to find them in your Bible. Some are unique to one gospel account or another, others are duplicated (perhaps with slightly different wording) in two or even all three of the synoptic gospels.
The parables amount to about one third of his recorded teachings, and while these parables seem simple, the messages they convey run deep. They are central to the Gospel teachings of Yeshua. Learned Christian scribblers view them not as mere similitudes that serve the purpose of illustration, but as internal analogies in which simple, ordinary things become a witness for the spiritual world. The question then comes up, if the people who have gathered and are listening, don't get the meaning of his teaching, and he would only explain the meaning privately to the apostles and some other disciples, how were the people to learn? Yeshua answered this question by quoting Isaiah;
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet. - Matthew 21:45,46
The entire course of Yeshua's ministry was confined to Israel, to the exclusion of gentiles outside of Israel. "Other sheep, not of this fold," is a reference to believers among the nations, whom he must also bring along. His allegorical words are prophetic in the way that his teachings would eventually spread around the world, reaching other sheep, not of the Jewish Abrahamic fold. But his teachings were exclusively for the lost sheep of Israel during the days of his ministry, as he stated to the Canaanite woman;
And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed." But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, "Send her away, for she cries out after us." But He answered and said, "I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house
depicting the parable of Lost Sheep - St. Augustine's church, Derry, Ireland
of Israel." Then she came and worshipped Him, saying, "Lord, help me!" But He answered and said, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs." And she said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered and said to her, "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire." And her daughter was healed from that very hour. - Matthew 15:21-28
We've only highlighted a few such parables. There are many more, waiting for the serious Bible student to look them up, and figure them out. It's a fun, and fascinating study, and we've provided the resource list for your convenience. See if you can figure out which are which when they say, some are didactic (intended to teach), some are evangelical (to put preaching ahead of ritual), and some are prophetic (predicting what will happen in the future).
Now that we are either effectively enlightened, or completely confused about the subtle differences between a parable, an allegory, a simile, or a metaphor, we can at least agree on the fact that Yeshua's teachings, in whatever literary form, are all highly instructive on many different levels. There is true genius in the words, and the manner by which he presents his teachings, which is why they have popularly endured over all these years, and through all these generations.
Now, all we have to do is figure out how to apply His lessons to our own lives, to strengthen our own faith, to understand the prophetic predictions which paint images of the future, which is being realized in the context of our present day. To better understand the coming judgment, and to better visualize the coming Kingdom of God, and what it might mean to us, and our future happiness. Think fast. Time is short.
Another example of a 'prophetic' parable is the one about the faithful and evil servants. It's prophetic in the way it describes the long delay before the master would return:
"Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. But if that evil servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,' and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." - Matthew 24:45-51
Another describes his own rejection by the Chief Priests and Rabbis, and how the ministry of the coming Kingdom would then be extended beyond Israel to the spiritually 'lame and blind' of the nations;
Then He said to him, "A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, 'Come, for all things are now ready.' But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, 'I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.' And another said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.' Still another said, 'I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.' So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.' And the servant said, 'Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.' Then the master said to the servant, 'Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.' " - Luke 14:16-24
Another prophetic parable looks forward to the time of judgment, at the End of the Age, when the angels begin separating the righteous from the unrighteous;
“Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. - Matthew 13:47-50