What is a parable?
A parable is…….
– a setting side by side – a comparison.
– a simple story told to illustrate a spiritual or moral teaching
– an earthly story with a heavenly meaning
Jesus’ parables in the New Testament
- The temple destroyed and then raised – John 2:19-21
- A candle under a bushel – Matthew 5:14-16
- Houses built on sand or rock – Matthew 7:24-27
- Children of the bride chamber – Matthew 9:14-15
- New cloth in old garment – Matthew 9:16
- New wine in old bottles – Matthew 9:17
- New wine and old wine – Luke 5:39
- The beam and the mote – Luke 6:39-42
- Good tree and corrupt tree – Luke 6:43-44
- Two debtors – Luke 7: 41-43
- The sower – Matthew 13:3-8
- Seed growing by itself – Mark 4:26-29
- Grain of mustard seed – Mark 4:30-32
- The good seed and the tares – Matthew 13:24-30
- Leaven – Matthew 13:33
- Treasure hid in a field – Matthew 13:44
- Pearl of great price – Matthew 13:45-46
- Gospel net – Matthew 13:47-48
- The lost sheep – Luke 15:3-7
- The piece of silver – Luke 15:8-10
- The prodigal son – Luke 15:11-32
- The unforgiving servant – Matthew 18:23-35
- The good Samaritan – Luke 10:30-37
- The friend at midnight – Luke 11:5-9
- Stone for bread – Luke 11:11-13
- The unclean spirit – Luke 11:24-26
- The rich man – Luke 12:16-21
- The watching servants – Luke 12:36-37
- The faithful and wise steward – Luke 12:42-48
- The barren fig tree – Luke 13:6-9
- The shut door – Luke 13:25-27
- The good shepherd – John 10:1-5
- The wedding feast – Luke 14:7-11
- The great supper – Luke 14:16-24
- Building a tower – Luke 14:28-30
- King going to war – Luke 14:31-33
- The unjust steward – Luke 16:1-9
- The rich man and Lazarus – Luke 16:19-31
- Servant plowing or feeding cattle – Luke 17:7-10
- The unjust judge – Luke 18:1-8
- The Pharisee and the publican – Luke 18:9-14
- Laborers in the vineyard – Matthew 20:1-16
- The pounds – Luke 19:11-26
- The two sons – Matthew 21:28-31
- The wicked husbandmen – Matthew 21:33-41
- The marriage of the king’s son – Matthew 22:1-14
- The fig tree – Matthew 24:32-33
- Man taking a far journey – Mark 13:34-37
- Goodman of the house – Matthew 24:42-44
- The faithful and the evil servants – Matthew 24:45-51
- The 10 virgins – Matthew 25:1-13
- The talents – Matthew 25:14-30
- The sheep and the goats – Matthew 25:31-33
- The vine and the branches – John 15:1-2
Why did Jesus teach in parables?
Jesus answered this himself in Matthew 13:13-15:
Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.
14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:
15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
There seem to be three reasons here:
- To conceal from those who were not spiritually ready
- To fulfil prophecy
- To reveal to those who were ready to hear– an invitation for people to think about it.
Interpretation and application
More important than the interpretation of parables is their application.
The following story related by President James E. Faust may be useful in helping to understand the difference between studying the parables and applying them.
A group of religion instructors [were] taking a summer course of the life of the Savior and focusing particularly on the parables.
When the final exam came, . . . the students arrived at the classroom to find a note that the exam would be given in another building across campus. Moreover, the note said, it must be finished within the two-hour time period that was starting almost at that moment.
The students hurried across campus. On the way, they passed a little girl crying over a flat tire on her new bike. An old man hobbled painfully toward the library with a cane in one hand, spilling books from a stack he was trying to manage with the other. On a bench by the union building sat a shabbily dressed, bearded man [in obvious distress].
Rushing into the other classroom, the students were met by the professor, who announced that they had all flunked the final exam.
The only test of whether they understood the Savior’s life and teaching, he said, was how they treated people in need.
Their weeks of study at the feet of a capable professor had taught them a great deal of what Christ had said and done. In their haste to finish the technicalities of the course, however, they failed to recognize the application represented by the three scenes that had been deliberately staged. They had learned the letter but not the spirit. (Cited by President James E. Faust,Ensign, May 1998, p.18, from Church News, 1 October 1988, p16)