Theme: Jesus – His Parables
The ministry of Jesus was characterized by the familiar and the unfamiliar. His miracles are unfamiliar to us; that is, we have not personally witnessed miracles. His teaching are familiar. Our lives are filled with teaching. We may tend to think that the miracles were the most impressive and impactful aspect of Jesus’ ministry, just from the familiarity vantage point. That’s not necessarily the case. His teaching was without peer. A future week’s reading will focus more fully on Jesus as a teacher. This week we will focus on one aspect of His teaching—the parables.
The power of parables as a teaching tool is no doubt found in their closeness to the human experience. A parable relies on shared experiences and knowledge. Even the literal meaning of the word parable is instructive; “throwing alongside.” So, in a parable “one thing is placed by the side of another for the purpose of comparison” (Neil Lightfoot). That which serves as the object of comparison is quite well known. What is placed alongside it is not. Very often the parables are introduced by a phrase like, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to…” (Matt. 13:24). By using realities, circumstances, activities and objects with which Jesus’ hearers were very familiar, He could instruct about things with which they were not.
The distribution of the parables in the Gospels is interesting. Seven of Jesus’ parables are repeated in Matthew, Mark and Luke. Five of them are found only in Matthew and Luke. Thirteen are unique to Matthew, two to Mark, and nineteen to Luke. There are no parables found in John.
It is not our intention to read all of Jesus’ parables this week. The choice of parables to read has been somewhat arbitrary, but not completely. There some obvious collections of parables; Matthew 13, 25, and Luke 15. We’ll read all of these collections. Also, some of Jesus’ parables are so widely known that their connection to Scripture may not be understood. Many people, otherwise unfamiliar with the Bible, have knowledge of the Prodigal Son and Good Samaritan.
Readings and Introductory Comments:
Matthew 13:10-17; 34-35
So why did Jesus use parables so prolifically? That’s what His disciples wanted to know. It got to the point that “He said nothing to them without a parable” (Matt. 13:34). The wisdom and mastery of Jesus was on display in His use of parables. Not just in their ability to powerfully convey a message, but in the very use of them. The parables were for those who would receive them, but not those who would not. And, they achieved both purposes.
Matthew 7:24-27; 13:1-9, 18-33, 36-52; 25:1-30
Jesus ended the famed Sermon on the Mount with a parable about what should be done with His teaching. Matthew collected a number of Jesus’ parables into one place in his Gospel (chapter 13)—as was his method of grouping narratives and teachings. Jesus used two parables to drive home a message—just as desperately needed today as when He gave them; be ready—as a follow up to his apocalyptic message of chapter 24.
Mark 4:26-29; 13:32-37
These two parables from Mark—the seed growing of itself and the servant on watch—are found only in Mark.
Luke 7:36-50; 10:25-37; 12:13-21; 14:25-33; 15:1-32; 18:9-14
Luke is filled with parables; thirty-one in all (27 in Matthew and 9 in Mark). Not surprisingly, some of the best known and moving are found here. These parables penetrate us, touch us at our core, and leave us to decide what will happen next.
Matthew 13:10-17; 34-35
- What does Isaiah say is the reason some people do not “get” what God is saying to them? (v. 15)
- Who is blessed? (v. 16)
- What is the difference in the two houses described by Jesus? (vv. 24, 26)
- What is the determining factor between the wise and the foolish? (vv. 24, 26)
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-33, 36-52
- What was the setting of Jesus’ giving the parable of the sower? (vvv. 1-2)
- What does the plant in the rocky soil wither? (v. 21)
- What chokes out the word in the thorny soil? (v. 22)
- Did the master want the weeds immediately removed when seen among the wheat? Why? (v. 29)
- What will be removed from the kingdom? When? (v. 41)
- What is sacrificed in order to purchase the hidden treasure and pearl? (vv. 44, 46)
- When will the evil be separated from the righteous? (v. 49)
- Why were the foolish virgins foolish and the wise, wise? (v. 3)
- What did the Lord say to the foolish when they asked for entrance? (v. 12)
- How did the master described the servant who returned to his master only what he had been given? (v. 26)
- Does the harvest depend on the farmers knowledge of how germination and growth happens?
- What must the master not find his servants doing when he returns? (v.v. 36-37)
- Who was the woman who washed Jesus’ feet? (v. 37)
- Who loves little? (v. 47)
- What did Jesus say one must do to “live”? (v. 27)
- In response to what question did Jesus give this parable? (v. 29)
- Who proved to be a neighbor? (v. 37)
- What sin was Jesus warning against in giving this parable? (v. 15)
- Who is a fool? (vv. 20-21)
- Who cannot be Jesus’ disciple? (33)
- What criticism was Jesus answering in giving these parables? (vv. 1-2)
- What produces the greatest joy in heaven? (v. 7)
- Why do heaven’s angels rejoice? (v. 10)
- When did he father first see his retuning son? (v. 20)
- What did the father feel for his son? (v. 20)
- What was the brother’s response to the prodigal’s return? (v. 28)
- What was the brother’s claim about his relationship to his father? (v. 29)
- For what was the Pharisee thankful? (v. 11)
- For what did the Pharisee ask? (vv. 11-12) the tax collector? (v. 13)
- Who will be exalted? (14)
Do my eyes see and my ears hear (Matt. 13:16)? How can I insure that they do so?
How can I prevent my own heart from becoming “rocky” or “thorny”?
In what way am I keeping an oil flask as I wait for the arrival of the bridegroom (Matt. 25:4)?
What do the parables of the dragnet and the wheat and tares say to us about our efforts to keep the church pure, if anything (Matt. 13:37-43, 47-50)?
“But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and our ears, for they hear” (Matt. 13:16).