The Parables Jesus taught

Our aim for this page is to list the parables of Jesus (47 are listed below) with Bible references and brief comments. They are listed approximately chronologically in the order that they were given.

Jesus framed most or if not, all of his teaching, in the context of the Kingdom of Heaven. This is quite evident from the parables: of the 47 total, 12 are introduced with a phrase similar to "The Kingdom of Heaven is like and .." and 9 are clearly concerned with the entering or not entering the Kingdom. Of the remainder, most are clearly describing the nature, importance or coming of the Kingdom. It seems accurate to say that Jesus presented his description of the Kingdom through his parables.

The Parables of Jesus

Index of the Parables of Jesus with selected Bible Verses and catagorized by subject.

The 47 parables are catagorized as below. The importance of the subject of the Kingdom to the teaching of Jesus is evident.

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Please click on the following links to go to the section on each parable.

1. New Cloth in an Old Coat

Subject: The coming of the King
Verses: Matthew 9:16; Mark 2:21; Luke 5:36

No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch would tear away from the garment, and a worse hole is made.
Matthew 9:16

2. New Wine in Old Wineskins

Subject: The coming of the King
Verses: Matthew 9:17; Mark 2:22; Luke 5:37-38

Neither do people put new wine into old wine skins, or else the skins would burst, and the wine be spilled, and the skins ruined. No, they put new wine into fresh wine skins, and both are preserved.
Matthew 9:17

3. The Salt of the Earth

Subject: Effect of the Kingdom in the world
Verses: Matthew 5:13

You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its flavour, with what will it be salted? It is then good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men.
Matthew 5:13

4. The Lamp and the Bowl

Subject: Effect of the Kingdom in the world
Verses: Matthew 5:14-15

You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill can't be hidden. Neither do you light a lamp, and put it under a measuring basket, but on a stand; and it shines to all who are in the house.
Matthew 5:14-15

5. The Wise and Foolish Builders

Subject: The importance of choosing the Kingdom
Verses: Matthew 7:24-27; Luke 6:47-49

Everyone therefore who hears these words of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, who built his house on a rock. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it didn't fall, for it was founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of mine, and doesn't do them will be like a foolish man, who built his house on the sand. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell-and great was its fall.
Matthew 7:24-27

6. Money Lender forgives Unequal Debts

Subject: Forgiveness, Love and Humility
Verses: Luke 7:41-43

A certain lender had two debtors. The one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they couldn't pay, he forgave them both. Which of them therefore will love him most? Simon answered, "He, I suppose, to whom he forgave the most." He said to him, "You have judged correctly."
Luke 7:41-43

7. The Lamp on a Stand

Subject: Effect of the Kingdom in the world
Verses: Mark 4:21-22; Luke 8:16 and 11:33

He said to them, "Is the lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? Isn't it put on a stand? For there is nothing hidden, except that it should be made known; neither was anything made secret, but that it should come to light.
Mark 4:21-22

8. Rich Fool builds bigger Barns

Subject: The importance of choosing the Kingdom
Verses: Luke 12:16-21

He spoke a parable to them, saying, "The ground of a certain rich man produced abundantly. He reasoned within himself, saying, 'What will I do, because I don't have room to store my crops?' He said, 'This is what I will do. I will pull down my barns, build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. I will tell my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years. Take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry." ' "But God said to him, 'You foolish one, tonight your soul is required of you. The things which you have prepared-whose will they be?' So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards God."
Luke 12:16-21

9. Servants to be watchful for the return of their Master

Subject: Watching for the return of Jesus
Verses: Luke 12:35-40

"Let your waist be dressed and your lamps burning. Be like men watching for their lord, when he returns from the wedding feast; that when he comes and knocks, they may immediately open to him. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord will find watching when he comes. Most certainly I tell you that he will dress himself, make them recline, and will come and serve them. They will be blessed if he comes in the second or third watch, and finds them so. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what hour the thief was coming, he would have watched, and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore be ready also, for the Son of Man is coming in an hour that you don't expect him."
Luke 12:35-40

10. Wise and Foolish Servants

Subject: Watching for the return of Jesus
Verses: Luke 12:42-48

The Lord said, "Who then is the faithful and wise steward, whom his lord will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the right times? Blessed is that servant whom his lord will find doing so when he comes. Truly I tell you, that he will set him over all that he has. But if that servant says in his heart, 'My lord delays his coming,' and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken, then the lord of that servant will come in a day when he isn't expecting him, and in an hour that he doesn't know, and will cut him in two, and place his portion with the unfaithful. That servant, who knew his lord's will, and didn't prepare, nor do what he wanted, will be beaten with many stripes, but he who didn't know, and did things worthy of stripes, will be beaten with few stripes. To whomever much is given, of him will much be required; and to whom much was entrusted, of him more will be asked.
Luke 12:42-48

11. The Unfruitful Fig Tree

Subject: The effect of the Kingdom in the world
Verses: Luke 13:6-9

He spoke this parable. "A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it, and found none. He said to the vine dresser, 'Behold, these three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and found none. Cut it down. Why does it waste the soil?' He answered, 'Lord, leave it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilise it. If it bears fruit, fine; but if not, after that, you can cut it down.' "
Luke 13:6-9

12. The Sower and the Seed

Subject: The Word of the Kingdom of God
Matthew 13:3-8 and 18-23; Mark 4:3-8 and 14-20; Luke 8:5-8 and 11-15

He spoke to them many things in parables, saying, "Behold, a farmer went out to sow. As he sowed, some seeds fell by the roadside, and the birds came and devoured them. Others fell on rocky ground, where they didn't have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of earth. When the sun had risen, they were scorched. Because they had no root, they withered away. Others fell amongst thorns. The thorns grew up and choked them. Others fell on good soil, and yielded fruit: some one hundred times as much, some sixty, and some thirty.
Matthew 13:33-35

In this parable Jesus describes the four different types people and their relation to the Kingdom:

  1. Firstly, the seed on the wayside; people that do not understand the message and there is no reaction - the seed is taken.
  2. Secondly, the seed on the rocky places; people that agree with the message but are never changed by it - there is no root.
  3. Thirdly, the seed in the thorns; people for who the world overshaddows the message and there competition - there is no growth.
  4. Fourthly, the seed in good soil; people in whom the message of the Kingdom is taken to heart and there is obedience - there is increase.

It seems that Jesus' main focus here is that he is looking for growth of the Kingdom. That can only come when individuals obey the message and live out the message that Jesus taught. Jesus is teaching that of all the people that come into contact with the Kingdom, only some will bring forth a harvest. His listeners were the covenant people but most were not producing fruit.

13. The Darnel among the Wheat

Subject: The Kingdom of God
Matthew 13:24-30 and 36-43

He set another parable before them, saying, "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while people slept, his enemy came and sowed darnel weeds also amongst the wheat, and went away. But when the blade sprang up and produced fruit, then the darnel weeds appeared also. The servants of the householder came and said to him, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where did these darnel weeds come from?' "He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' "The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and gather them up?' "But he said, 'No, lest perhaps while you gather up the darnel weeds, you root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and in the harvest time I will tell the reapers, "First, gather up the darnel weeds, and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn." ' "
Matthew 13:24-30

Comment: In this parable, Jesus himself gives the interpretation to his disciples as recorded in the subsequent verses (Matthew 13:36-43). Jesus says that the sower is himself, the Son of Man, and the the field is the world. The good seed are the children of the Kingdom; and the darnel weeds are the children of the evil one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. So we can understand from the parable and Jesus interpretation that:

  1. The field belongs to the sower, or in other words the world belongs to Jesus.
  2. The Son of Man is working in the world to produce a good harvest for himself - people who are seeking to be faithful and obedient to God.
  3. An enemy (the devil) has intruded and trespassed into the world and has sown bad seed to try to damage and devalue the harvest of the sower.
  4. The sower, rather than start again will however allow both seeds to grow to maturity and then separate the wheat from the darnel at the end of the age.
  5. Only the wheat from the good seed (that which is of the Kingdom) is gathered into the sower's store.

The main teaching from this parable is that the Son of Man is establishing the Kingdom of God but has been opposed and the Kingdom is currently surrounded by evil. Nevertheless the Son of Man knows how to deal with this at the end of the harvest. The reality is that people have the choice whether to be good seed or darnel, in other words living for the Kingdom of God or living against the Kingdom. But that is the challenge of the parable. Which will we be?

14. The Growing Seed

Subject: The Kingdom of God
Mark 4:26-29

He said, "God's Kingdom is as if a man should cast seed on the earth, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should spring up and grow, though he doesn't know how. For the earth bears fruit: first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the fruit is ripe, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come."
Mark 4:26-29

15. The Mustard Seed

Subject: The Kingdom of God
Matthew 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18-19

He set another parable before them, saying, "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field; which indeed is smaller than all seeds. But when it is grown, it is greater than the herbs, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in its branches."
Matthew 13:31-32

Comment: The parable of the mustard seed follows in Matthew chapter 13 directly after the Darnel among the Wheat and the Sower and Four Types of Soil and there is a consistency of images, certainly we see again a seed, a sower, a field and birds. We can thus expect the interpretation and application to be similar and progressive. Thus we see that the mustard seed is the Kingdom, and again the field would be the world and the sower, the Son of Man.

In this parable the birds, that in the earlier parable were snatching the seed away, are now lodging in the plant that has grown from the seed. Remembering that Jesus is teaching that the Kingdom is being opposed we now see opposition lodging in the Kingdom itself. Jesus appears to be saying that the mustard, which should not be a tree anyway, has grown unaturally and welcomed what should not be there. The implication is that the Kingdom has gone from its first calling of humility, grace, mercy, love, service and faith to self-interest, pride and self-reliance.

We see a progression in these first three parables from the Son of Man sowing seed and only a quarter being responsive; then we see opposition and now we see evil lodging in the Kingdom. It seems that Jesus is very aware of the dangers to the Kingdom and in explaining these he challenges us how we stand up to his teaching, standards and ethics.

16. The Yeast or Leaven

Subject: The Kingdom of God
Matthew 13:33

He spoke another parable to them. "The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, until it was all leavened."
Matthew 13:33

Comment: In the Bible, yeast (or leaven) is always a symbol of corruption, hypocrisy, toleration of evil and so on. The three measures of meal appear to be a reference to the meal offering which was to be unleaved flour (Leviticus 2:11). Thus in saying that yeast has got into the offering of the Kingdom, Jesus is saying that its communion with God and service for God is corrupted and therefore witness is weakened. The meal offering of fellowship in service is corrupted by the intrusion of the leaven of impurity.

All these first four parables in Matthew chapter 13 indicate that the Kingdom will continue and grow until the end of the age when Jesus returns but is and will be troubled by opposition and impurity within. Again the individual challenge is clear: are those in the Kingdom giving home to sin?

At another time Jesus says "beware of the yeast of the Pharisees" (Matthew 16:6) meaning the corrupted teaching of the Pharisees. It is neccesary to consider any teaching that may be a corrupting influence on the Kingdom in any age.

17. The Hidden Treasure

Subject: The Kingdom of God
Matthew 13:44

Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in the field, which a man found, and hid. In his joy, he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field.
Matthew 13:44

Comment: The previous parables in Mathhew chapter 13 were spoken to the multitudes. This parable and those that follow in chapter 13 were spoken only to the Disciples.

In this parable it is likely that Jesus saw himself as the man finding the treasure. The picture is that of Jesus finding the treasure which is the Kingdom of God and ready to pay for it with his life. It is hidden in the sense that the Kingdom has not yet been fully revealed and realised; it is like a Kingdom in waiting, its value unseen by the world but hidden and safe in the Master's posession. The field which is the world as in previous parables is redeemed by its rightful owner and waiting for him to reveal his treasure.

18. The Pearl

Subject: The Kingdom of God
Matthew 13:45-46

Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who is a merchant seeking fine pearls, who having found one pearl of great price, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it.
Matthew 13:45-46

Comment: As in the previous parable it seems that Jesus saw himself as the merchant seeking the pearl of great cost. This is a picture of Jesus seeking the Kingdom of God and ready to pay for this with his life. It is also interesting to observe that a pearl is an impurity surrounded with a beautiful white coating so this is a bit like God's people clothed with the righteousness of Jesus.

19. The Dragnet

Subject: The Kingdom of God
Matthew 13:47-50

Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a dragnet, that was cast into the sea, and gathered some fish of every kind, which, when it was filled, they drew up on the beach. They sat down, and gathered the good into containers, but the bad they threw away. So will it be in the end of the world. The angels will come and separate the wicked from amongst the righteous, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth."
Matthew 13:47-50

Comment: This parable has many similarities with the parable of the good seed and the darnel weeds. Again, Jesus sees (at the end of the age) a separation between that which is of the Kingdom of God and that which is not of that Kingdom. Only that which is of the Kingdom, that which Jesus calls righteous, will be preserved. What remains is thrown out.

20. The Householder

Subject: The Kingdom of God
Matthew 13:52

He said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has been made a disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who is a householder, who brings out of his treasure new and old things.
Matthew 13:52

Comment: In this parable, Jesus is saying to all his the disciples that they should be like him as householders - people who own and share the responsibility for God's Kindgom. And as housholders or owners they should bring out its treasures old and new. These are not different treasures but the same. The disciple of Jesus is to bring out the 'old things of God' to each new generation. In this way there will be lasting lasting value to himself, his family and all who 'come into his house.'

21. The Lost Sheep (sheep as children, see also 29)

Subject: Things lost and found
Verses: Matthew 18:12-14

What do you think? If a man has one hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, doesn't he leave the ninety-nine, go to the mountains, and seek that which has gone astray? If he finds it, most certainly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
Matthew 18:12-14

22. The Sheep, Gate and Shepherd

Subject: Entry or non-entry into the Kingdom
Verses: John 10:1-5 and 7-18

Most certainly, I tell you, one who doesn't enter by the door into the sheep fold, but climbs up some other way, is a thief and a robber. But one who enters in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out. Whenever he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. They will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him; for they don't know the voice of strangers.
John 10:1-5

23. The Master and his Servant

Subject: Forgiveness, Love and Humility
Verses: Luke 17:7-10

But who is there amongst you, having a servant ploughing or keeping sheep, that will say when he comes in from the field, 'Come immediately and sit down at the table,' and will not rather tell him, 'Prepare my supper, clothe yourself properly, and serve me, while I eat and drink. Afterward you shall eat and drink'? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded? I think not. Even so you also, when you have done all the things that are commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy servants. We have done our duty.' "
Luke 17:7-10

Comment: In this parable, Jesus is saying to all his the disciples that they should be like him as householders - people who own and share the responsibility for God's Kindgom. And as housholders or owners they should bring out its treasures old and new. These are not different treasures but the same. The disciple of Jesus is to bring out the 'old things of God' to each new generation. In this way there will be lasting lasting value to himself, his family and all who 'come into his house.'

24. The Unmerciful Servant or King and Debtors

Subject: Entry or non-entry into the Kingdom of Heaven
Verses: Matthew 18:23-35

Therefore the Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king, who wanted to reconcile accounts with his servants. When he had begun to reconcile, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But because he couldn't pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, with his wife, his children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down and knelt before him, saying, 'Lord, have patience with me, and I will repay you all!' The lord of that servant, being moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
Matthew 18:23-24

Comment: In the parable, God is like the King and we are all like the first servant - in debt to God because we have disobeyed him. The first servant was shown mercy by the King and was released from his debt because he asked for compassion. But this same servant showed no mercy to his own debtors and demanded repayment. Jesus point here is that if we are not willing to show forgiveness to others then our forgiveness from God will be withheld also.

Jesus emphasises this point by contrasting the amount of debt. The amount of debt that the first servant was released from was far greater than that which was owed to him. This reminds us of our inability to pay the debt owed to God.

In releasing the first servant from his debt we are also reminded of the great cost to the King. The King is merciful but if we treat that mercy with the contempt it shows that we have no genuine respect for the King and can only expect his anger. Jesus says "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don't forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Matthew 6:14,15

25. The Good Samaritan

Subject: Forgiveness, Love and Humility
Verses: Luke 10:30-37

Jesus answered, "A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell amongst robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. By chance a certain priest was going down that way. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he travelled, came where he was. When he saw him, he was moved with compassion, came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the host, and said to him, 'Take care of him. Whatever you spend beyond that, I will repay you when I return.' Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbour to him who fell amongst the robbers?" He said, "He who showed mercy on him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."
Luke 10:30-37

26. The Friend in Need of Bread

Subject: Prayer
Verses: Luke 11:5-8

He said to them, "Which of you, if you go to a friend at midnight, and tell him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him,' and he from within will answer and say, 'Don't bother me. The door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give it to you'? I tell you, although he will not rise and give it to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence, he will get up and give him as many as he needs.
Luke 11:5-8

Comment: This parable is a parable which teaches about perseverance in prayer by way of contrast and comparison.

The first part describes a man and his family who are comfortable, in bed in the night and the man is reluctant to disturb himself for a friend who comes knocking and asking for bread. But because of the friend's persistence, the the man does get up and answer, not because he is a friend but because he is making a nuisance of himself in asking.

Jesus goes on to explain the parable by saying "Keep asking, and it will be given you. Keep seeking, and you will find. Keep knocking, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds. To him who knocks it will be opened." The key lesson is that we should continue in prayer, seeking progress, enlightenment, guidance, spiritual advancement, resolution and understanding. We have the promise that God will answer according to his wisdom. Sometimes we may ask in error and the refusal is for our good, we need to seek God's will and continue in prayer.

The contrast in this parable is that God is by no means sleepy and reluctant to be disturbed. The man in the parable was annoyed by the intrusion and gave into the request reluctantly. Instead, God is waiting for prayer and wanting to listen: how much more ready he is to answer. God can be approached at midnight or any other time, and he will always listen and answer.

The parable continues by way of further comparison and re-inforcement. Jesus describes man as intrinsically evil (our basic nature is to oppose God) but yet with a capacity for good. So in this parable a father is seen giving good things to his children. Jesus says "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?" The application is that if earthly fathers give good things to their children how much more will the Heavenly Father give good things to his children.

The highest gift possible is the gift of the Holy Spirit and Jesus encourages his listeners to ask for him. This gift of the Holy Spirit is both initial at conversion and continuous in Christian life. The life of the Christian is a spiritual life starting with indwelling of the Spirit then a constant receiving of the Spirit, being filled with the Spirit, overflowing with the Spirit.

27. The Lowest Seat at the Feast

Subject: Forgiveness, Love and Humility
Verses: Luke 14:7-14

He spoke a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the best seats, and said to them, "When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, don't sit in the best seat, since perhaps someone more honourable than you might be invited by him, and he who invited both of you would come and tell you, 'Make room for this person.' Then you would begin, with shame, to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes, he may tell you, 'Friend, move up higher.' Then you will be honoured in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." He also said to the one who had invited him, "When you make a dinner or a supper, don't call your friends, nor your brothers, nor your kinsmen, nor rich neighbours, or perhaps they might also return the favour, and pay you back. But when you make a feast, ask the poor, the maimed, the lame, or the blind; and you will be blessed, because they don't have the resources to repay you. For you will be repaid in the resurrection of the righteous."
Luke 14:7-14

28. The Invitation to a Great Banquet

Subject: Entry or non-entry into the Kingdom of Heaven
Verses: Luke 14:16-24

But he said to him, "A certain man made a great supper, and he invited many people. He sent out his servant at supper time to tell those who were invited, 'Come, for everything is ready now.' They all as one began to make excuses. "The first said to him, 'I have bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please have me excused.' "Another said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I must go try them out. Please have me excused.' "Another said, 'I have married a wife, and therefore I can't come.' "That servant came, and told his lord these things. 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 the poor, maimed, blind, and lame.' "The servant said, 'Lord, it is done as you commanded, and there is still room.' "The lord 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 tell you that none of those men who were invited will taste of my supper.' "
Luke 14:16-24

29. The Cost of Discipleship

Subject: The importance of choosing the Kingdom
Verses: Luke 14:28-33

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, doesn't first sit down and count the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it? Or perhaps, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, everyone who sees begins to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build, and wasn't able to finish.' Or what king, as he goes to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an envoy, and asks for conditions of peace. So therefore whoever of you who doesn't renounce all that he has, he can't be my disciple.
Luke 14:28-33

30. The Lost Sheep (sheep as sinners, see also 20)

Subject: Things lost and found
Verses: Luke 15:4-7

Which of you men, if you had one hundred sheep, and lost one of them, wouldn't leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one that was lost, until he found it? When he has found it, he carries it on his shoulders, rejoicing. When he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbours, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!' I tell you that even so there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.
Luke 15:4-7

Comment: The three parables that Jesus taught in Luke 15 are best considered together as they all address the matter of something that is lost: the lost sheep; the lost coin and the lost son.

In these three parables which are spoken mainly to the Pharisees and scribes, but in the hearing of the crowds, Jesus is firstly challenging the Pharisees and scribes by describing what they should be, but are not. They are not behaving like the shepherd who rescues the lost sheep; they are not like the woman finding the lost coin and they are not like the father welcoming home the lost son. The shepherd, the woman and the father in the parables all concerned themselves with the lost, but the Pharisees were not associating with or helping lost sinners, wheras Jesus was concerned with sinners and the lost.

The lost sheep, lost coin and lost son in the parables are all pictures of the sinner, though their circumstances are described differently. The sheep is lost because of wandering off, the coin is in a state of being lost through no action of itself and the son is lost through deliberate choice.

The shepherd, woman and father are all pictures of God, though again their responses are described differently. The shepherd goes out to rescue the sheep, the woman finds and restores the coin to its rightful place and the father watches, waits and welcomes the son. In all parables there is great rejoicing over the restoration of that which was lost.

All these parables are pictures of God dealing with sinners in salvation and have valuable application both to initial conversion and the preservation of believers who turn aside from following closely their Master.

Like the sheep, the sinner is rescued from a place of danger and brought back to the safety of the fold. Like the coin, the sinner is found and restored from its state of loss. Like the son, the sinner who turns towards God will be welcomed back into the family home.

In conversion, the sinner is rescued by Jesus, retrieved and put into its rightful place by the Holy Spirit and welcomed into God’s family by the Father.

In preservation, the stray is returned to the fold, the missing are found and restored, the repentant are welcomed back with great joy.

Why does Jesus call the sinner "lost"? It is not that the sinner does not know where he is but that God, to whom all creation belongs has lost the sinner for himself. God wants to find and heal the sinner, to have them for himself. God wants to recover the sinner for himself because that is the way mankind was designed to live and the only way man can find true peace and happiness.

The message for the Pharisees listening to these parables is that Jesus is teaching the crowds along with the tax collectors and sinners, and at least some of them are repenting and God is taking great delight in the fact. The Pharisees, who are not concerned with sinners, who consider themselves to be blameless and who, like in the parable of the lost son are even indignant that sinners are returning to God are not the reason for God’s pleasure. Unless they too put away their pride and humble themselves and repent they who should be the spiritual leaders of the nation are in grave danger themselves of being lost.

31. The Lost Coin

Subject: Things lost and found
Verses: Luke 15:8-10

Or what woman, if she had ten drachma coins, if she lost one drachma coin, wouldn't light a lamp, sweep the house, and seek diligently until she found it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the drachma which I had lost.' Even so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner repenting."
Luke 15:8-10

Comment: See comments under 30.

32. The Lost (Prodigal) Son

Subject: Things lost and found
Verses: Luke 15:11-32

I will get up and go to my father, and will tell him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight. I am no more worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your hired servants." ' "He arose, and came to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' "But the father said to his servants, 'Bring out the best robe, and put it on him. Put a ring on his hand, and sandals on his feet.
Luke 15:18-22

Comment: See comments under 30.

33. The Shrewd Manager

Subject: The use and responsibility of Possessions
Verses: Luke 16:1-8

He also said to his disciples, "There was a certain rich man who had a manager. An accusation was made to him that this man was wasting his possessions. He called him, and said to him, 'What is this that I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager.' "The manager said within himself, 'What will I do, seeing that my lord is taking away the management position from me? I don't have strength to dig. I am ashamed to beg. I know what I will do, so that when I am removed from management, they may receive me into their houses.' Calling each one of his lord's debtors to him, he said to the first, 'How much do you owe to my lord?' He said, 'A hundred batos of oil.' He said to him, 'Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.' Then he said to another, 'How much do you owe?' He said, 'A hundred cors of wheat.' He said to him, 'Take your bill, and write eighty.' "His lord commended the dishonest manager because he had done wisely, for the children of this world are, in their own generation, wiser than the children of the light.
Luke 16:1-8

34. The Rich Man and Lazarus

Subject: The use and responsibility of Possessions
Verses: Luke 16:19-31

Now there was a certain rich man, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, living in luxury every day. A certain beggar, named Lazarus, was taken to his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table. Yes, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The beggar died, and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died, and was buried. In Hades, he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far off, and Lazarus at his bosom. He cried and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue! For I am in anguish in this flame.'
Luke 16:19-24

35. The Workers in the Vineyard or Master and Labourers

Subject: The Kingdom of God
Verses: Matthew 20:1-16

For the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who was the master of a household, who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. When he had agreed with the labourers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. He went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace. He said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.' So they went their way. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise.
Matthew 20:1-5

There is a danger of ignoring this parable because it offends our sense of fairness. That would be to miss the main point of the teaching which is a crucial lesson: that entry into The Kingdom of Heaven is not a reward for our labours. Membership of the Kingdom is by the mercy and grace of the Master and through repentance and faith; labouring in the vineyard is our response to that mercy and grace.

The last part of the parable about the last being first and the first last confirms that we must never think ourselves better than another. This comment was probably also intended for the Pharisees who considered that their obedience to the law gave them a greater right to the Kingdom of Heaven over others.

36. The Persistent Widow and Reluctant Judge

Subject: Prayer
Verses: Luke 18:2-8

There was a judge in a certain city who didn't fear God, and didn't respect man. A widow was in that city, and she often came to him, saying, 'Defend me from my adversary!' He wouldn't for a while, but afterward he said to himself, 'Though I neither fear God, nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will defend her, or else she will wear me out by her continual coming.' " The Lord said, "Listen to what the unrighteous judge says. Won't God avenge his chosen ones who are crying out to him day and night, and yet he exercises patience with them? I tell you that he will avenge them quickly. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"
Luke 18:2-8

Comment: Like the parable in Luke 11 (No. 26), this also teaches about perseverance in prayer by way of contrast and comparision.

The description is of a widow seeking justice from a judge who had little regard for conscience and duty. Initially, he refuses to listen but the widow persists and in the end the judge hears the widow, not for the sake of justice, but because he is tired of her persistent requests.

Again we see this as a contrast, if an unrighteous judge administers justice, how much more and how much more quickly will God who is perfectly righteous ensure that the needs of his people are his concern.

Jesus says that his disciples must always pray. This indicates prayer is to be a way of life and an attitude of life; it is the expression of faith; it is also the sustenance of life for if we don't pray our spiritual life is in danger of stagnation. Prayer links the life of the Christian with the life of God and he answers speedily. His answers do not always come in the form of the request made, but God always answers within the constraints of his will, wisdom and righteousness and our good.

Jesus ends this parable with the question "when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" This is understood to mean when Jesus returns will faith on earth be obvious, widespread and active through prayer, or will he predominantly find worldliness, lack of faith and absence of prayer. This question does not mean there will be no Christians when Jesus returns; there will be a faithful remnant but the lament is that faith will not be characteristic of the whole earth. This confirms the hardness of heart that most people will not believe Jesus, just as they refused to do so when he was on earth.

37. The Pharisee and Tax Collector

Subject: Prayer
Verses: Luke 18:10-14

Two men went up into the temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed to himself like this: 'God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of men, extortionists, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far away, wouldn't even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.
Luke 18:10-14

Comment: This parable compares the genuine prayer of a repentant sinner with the pretentious prayer of one who considers himself righteous and having no need for repentance. This shows that God looks at the heart of man. The man who sought to justify himself was not justified by God. The man who, in humility, asked for mercy was justified by God.

38. The King's Ten Servants given Minas (see also 45)

Subject: Entry or non-entry into the Kingdom of Heaven
Verses: Luke 19:12-27

He said therefore, "A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. He called ten servants of his and gave them ten mina coins, and told them, 'Conduct business until I come.' But his citizens hated him, and sent an envoy after him, saying, 'We don't want this man to reign over us.' "When he had come back again, having received the kingdom, he commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by conducting business.
Luke 19:12-15

39. The Two Sons, one obeys and one does not

Subject: Entry or non-entry into the Kingdom of Heaven
Verses: Matthew 21:28-32

But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first, and said, 'Son, go work today in my vineyard.' He answered, 'I will not,' but afterward he changed his mind, and went. He came to the second, and said the same thing. He answered, 'I'm going, sir,' but he didn't go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said to him, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Most certainly I tell you that the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering into God's Kingdom before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you didn't believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. When you saw it, you didn't even repent afterward, that you might believe him.
Matthew 21:28-32

40. The Wicked Tennants

Subject: Entry or non-entry into the Kingdom of Heaven
Verses: Matthew 21:33-44; Mark 12:1-11; Luke 20:9-18

Hear another parable. There was a man who was a master of a household, who planted a vineyard, set a hedge about it, dug a wine press in it, built a tower, leased it out to farmers, and went into another country. When the season for the fruit came near, he sent his servants to the farmers, to receive his fruit. The farmers took his servants, beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they treated them the same way. But afterward he sent to them his son, saying, 'They will respect my son.' But the farmers, when they saw the son, said amongst themselves, 'This is the heir. Come, let's kill him, and seize his inheritance.'
Matthew 21:33-38

41. Invitation to a Wedding Banquet - the marriage feast

Subject: Entry or non-entry into the Kingdom of Heaven
Verses: Matthew 22:2-14

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king, who made a wedding feast for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent out other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, "Behold, I have prepared my dinner. My cattle and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding feast!" ' But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his merchandise, and the rest grabbed his servants, and treated them shamefully, and killed them. When the king heard that, he was angry, and sent his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burnt their city. "Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding is ready, but those who were invited weren't worthy.
Matthew 22:2-8

In this parable God is like the King inviting guests to a wedding banquet for his Son. But the invited guests refuse to come and even kill the servants bringing the invitations. So the King offers the banquet to others who come but one was found without a wedding robe.

To Jewish hearers this parable pictures the Jews as God's invited guests but the religious leaders who in past times refused to heed God's prophets now are rejecting Jesus as their Messiah. So others would be invited to come into the Kingdom and they do accept.

To all hearers of this parable, we are warned that entry into the Kingdom (wedding feast) is only possible if we are wearing the garment of the Kingdom (wedding clothing). This is a reminder that for all, entry into the Kingdom is made possible only when our shortfalls and sins are covered by the righteousness of Jesus. So again Jesus emphasises it is not by our efforts that we come to the Kingdom and it is only by acceptance of Jesus and his sacrificial death for us.

Many are called but few chosen confirms that the Kingdom is offerred to all but not many accept the invitation.

42. Signs of the Future from a Fig Tree

Subject: Watching for the return of Jesus
Verses: Matthew 24:32-35; Mark 13:28-29; Luke 21;29-31

Now from the fig tree learn this parable. When its branch has now become tender, and produces its leaves, you know that the summer is near. Even so you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Most certainly I tell you, this generation will not pass away, until all these things are accomplished. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
Matthew 24:32-35

43. The Wise and Foolish Servants (see also 9)

Subject: Watching for the return of Jesus
Verses: Matthew 24:45-51

Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his lord has set over his household, to give them their food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his lord finds doing so when he comes. Most certainly I tell you that he will set him over all that he has. But if that evil servant should say in his heart, 'My lord is delaying his coming,' and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eat and drink with the drunkards, the lord of that servant will come in a day when he doesn't expect it, and in an hour when he doesn't know it, and will cut him in pieces, and appoint his portion with the hypocrites. That is where the weeping and grinding of teeth will be.
Matthew 24:45-51

44. The Wise and Foolish Virgins

Subject: Watching for the return of Jesus
Verses: Matthew 25:1-13

Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. Those who were foolish, when they took their lamps, took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom delayed, they all slumbered and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, 'Behold! The bridegroom is coming! Come out to meet him!'
Matthew 25:1-6

In this parable Jesus is teaching his disciples to be ready for his return. Being ready means expecting Jesus at any time and living in a manner that is consistent with the teaching of Jesus and the Kingdom of Heaven.

Five of the attendants were ready for the arrival of the Bridegroom and five were not, though all were asleep. The five that were ready had prepared themselves, anticipating that the return could happen at any time even the middle of the night. The other five had not sufficiently prepared themselves to be ready and were taking a chance that the bridegroom wouldn’t come that night.

Jesus is like the bridegroom and the attendants are those who should be ready for his return. Whether the foolish virgins were genuine Christians or not, is unclear. If not, the message is warning that close association with the church is not enough; there must be genuine belief and new spiritual life. On the other hand, if they were Christians the warning is that there will be severe consequences if we are found living lives which are inconsistent with our belief.

The message of this parable is to expect the return of Jesus at any time and so be living in a way that we would not be found unready and embarrassed. In other words are we living in harmony with the Holy Spirit who lives inside us?

45. Servants must remain watchful (see also 8)

Subject: Watching for the return of Jesus
Verses: Mark 13:35-37

Watch therefore, for you don't know when the lord of the house is coming, whether at evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning; lest coming suddenly he might find you sleeping. What I tell you, I tell all: Watch.
Mark 13:35-37

46. Three Servants given Talents (see also 37)

Subject: Entry or non-entry into the Kingdom of Heaven
Verses: Matthew 25:14-30

For it is like a man, going into another country, who called his own servants, and entrusted his goods to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one; to each according to his own ability. Then he went on his journey. Immediately he who received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. In the same way, he also who got the two gained another two. But he who received the one talent went away and dug in the earth, and hid his lord's money.
Matthew 25:14-18

47. The Separation of the Sheep and Goats

Subject: Entry or non-entry into the Kingdom of Heaven
Verses: Matthew 25:31-46

But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. Before him all the nations will be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will tell those on his right hand, 'Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in.
Matthew 25:31-35