How to Study the Parables of Jesus

One of the greatest ways we can learn more about the kingdom of heaven is to study the parables of Jesus. When we think about the life and ministry of Jesus while He was here on earth, it’s easy to focus on his miracles. Jesus performed some amazing signs and wonders that the world had never seen. However, one of the most interesting things about His ministry was His story-telling.

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What Are the Parables of Jesus?

The word parable is translated from the Greek word parabole which means “to place beside”. It’s a word that means to compare two things. If we read through these stories we see that Jesus began many of them with the words:

“The Kingdom of God is like…”

These narratives were meant to compare an earthly story to heavenly truth. The purpose of the parables was to illustrate a spiritual lesson about God’s kingdom.

Parables of Jesus List

Here is a list of the different parables of Jesus. Look up these passages and do your own study of the parables.

  • Parable of New Cloth on an Old Coat (Matthew 9:16; Mark 2:21; Luke 5:36)
  • Parable of New Wine in Old Wineskins (Mark 9:17; Mark 2:22; Luke 5:37–38)
  • Parable of The Lamp on a Stand (Matthew 5:14–15; Mark 4:21–22; Luke 8:16)
  • Parable of The Wise and Foolish Builders (Matthew 7:24–27; Luke 6:47–49)
  • Parable of The Moneylender forgiving unequal debts (Luke 7:41–43)
  • Parable of The Rich Fool Building His Bigger Barns (Luke 12:16–21)
  • Parable of The Servants Must Remain Watchful (Mark 13:35–37; Luke 12:35–40)
  • Parable of The Wise and Foolish Servants (Matthew 24:45–51; Luke 12:42–48)
  • Parable of The Unfruitful Fig Tree (Luke 13:6–9)
  • Parable of The Parable of the Soils (Matthew 13:3–23; Mark 4:1–20; Luke 8:4–15)
  • Parable of The Weeds Among Good Plants (Matthew 13:24–43)
  • Parable of The Growing Seed (Mark 4:26–29)
  • Parable of The Mustard Seed (Matthew 13:31–32; Mark 4:30–32; Luke 13:18–19)
  • Parable of Yeast (Matthew13:31–32)
  • Parable of The Hidden Treasure (Matthew 13:44)
  • Parable of The Valuable Pearl (Matthew 13:45–46)
  • Parable of The Fishing Net (Matthew 13:47–50)
  • Parable of The Owner of a House (Matthew 13:52)
  • Parable of The Lost Sheep (Matthew 18:12–14)
  • Parable of The Master and His Servant (Luke 17:7–10)
  • Parable of The Unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:23–34)
  • Parable of The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30–37)
  • Parable of Friend in Need (Luke 11:5–8)
  • Parable of Lowest Seat at the Feast (Luke 14:7–14)
  • Parable of Invitation to a Great Banquet (Luke 14:16–24)
  • Parable of The Cost of Discipleship (Luke 14:28–33)
  • Parable of The Lost Coin (Luke 15:8–10)
  • Parable of The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11–32)
  • Parable of The Shrewd Manager (Luke 16:1–8)
  • Parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19–31)
  • Parable of The Early and Late Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1–16)
  • Parable of The Persistent Widow and Crooked Judge (Matthew 18:1–8)
  • Parable of The Pharisee and Tax Collector (Luke 18:10–14)
  • Parable of The King’s Ten Servants Given Minas (Luke 19:12–27)
  • Parable of Two Sons (Matthew 21:28–32)
  • Parable of The Wicked Tenants (Matthew 21:33–44; Mark 12:1–11; Luke 20:9–18)
  • Parable of Invitation to a Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22:2–14)
  • Parable of The Fig Tree and Signs of the Future (Matthew 24:32–35; Mark 13:28–29; Luke 21:29–31)
  • Parable of The Wise and Foolish Virgins (Matthew 25:1–13)
  • Parable of The Talents (Matthew 25:14–30)
  • Parable of The Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31–46)
  • Parable of The Sheep, Shepherd, and Gate (John 10:1–18)

Why Jesus Taught in Parables

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I love how R.C. Sproul explains the purpose of the Parables in the gospels and why Jesus taught in this way.

“Jesus explained that for those who have ears to hear, the parable provides a deeper understanding of Jesus’ teaching. But for those who don’t have ears to hear, the parable is actually an instrument of concealment. The parable was not given simply to make everything clear to people; it was also given to obscure meaning to those who are outside, who are not given understanding. That sounds somewhat harsh. Jesus came not only to instruct and to help people understand the kingdom of God, He came also as a judgment on those who don’t want to hear the truth.”

Only those who were willing to know the spiritual, kingdom truths were able to understand them. The stories weren’t meant to be difficult, but the hearer had to be willing to understand.

Practical Tips for Studying the Parables of Jesus

Here are some helpful and practical ways that you can start studying the different parables of Jesus for yourself!

Pray for Understanding

Always begin by asking the Holy Spirit to guide you in your study. He is the one who leads us into truth. 

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and remind you of all that I said to you. – John 14:26

Look for What the Parable Teaches About God’s Kingdom

Remember that a parable is an earthly story that reveals a kingdom truth. The story is meant to illustrate something about God’s kingdom. What is the kingdom being compared to? What 

Study Each Parable Within Its Own Context

The parables are meant to be interpreted within their own context. For example, we shouldn’t take the principles we learn from the story of the good samaritan and try to apply them in our interpretation of the story of the prodigal son. 

As you study each parable, look for the following:

  • Who is Jesus talking to?
  • What events had just happened?
  • Is Jesus replying to a question?

Research the Historical Context

When we want to interpret the parables we need to consider the historical culture and customs of the people that Jesus was originally speaking with. For example, if we want a proper understanding of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, it’s important to know that the Jews did not associate with Samaritans. 

Understanding the cultural norms of the day help will help us gain a proper understanding of the Parables of Jesus.

Look for the Big Idea Within the Parable

Parables are usually told to illustrate one or two main truths. Don’t try to look for a deeper meaning or pull symbolism out of every piece of the story. It is not necessary and even dangerous if we try to account for every single detail. If Jesus interprets the parable in detail (like in the parable of the sower), then ok. If not, just at the context of the parable and try to find the one or two main point that you think the Lord intended to teach.

How to Study the Parables of Jesus

Start Studying the Parables of Jesus

I hope these tips encourage you to start studying the parables for yourself. The parables were an important part of Jesus’ ministry while here on earth since they reveal, to those who have ears to hear, truths about the kingdom of God. There is much to learn from these stories that teach us about living as citizens of heaven. 

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