Jesus often used stories to teach. In fact, he used them so much so that the disciples directly asked him, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” (Matt. 13:10). CT has featured a wide variety of articles that examine and reflect upon the meaning of Jesus’ compelling and convicting stories. Here are some of our best articles on the parables of Jesus.
Jesus’ Use of Parables
In these articles, Virginia Stem Owens discusses Jesus’ intentional use of surprising teaching techniques, and William Childs Robinson explores how the parables weave together to point listeners and readers to Jesus himself.
The Prodigal Son
The story of the Prodigal Son is one of Jesus’ most well-known parables, and it has been discussed extensively in the pages of CT. It is the third in Jesus’ parable trilogy of lost things: a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son. Here are some of our best offerings on the prodigal: our 1998 cover story about the “pursuing” father, Miroslav Volf’s candid discussion of how the parable relates to forgiveness, and Carolyn Arends’s brief reflection on the older brother.
The Good Samaritan
The Good Samaritan and its accompanying conversation about loving one’s neighbor is central to our understanding of the gospel and Christian virtue. Here, L. Nelson Bell uses the Good Samaritan (as well as the parable of the sheep and the goats) to discuss how faith is evidenced in loving action. In addition, John Piper examines a common misunderstanding of Jesus’ listeners to explore a contemporary misunderstanding of this parable: an overemphasis on self-love.
The Sheep and the Goats
The parable of the sheep and the goats and Jesus’ teaching about treatment of “the least of these” is commonly referenced to discuss biblical justice and compassionate action. In this article, Andy Horvath asserts that many Christians today misunderstand the parable’s focus even as he affirms an emphasis on compassionate action in response to the gospel.
The Parable of the Sower
In the parable of the sower, Jesus uses various types of soil to illustrate the different ways people respond to the word of God. Here, Edith Schaeffer and L. Nelson Bell ruminate upon this parable, drawing out themes of evangelism, surrender, and discipleship.
The Persistent Widow and the Importunate Friend
Jesus told several parables related to prayer. In Luke 11, he described a person repeatedly seeking help from a friend; in Luke 18, he told the story of a determined widow dealing with an unjust judge. Here, Curtis C. Mitchell explores what both parables can teach us about cultivating persistence in prayer.
The Pharisee and the Tax Collector
In another of Jesus’ parables related to prayer, he describes a religious leader who looks down upon a tax collector praying nearby. Edith Schaeffer draws upon this parable (as well as Jesus’ teaching about a log in one’s eye) to reflect on the danger of self-righteousness. In addition, Mark R. McMinn discusses this parable alongside the Prodigal Son to explore the depth of God’s grace.
The Slavery Parable
Jesus’ story about servants (or slaves) in Luke 17:7–10 is one of his lesser-known parables. Here, Alec Hill expounds upon the parable, detailing spiritual lessons he’s gleaned from it about the nature of discipleship and obedience.
‘Consider the Cost’ Parables
Jesus told two stories in Luke 14 that illustrate the importance of considering the cost of discipleship. In this article, Andy Crouch meditates upon how these parables speak to and challenge American Christians.
The King and the Wedding Banquet
While many of Jesus’ parables powerfully depict God’s love, others may leave us scratching our heads. Here, Mark Galli comments upon one of Jesus’ more uncomfortable parables in which a king throws a man out of a banquet, exploring what the parable reveals about the kingdom of God.
The Pearl of Great Price
In response to a question about postmodernism, Allister McGrath draws upon Jesus’ parable of the pearl of great price to offer insights about evangelism. McGrath prompts readers to consider how highly we value the gospel.
The Parable of the Talents
Jesus’ story of servants who are given coins to steward on their master’s behalf is often used to discuss topics like financial stewardship or how people use their abilities for God’s glory. In this article, David L. McKenna connects the parable to a broader discussion of faith and work.
The Unforgiving Servant
Many of Jesus’ parables and word pictures illustrate the challenge of forgiveness. In this piece, Beth Booram examines how Jesus’ parable of an unforgiving servant invites us into a deeper application of Christlike forgiveness.
The Workers in the Vineyard
Jesus’ story about vineyard workers likely strikes us (and his original hearers) as unfair. This reaction was part of Jesus’ point. Caleb Rosado’s 1995 article uses the parable as a framework to discuss a contemporary issue: affirmative action. In addition, Femi B. Adeleye connects the parable to the importance of a Christians embracing global view of God’s work and the church.
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