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The Parables of Jesus: Those Recorded by All Three Gospel Writers

Johan Smulders has a . B.A, B.ED and M.A in Education, Theology and Counselling. Works as an evangelist and counsellor.


Parables of Jesus: Those Found in All Three Gospels

Of the about 40 parables recorded in the so called “Synoptic Gospels”, there are only about 5 or 6 recorded in all three Gospels. The exact number of Parables is difficult to determine as different scholars define what exactly a parable is in slightly different ways. So in front of me I have four lists that vary a bit. At the same time there is an overall consensus to be found, and we will go with that.

The parables that are found in all three Gospels include hiding a light under a lamp, new patches and wineskins, the sower, small beginnings, the tenants in the vineyard and finally unfruitful religion. Taken as a whole, the reason why they were considered important enough to be included by all three Gospel writers is that they mainly answer the questions that are related to the Jewish leaders and the way in which their handling of their responsibility as God’s chosen people had failed.

A question that came up when Jesus started his ministry was why he and his disciples were not fasting as the Jewish leaders and even John the Baptist and his followers where? Instead Jesus seemed to be introducing a new attitude towards life in general and ignored the keeping of religious rituals that had become very important in Israel and Judah. In the book of Amos, the prophet had written, speaking on God’s behalf: “I hate, I despise your religious feasts, I cannot stand your assemblies” (Amos 5:21 – used with permission NIV). What God required of his people was justice and mercy and what they gave him was rituals and falsehood. That was the world Jesus came into and the contrast between his teaching and the empty religion of the nation, stood in stark contrast. So he answers their questions with a little story about a wedding feast consisting of joy and happiness while the long faces and miserable lives of the Jewish leaders could only find fault and criticise the new voice of God among them.

Obviously because the teaching of Jesus stood in strong contrast to the false teaching of the religious leaders, it became apparent that a totally new way was needed. In comparison to the teaching of blessings that come through following the teaching of Jesus, the old way had to be replaced. They simply could not mix. So the parables about the new wine in old wine skins and the new patch on an old cloth illustrate a new way, something that the religious leaders could neither understand nor accept. Religion caught is falsehood cannot see the light of truth. So this new way has to become apparent like a light shining in the darkness. This new way of thinking, that is the good news, should not and cannot be hidden. So Jesus teaches the little story of the lamp standing in the open. Here Jesus describes a rather ridiculous situation of a lamp under a bowl, to illustrate an important truth. The effect of a religious life is testimony to its value. It has to be seen to be believed

In the parable about the builder who constructs his house on a solid foundation Jesus clearly illustrates the failure of Israel to build the kind of religion that God intended. When God revealed his will through Moses and the prophets, the responsibility was to live lives that trusted and stood for all that was good, even when opposition came. Instead the religious leaders of Jesus time had built their lives on greed that lead to what Jesus found when he went up to the temple in Jerusalem. What was meant to be a place of worship and joy had become a den of thieves.

So also in the story of the sower, that every inhabitant of the country could clearly understand, the message was clear but difficult to apply. The obvious problems that existed in Israel were not with the seed, the word of God, but with the hearts of those who failed to open their hearts to the message. They were so busy building their political futures that they failed to understand that God wanted changed lives, filled with love and mercy.

Instead of gladly accepting the message that a loving God kept sending over the ages through the prophets and then through Jesus they killed the messengers. So Jesus taught the parable of the tenant and the workers. A stark reminder of the way that the Jews had rejected and continued to reject God’s messengers, and in fact put them to death!

As Jesus and his few followers faced the might of false religion in Jerusalem, a small seed was being planted. Just like a mustard seed germinates, grows and produces a big shrub, so the seed of what Jesus was teaching was to do the same. These three gospel writers recorded what Jesus had said, if not on a scroll, then certainly on their hearts. Many years later they would pen them in the Gospel accounts that we still have today. From that seed came dramatic changes to the world because of its transforming power. Even today the message of these few parables recorded by all three writers need to echo around the world. In doing so it has the power to change the hearts of men and women, boys and girls, as it shines like a bright light of hope in the darkness of a lost world.


Lightfoot, Neil - The Parables of Jesus.

Bakers Bible Dictionary

Scriptures taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, Copyright 1973,1978,1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The "NIV" and "New International Version" trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

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