PARABLES OF THE KINGDOM
A parable may be defined as any short story, bordering on familiar events or everyday experience, with the aim of illustrating a religious or moral situation. In the course of his teaching, Jesus used so many parables to illustrate his teachings, with the aim of making the people to understand such teachings.
Some of such parables bordered on the nature of the kingdom of God, the love of God, as well as concern for one another. As for the parables illustrating the kingdom of God, Jesus’ focus were on its nature, its coming and the qualifications for entering it. The following parables illustrate the kingdom of God.
The Sower -Matthew 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-20
Both Matthew and Mark give an account of this parable in which Jesus tells us about a certain farmer who went to sow his seeds. Some fell on the footpath and were devoured by the birds. Others fell on rocky spots with little earth, germinated, but owing to the fact that the roots could not get to the soil because of the rocks, they withered under the scorching heat. The others fell among thorns, germinated but were choked up by the thorns. Finally, the rest fell on good fertile soil, germinated well, grew up and bore plenty fruits.
Interpretation Of The Parable
According to Jesus, the seeds that fell on the footpath or way side represent people who receive the word of God, but cannot understand it. The birds represent the devil who immediately, diverts their attention from what they heard and thereby, denying them the kingdom of God.
The seeds that fell on the rocky spots represent people who receive the word with joy, but due to the tribulations and persecutions that follow the gospel, they fall aside, as they cannot endure. As for the seeds that fell among thorns, they represent those who hear the word, but because of their love for the material things of this world, they get deceived by such materialism which also chokes the word and as a result, they don’t bear fruits.
Finally, the seeds that fell on good soil represent the people who hear the gospel, understand it and bear fruit as well; some hundred fold, some sixty and others thirty.
Significance Or Lessons To Learn From The Parable
- In the world today, different people receive the word of God differently. The way one received it determines his reward kingdom of God or hell fire.
- Entering into the kingdom of God depends on our ability to receive the word, understand it and bear fruits. That is to say, passing it to others as well as growing in the word.
- If we do not receive the word of God positively and put it into practice, we will not enter into the kingdom of God. We will just die and go to hell.
- Problems and tribulations can make one miss the kingdom of God.
- Even among the doers of the word of God, their outputs differ, as well as their reward, depending on each person’s commitment.
The Mustard Seed -Matthew 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18-19
Unlike the parable of the sower, the three synoptic gospels have an account of the parable of the Mustard Seed. Jesus’ teaching on this parable focuses on the fact that the Mustard Seed is like the kingdom of God in that it is the tiniest seed on earth, but if planted, it grows to become the biggest in the garden, with branches, many enough to allow birds to make nests on them.
Significance Of The Parable
- The gospel began with only Jesus and his twelve apostles, but today, every part of the world has received it.
- The kingdom of God is such a large entity, but entering it is simple: a mere belief in Jesus guarantees us entry.
The Wheat And Tares -Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43
Only Matthew gives an account of this parable which Jesus also used to illustrate the kingdom of God. A man planted good seeds on his farm and went home, but in the night his enemy went and planted tares (weeds) in the midst of the good seeds and both germinated.
The man’s labourers discovered the tares in the farm and sought their master’s permission to uproot them. But the master declined, saying that it was risky as the wheat may unintentionally be uprooted in the process of uprooting the tares.
He rather suggested that both the tares and wheat be allowed to grow together until harvest, when the tares will be harvested first and burnt, and the wheat stored in the barn.
Interpretation Of The Parable
According to Jesus, the sower of the wheat is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seeds are children of the kingdom, the tares are children of the wicked one the (devil), the enemy that sowed the tares is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world while the reapers are the angels.
As the tares will be gathered and burnt, so will the end of the world be when the angels shall gather together the evildoers and put them into hell while the righteous shall enter into the kingdom of God.
Significance Of The Parable
- The wheat and the tares teach us that today, both evildoers and the righteous exist in the church. It is only Jesus that can judge or condemn anyone when he shall come.
- At the end of time, evildoers will be punished while the righteous shall be rewarded in the kingdom of God.
- We should be very careful about the devil, who is capable of intentionally making us to sin and by so doing miss the kingdom of God.
- There is room for repentance for the evil doers as the wheat and tares are allowed to grow together.
The Seed Growing Secretly – Mark 4:26-29
Jesus gave another illustration of what the kingdom of God is like. A farmer planted seeds in a field and then went on with his other activities. After some time, the seeds grew without the farmer’s help because the earth produces crops on its own. As soon as the grain was ready, the farmer came and harvested it with a sickle.
Interpretation Of The Parable
This parable illustrates the spiritual, incomprehensible and invisible nature of God’s kingdom. The only job performed by the farmer is just to sow . How the seeds germinate, grow and bear fruits, he does not know. He only returns at the time of harvest to reap. So is the kingdom of God. The lesson we can learn here is that entering the kingdom of God is not by merit but by the grace of God.
Inside us, God directs our affairs and prepares us towards repentance and by extension, into His kingdom. It is not by our power or righteousness, but by God’s grace.
Significance of the Parable
- The word of God that is well received will one day germinate, grow and bring forth fruits.
- Entering the kingdom of God does not require struggling but total surrender to God and his word.
PARABLES ILLUSTRATING GOD’S LOVE
Matthew 18:12-14; Luke 15:1-32
As earlier mentioned, most of the parables Jesus used in his teaching illustrate God’s love for us. In this chapter, we shall discuss three of such parables- The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin and The Prodigal Son.
The Lost Sheep -Luke 15:3-7
Tax collectors and sinners gathered to listen to Jesus as he preached. But the Pharisees and Scribes began to murmur, saying to one another – “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” It was this reaction that gave rise to this parable. Jesus, perceiving what was in their mind, declared unto them:
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbours, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for l have found my sheep which was lost’. Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. ” (Luke 15:3-7)
The Lost Coin: -Luke 15:8-10
Jesus follows up the parable of the lost sheep with that of the lost coin, both of which are similar in scope and content. He teaches about a woman having ten silver coins. But she loses one and puts on a lamp and searches for it until she finds it. Finding it, she calls her friends and neighbours and asks them to rejoice with her for finding her lost coin. Jesus ends the parable by declaring that so is the joy in heaven before the angels of God over a sinner who repents. This implies that God has concern for sinners and he is expecting their repentance.
The Prodigal Son -Luke 15:11-32
To further illustrate God’s love for us, Jesus told the people a parable about a certain man who has two sons, and the younger asked his father to give him the share of property belonging to him, while the father was yet alive. The father obliged him and the , young man took his share, travelled to a distant town where he squandered it in reckless living.
Eventually, there was a great famine in that land. Having no more money, he began a job of feeding pigs. Things were still so difficult for him that he desired to feed together with the pigs. But the food was not available for him. However, one day, he came back to his senses and decided to go back to his father to ask for forgiveness, instead of dying of hunger in a foreign land. He said he would ask his father to make him one of his servants and no longer be treated as a son. He then went to his father.
Sighting his son while he was still afar off, the father ran and embraced him and kissed him and was very happy to see his presumed lost son. He declared to his servants:
“Bring quickly the best robe and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:22-24)
However, the elder son of the man was not happy over the royal reception given to the prodigal son; he said that since he had been working with the father, toiling everyday, serving their father, he had never been given anything to make merry with his friends. But his father reminded him that he (the son) was always with him, hence, all he (the father) had, belonged to him (the son), whereas his younger brother was dead, and is alive, lost and is found.
The Significance Of The Parables Illustrating God’s Love And Lessons To Learn From Such Parables
- God readily forgives any sinner who repents, no matter the gravity of his sin.
- We should not be unhappy when our neighbours receive a favour from God. Instead, we should rejoice with those rejoicing. The elder son’s reaction in the parable of the prodigal son is not commendable.
- Self-righteousness of one person should not justify the baa condemnation of another person as shown by the character of the elder son in the parable of the prodigal son.
- God’s love is both for sinners and the righteous.
- We should not be ashamed to confess our sins to God no matter the enormity, we should do what the prodigal son did.
- For anyone who repents and returns to God, God treats him, not as a villain, but as a prince or heir. God does not cast anybody away.
- The prodigal son’s decision to return as a servant and not as a son is a lesson in humility.
- From the parable of the lost sheep and coin, we learn that God never rests in the search of a sinner, until he finds him.
- The whole host of heaven rejoices over the repentance of one sinner.
- God’s love is two-pronged: for both the sinners who have realized themselves and repented, and the ones who are yet to become. aware of their sins let alone think of repentance.
PARABLES ILLUSTRATING CONCERN FOR ONE ANOTHER -Luke 10:25-37; 16:19-31
Apart from the parables illustrating the kingdom of God and God’s love for us, Jesus also taught people, using parables illustrating our own love and concern for one another. Just as God loves us, he also demands that we too, love one another and show concern to their welfare. This is what the parables of the Good Samaritan and Lazarus and the Rich Man portray.
The Good Samaritan – Luke 10:25-37
This parable is about a traveller going from the city of Jerusalem to Jericho, who was robbed and wounded by robbers, leaving him half dead. Along that way a priest came by and seeing the wounded man, crossed to the other side of the road and passed, ignoring the man.
In the same manner, a Levite came and left as well, without lending any help to the wounded man. However, later, another man came by, a Samaritan from another tribe. Unlike the priest and the Levite, the Samaritan stopped, ministered to the man in need, nursed his wounds, put him on his ass and took him to an inn, where he negotiated for further medical treatment, with a firm promise to pay the bill on his way back.
This parable was in response to a question asked Jesus by a lawyer about the meaning of a neighbour. At the end of the parable, Jesus then asked the lawyer to say who among the three passersby was the wounded man’s neighbour. The lawyer, apparently understanding the parable, answered correctly by saying “the Samaritan”.
Lazarus And The Rich Man -Luke 16:19- 31
Jesus also told another parable concerning a rich man and a poor man named Lazarus. The rich man was so rich that he threw a banquet very often, living in total affluence and luxury. On the other hand, Lazarus was so poor that he ate crumbs left for the dogs feeding under the rich man’s table. To make matters worse, the body of Lazarus was covered with sores that he practically smelled and dogs used to lick his sores.
Suddenly, both died. Lazarus was taken to paradise by the angels to rest in Abraham’s bosom; whereas the rich man found himself in torment inside hell. Looking across the great chasm (pit) between the two scenes, the rich man saw Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom and beckoned on Abraham to send Lazarus to bring him some water to quench his burning thirst, a request which Abraham turned down on the ground that the rich man had had more than enough enjoyment on earth while Lazarus too had had his own period of suffering on earth.
Beside, the impossible chasm posed a great barrier between them, that no one could cross it. Then the rich man made another request -that Abraham should send someone to the world to help warn his brothers not to follow his bad examples, so they will not find themselves in his present position. Again, Abraham turned the request down on grounds that so many prophets, including Moses were already doing the same job of preaching. Let his brothers listen to them. He said that if they refuse to listen to Moses and the prophets, neither would they listen if anyone should come from the dead.
The Significance Of Parables Illustrating Concern For One Another And Lessons To Learn From Such Parables
- God does not discriminate in his love. He loves all.
- We should lend a helping hand to those in need despite where such people come from. The Samaritan who later turned out to be of immense help to the accident victim was not a Jew. He was a Samaritan, a tribe hated by Jews and counted as sinners. His own brothers who preach everyday in the synagogues refused to show concern for him.
- A neighbour is not necessarily one living very close to us but anyone who needs our help.
- We should always try to do what we preach, unlike the priest and the Levite, those hypocrites.
- We should not hate anyone because that person we hate may be the one who will show concern to our need.
- Lack of concern for one another is a sin. The only sin the rich man committed was that he was in a position to show concern for Lazarus, but did not.
- While we are alive, we should try and accept the gospel, as there is no repentance in the grave.
- Not showing enough concern for our neighbours is enough to send us to hell.
- Wealth is not a sin per se, but failure to assist others with it.
- We should render assistance to others no matter how little it may be if it is within our reach.
- Once we are dead, we can no longer make amends. While alive, let us love one another.
- Let us not show concern for only what we will benefit from, but out of pure love.
- We should not show concern to those that are close to us alone but to everybody that needs our help.
- Lack of concern for one’s neighbour is a sin, a grave one at that, capable of sending us to hell.
- Actually, the rich man did not maltreat Lazarus at all. So what was his sin for which he went to hell? He failed to show concern to his neighbour whereas he had more than enough resources to do that.
- Let us not show concern to only our neighbours, but to anyone who really needs our help.