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The Reason for parables

Jesus said many things to the crowds in the form of parables; in fact, he never told them anything that wasn’t a parable, though he explained them all to his disciples privately. This was to fulfill the prophecy, “I will speak to them using parables; I will express what has been concealed since the world was established.”

So when his disciples asked him why he did this, he answered, “The secrets of the kingdom of the heavens have been revealed to you but not to the crowds. For more will be given to those who already have, and they will have plenty. But from those who have little, what they have will be taken away. So I speak to them in parables because no matter how much they see and hear, they don’t understand.

“This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah where it says, ‘You will hear the report but not understand; you will look but not see. For these people’s minds have become thick; they’ve plugged their ears and shut their eyes. Otherwise, they’d turn to me and I would miraculously heal them.’ But be happy that your eyes see and your ears hear what the prophets and righteous people of old could not.”

Scattered seeds

“One day a farmer went out to scatter seeds. Some of them fell on the edges of the path, and the birds came along and ate them. Others fell on thin, rocky soil. They sprang up quickly but had little depth, so when the sun came up it scorched them, and they withered because they had no root. Still others fell among thorns, which sprang up and choked them out. But some fell on good soil and produced thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times more than was scattered. If you have ears, listen!”

Then Jesus explained the parable to his disciples: “Some who hear the message of the kingdom don’t understand it, so the evil one snatches away the message from their minds; this relates to the seeds falling along the edges of the path. The seeds that fell on rocky soil relates to those who hear the message and gladly accept it right away. But because they’re shallow and have no root, they don’t last long. When the problems and tests of life come along, the message planted in them is quickly sidetracked. The seeds falling among thorns relates to those who hear the message, but the anxieties of life and the allure of wealth choke it out, so they produce nothing. But the seeds that fell onto good soil relate to those who hear the message and understand it, so they produce a good crop up to thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times more than what was planted.”

The lamp analogy

“Nobody lights a lamp and then covers it or puts it under a bed; they put it on a lampstand to light up the whole room. For there is nothing hidden that won’t be revealed, and nothing hidden that won’t be revealed. In the same way, let your light shine before others so they can see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Mysterious seeds, tiny seeds, and yeast

The kingdom of God is like this: A farmer plants seeds and goes to bed, then wakes up the next day and the seed has sprouted and grown. The farmer has no idea how this happens; the earth just automatically produces the stalk, then the ear, and then the full head of grain. And when it ripens it is time to get out the sickle, because the harvest is ready.

It’s also like a mustard seed that someone planted in their field. Though it’s among the smallest of seeds, it grows to become one of the larger plants. In fact, it becomes the size of a tree, big enough for the birds to build nests in its branches.

Or think of it like yeast that a woman adds to three measures of flour; a tiny amount makes all the dough rise.

True and false believers

“The kingdom of the heavens is like someone who scattered good seed in his field, but during the night while everyone was asleep, his enemy came and scattered tares (weeds that look like wheat) all over the place and went away. So when the grain sprouted and grew, so did the tares. Then the workers went to the owner and asked, ‘Sir, didn’t you plant good seed in your field? So where did the tares come from?’

“‘An enemy did this!’ he replied.

“‘Do you want us to go and pull them out?’ asked the workers.

“‘No,’ he answered, ‘In the process of pulling the fake you might accidentally uproot the genuine. Let them all grow up together until the harvest. Then I’ll tell the reapers, “First gather up the tares and tie them into bundles to be burned, and then gather up the wheat and put it into my silo.”’”

Then Jesus’ disciples came to him and asked for the meaning the parable of the tares in the field, and this is what he said: “The one who planted good seed represents the Human, the field represents the world, the good seed represents the citizens of the kingdom, the tares represent the servants of the evil one, and the enemy who planted the tares is the devil. The harvest represents the end of the age, and the reapers represent the angels.

“Just as the tares are gathered and burned, so also will it be at the end of the age. The Human will send out his angels, and they will uproot the wicked from his kingdom. These will be thrown into the blazing furnace, where they will lament and grind their teeth. But the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, listen!”

Analogies of the kingdom of the heavens

“The kingdom of the heavens is like a treasure hidden in a field. When someone discovers it, they cover it up again and then gladly go out and sell everything they have in order to buy that field. Or think of it as a merchant looking for beautiful pearls. When they find a superb specimen, they go out and sell everything they have in order to buy it.”

“Yet another way to think of it is like a dragnet thrown into the sea, where it collects all kinds of fish. When it’s full, it’s hauled to shore and they sort the fish, putting the good ones into containers and throwing the bad ones back. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the evil from the righteous, and the evil will be thrown into the blazing furnace where they will lament and grind their teeth.”

The Good Samaritan

A lawyer stood up to provoke Jesus: “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the law?” he replied. “How do you understand it?”

And his answer was, “You must love the Master your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

“Correct,” Jesus replied. “If you do this, you will live.”

But he wanted to make himself look clever so he asked, “And exactly who is my neighbor?”

Accepting the challenge, Jesus said, “A certain person was on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked by muggers. They stripped off his clothes, beat him up, and left him there half dead. By coincidence a certain priest went down that same road, but he passed by on the other side. Likewise, a Levite came to that same spot and saw him, but he too passed by on the other side.

“But when a Samaritan came along and saw him, he was moved with pity. He went over to him and applied ointment and bandages to his wounds. Then he put him on his own animal and took him to an inn to be cared for. As he left the next day he gave two days’ wages to the innkeeper and said to him, ‘Take care of him, and if you incur additional expenses, I will compensate you when I return.’ So which of these three do you suppose was being a neighbor to the one who was mugged?”

“The one who had pity on him,” the lawyer replied.

Then Jesus said, “Now go and do likewise!”

The Rich Fool

Then someone from the crowd said, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the estate with me!” But Jesus replied, “You there— who appointed me as the judge or executor of your estate?” And then he said to them, “Watch and be on your guard against all kinds of greed, because your life is not found in the abundance of your possessions.”

Then he gave them this parable: “There was a rich person whose farm produced a bumper crop. And he began to think to himself, ‘What will I do with all this? I have no place to put it. I know… I’ll demolish the existing barns and build bigger ones! Then I will fill them with all my grain and possessions, and say to myself, “Man, you have it made for many years to come. Let the party begin!”’ But God said to him, ‘Dimwit! This very night your life will be demanded back from you, and then who will benefit from all your preparations?’ And so it will also be for those who store up riches only for themselves and care nothing for God.”

The guests and the banquet

Then Jesus noticed that the guests at a banquet all selected the best seats possible, so he turned to them and gave them a parable: “Whenever you happen to be invited to weddings, don’t take the most prominent seats for yourselves. What if someone more important than you has been invited, and you are asked to give up your seat for them? Then, in humiliation, you will have to take the worst seat.

“Instead, when you’re invited, take the seat farthest back. Then the one who invited you may say to you, ‘Friend, come and sit farther up’, and you will be honored in front of everyone else. For all who promote themselves will be humiliated, but all who humble themselves will be promoted.”

Then he said to the host, “Whenever you host a luncheon or dinner, don’t invite your friends, siblings, relatives, and rich neighbors, because they may invite you to theirs and pay you back. Instead, invite the destitute, the disabled, the lame, and the blind. Then you will be blessed, because even though they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Upon hearing this, one of the guests said to him, “Blessed is the one who eats at the luncheon in the kingdom of God!”

Then Jesus said this: “A certain person prepared a lavish banquet and invited many guests. So when dinner time came, a servant was sent to all the invited guests to say, ‘Come! The banquet is ready.’ But one after another began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I’m sorry, but I just bought a field and must go to inspect it.’ Another said, ‘I’m sorry, but I just bought five pairs of oxen and must try them out.’ And another said, ‘I just got married and cannot come.’

“So the servant returned and reported this to the master. Then the homeowner became angry and said to the servant, ‘Go out quickly to the city square and into the streets, and invite the destitute, the disabled, the blind, and the crippled to my banquet!’

“Then the slave reported, ‘I’ve done what you said, but there is still room for more’.

“So the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the lanes and outskirts of town and urge them to come in, so my house will be completely filled. I tell you, not one of those original invited guests will get a taste of my dinner!’ ”

The lost sheep, coin, and son

All the tax contractors and scoundrels were coming to hear him. And the religious leaders grumbled, “This one welcomes scoundrels and even eats with them!” But he replied to them with a parable:

“If you had a hundred sheep but lost one, which of you would not leave the 99 others out in the open and go after the lost one until you found it? And when you did, you would put it on your shoulders and go home happy. Then you’d call together your friends and neighbors and say, ‘Celebrate with me, because I found my lost sheep!’ But I tell you, this is the kind of happiness there will be in heaven whenever one scoundrel turns to God, rather than the 99 who have no such need.

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins. If she loses one, won’t she light a lamp and sweep the house, looking carefully until she finds it? And when she does, she will call together her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Celebrate with me, because I found the silver coin I lost!’ Likewise, I tell you, there is happiness in the presence of the angels of God on account of one scoundrel who turns to him.”

Then he continued: “A certain person had two sons. The younger one said to him, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate’. So he divided the property between them. Shortly thereafter the younger son packed all his belongings and went abroad to a far-away land. He squandered his property in extravagant living, spending everything he had. But then a severe famine came upon the land, and he began to be in need.

“So he got in touch with one of the local citizens, who sent him into his fields to tend hogs. And he longed to be filled with the husks the pigs were fed, but no one gave him anything. He finally came to his senses and said to himself, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands get plenty of food, yet here I am starving to death! I will get up and go to my father and say, “Father, I have failed both heaven and you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son, so please make me like one of your hired hands.”’

“So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still some distance away, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran toward him and greeted him fondly. And the son started to say to him, ‘Father, I have failed both heaven and you an am no longer worthy to be called your son…’ But the father said to his workers, ‘Quick! Get the finest robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. Get the fattened calf and kill it so we can have a party! For my son was dead but now lives; he was lost but now is found!’ And so the party began.

“Now the older son was in the field, and as he came near the house he heard music and dancing. So he called for one of the household help to find out what all this was about. And they replied, ‘It’s because your brother has returned. Your father had the fattened calf killed, because your brother came back safe and sound.’ But the older brother was angry and refused to enter the house, so his father came out to comfort him.

“But the son said to him, ‘Look, in all the years I slaved for you, I never disobeyed a single order you gave me. Yet you never even gave me a goat for a party for my friends. But when this son of yours comes back after wasting your property on hookers, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

“But the father replied, ‘My child, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we must celebrate and be happy, because your brother was dead but now lives; he was lost and now is found!’ ”

The wicked steward

Jesus said to his disciples, “A certain rich person had a house manager who was accused of being wasteful with the rich person’s assets. So he called him in and said, ‘What is this I’m hearing about you? Give your final report, because you are no longer my administrator.’

“Then the house manager said to himself, ‘What am I going to do, now that my boss is firing me? I don’t have the strength to dig and I’m too proud to beg. I know what I’ll do! And when I’m let go, people will welcome me into their homes.’ So he summoned each one who owed his master money. And he said to the first one, ‘How much do you owe my master?’

“ ‘A hundred measures of olive oil’, he replied.

“ ‘Quick, get your invoice,’ he said, ‘Sit down and write fifty instead.’

“He then asked another how much they owed, and they said ‘A hundred bags of grain.’

“And he said, ‘Get your invoice and change it to eighty.’

“The master had to commend the crooked house manager for his cleverness, because the people of the world are more savvy in their dealings with each other than are the people of light. They make friends with those who benefitted from cheating, so that when their wealth is gone they will be welcomed into their homes. Plan ahead for eternal homes!”

The unmerciful servant

“It’s like this in the kingdom of the heavens: A certain king wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And as he began, someone who owed him an enormous sum of money was brought before him. But he couldn’t pay it, so the master ordered that he, his wife and children, and all his possessions were to be sold in order to pay the debt.

“The servant dropped to his knees and begged, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full!’ The master was moved with compassion and forgave the debt. But after he was let go, the servant went out from there to go after a fellow servant who owed him about a year’s wages. Grabbing him by the throat he demanded, ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ So that servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me and I will pay you back!’ But he refused and had him thrown into prison until he paid back every bit of his debt.

“But the other servants saw what he did and were very upset. So they went to the master and informed him of what had happened. Then the master called that servant in and said to him, ‘You evil servant! I forgave all that debt you owed me, just because you asked. So why didn’t you have the same pity on your fellow servant?’ Then in his rage his master handed him over to the torturers until he had paid every last bit of his debt. And so it will be with my Father in the heavens, if you won’t forgive your sisters and brothers from the heart.”

The persistent widow

Then he gave them another parable, to illustrate the need to always pray and not give up: “There was a judge in a certain city who had no fear of God and no regard for anyone. There was also a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him to plead for justice against her accuser. For a while he ignored her, but eventually he said to himself, ‘I have no fear of God and no regard for anyone. But since this widow is wearing me down, I will see that she gets justice— before she gets violent!’”

Then Jesus added, “Notice what the unjust judge is saying. But won’t God do even more to vindicate his chosen ones who plead for help day and night? Will he keep them waiting? I tell you that he will vindicate them, and do it quickly. But the question is, will the Human find faith on the earth when he comes?”

The religious leader and the tax contractor

Jesus gave yet another parable, this time to those who are self-righteous and think themselves better than others: “Two people went up to the temple to pray; one was a religious leader and the other was a tax contractor. The religious leader stood there and prayed to himself, ‘I am grateful to you, God, because I’m not like everyone else: extortioners, cheaters, adulterers… and especially this tax contractor. I fast every Monday and give a tenth of everything I acquire.’

“But the tax contractor stood at a distance, not even lifting his eyes to heaven. Instead, he beat his chest and said, ‘God, please take away my guilt!’ I tell you, it was this one and not the other who went home cleared of all charges. Those who exalt themselves will be humiliated, but those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Early and late workers

“Let me tell you about the kingdom of the heavens: It’s like a landowner who went out one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He offered the usual amount for a day’s work and they agreed, so he sent them off to his vineyard. About three hours later he went out and saw others loitering in the marketplace, so he said to them, ‘Go out to my vineyard and I’ll pay you a fair wage.’

“They went off to work, and then after about another three hours he repeated this, and again three hours after that. Even a couple hours after that he still found more people standing around, and he said to them, ‘Why have you been standing around all day, doing nothing?’

“ ‘No one has hired us,’ they replied.

“ ‘Come to my vineyard,’ he said.

“Now when evening came the owner said to his paymaster, ‘Call in the workers and pay them their wages, starting with the last hired and ending with the first.’ Then the last ones hired came and were given a full day’s wages, so the first ones hired expected to be given more. But when they too were given a full day’s wages, they complained to the landowner: ‘These who only worked one hour were given the same pay as we who did the bulk of the work and endured the scorching heat!’

“So the landowner explained to one of the workers, ‘Buddy, I have not cheated you. Didn’t you agree to a day’s wages? Take your pay and go; isn’t it my business if I want to give the last hired the same pay as you? Can’t I do what I want? Are you angry with me because I am kind?’ “And that’s how it will be: The last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Good and useless servants

“It’s also like this: Someone about to travel abroad called his servants together and put them in charge of his possessions. To one he gave five loads of money, to another two, and to another one, each according to their ability. As soon as he was gone, the one with five loads of money put it to work in the markets and earned five more. Likewise, the one with two loads of money earned two more. But the one with one load of money went out, dug a hole in the ground, and hid the money his master had given him.

“After a long time the master returned to settle accounts with his servants. First the one with five loads of money brought that plus the five earned and said, ‘Master, you gave me five loads of money, but as you can see, I’ve earned five more.’

“ ‘Well done, good and trustworthy servant!’ exclaimed the master. ‘And since you were faithful with a little, I will put you in charge of a lot. Come and celebrate with me!’

“Next was the one with two loads of money, who said, ‘Master, you gave me two loads of money, but as you can see, I’ve earned two more.’

“ ‘Well done, good and trustworthy servant!’ the master exclaimed. ‘And since you were faithful with a little, I will put you in charge of a lot. Come and celebrate with me!’

“Then the last one came and said, ’Master, I knew that you’re a tough guy who gets other people to plant the seed while you reap the harvest, and I was afraid you’d do that to me. So I planted your money in the ground, and here’s your harvest!’

“ ‘You evil, lazy servant!’ snarled the master. ‘So you knew I reaped the benefits of other people’s work, did you? Then you should have put my money on deposit at the bank where it would at least have earned interest! Take the load of money from this one and give it to the one with ten loads of money, for those who have a lot will be given more, and those who have little will have it taken away. Then take this useless servant and throw him out into the darkness, where they wail and grind their teeth!’

Two children and their choices

“Here’s something for you to think about: Suppose someone had two children, and he told the first one to go out and work in the vineyard that day. But that one said, ‘No, I don’t want to,’ yet later they felt bad about it and went out anyway. The same question was put to the other one, who said, ‘Yes, sir’ but didn’t go. So which one actually did what the father wanted?”

“The first,” the religious leaders answered.

And Jesus replied, “I can assure you that tax contractors and immoral people will enter the kingdom of God before you do! For John came to you walking the path of righteousness and you didn’t believe him. But tax contractors and immoral people believed him, and even when you saw that you still didn’t change your ways!

Wicked tenants

“Listen to another parable: A certain landowner planted a vineyard, put up a wall around it, dug a wine press, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenant farmers and went traveling abroad. When it came time for the harvest, he sent his servants to the tenant farmers to get the produce. But they grabbed the servants and beat up one, killed another, and threw stones at yet another. So he sent more servants than before, and they did the same to them.

“Finally he sent his own son, thinking ‘They will respect my son!’ But when the tenant farmers saw him they said to each other, ‘This is the heir; come on, let’s kill him, and then we will inherit the vineyard!’ So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Now when the landowner comes, what do you think he’ll do to those tenant farmers?”

“He will wipe out those criminals!” the religious leaders answered, “And he’ll lease the vineyard to others who will give him his due share of the crop.”

So then Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures, ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. The Master has done this, and it is a wonderful thing to see!’? This is why I’m telling you that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation that will give God what belongs to him!” And when they heard this, they realized he was talking about them. So they wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowd, who considered him a prophet.

The wedding feast

“The kingdom of the heavens is like a king arranging a wedding for his son. He sent out servants to tell the invited guests to come to the wedding, but they would not come. So he sent out servants again with the instructions, ‘Tell the invited guests, “Look, the meal is ready; the meat is prepared and everything is set. Come to the wedding!” But again they ignored him; one went out to his fields, another to his business, and the rest grabbed his servants, beat them up, and killed them.

“The king was furious and sent soldiers to wipe out those murderers and set their city on fire. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but the invited guests were unworthy. So go out to the highways and invite anyone you find to the wedding.’ So they went out to the roads and gathered up whoever they found, whether good or bad, and the dining hall was full.

“But when the king came in to greet the guests, he saw someone there who wasn’t wearing proper wedding attire. So he said, ‘Buddy, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ But he was speechless. So the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him up by his hands and feet, and throw him out into the darkness, where people lament and grind their teeth!’ For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

Wise and foolish women

“The kingdom of the heavens is also like this: Ten single women carried torches as they went out to wait for the bridegroom. But five were foolish and five were sensible, because the foolish ones didn’t take any extra oil along, as the sensible ones did. And since the bridegroom was delayed a long time, they all dozed off and fell asleep.

“In the middle of the night came the shout, ‘Look, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ So the single women all woke up and prepared their torches. Then the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, ‘Give us some of your oil; our torches have gone out.’ But the sensible ones replied, ‘No, there’s not enough for all of us. You’ll have to go to the market and buy more for yourselves.’ While they were gone the bridegroom arrived, so the sensible ones entered with him to the wedding, and then the door was locked. When the others came back later on, they pleaded, ‘Sir, sir, open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘I honestly don’t know who you are.’ So be alert! You don’t know the day or the hour.”

Trees and fruit

“If you plant a good tree you get good fruit, but if you plant a bad tree you get bad fruit. So a tree is known by the fruit it makes. You pit of poisonous snakes! How can good speech come from evil people? The mouth speaks whatever comes from the mind, so a good person expresses the good stored inside of them, and an evil person expresses the evil stored inside of them. And on Judgment Day, people will have to account for every little remark they made. You will either be acquitted or condemned by your own words.”

At last

“Do you understand this now?” Jesus asked his disciples.

“Yes,” they replied.

Then Jesus added, “So then, every scripture scholar who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of the heavens is like someone who owns a house and furnishes it with both new things and old things from storage.”

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