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The Parables of Jesus Explained

What is the meaning of the Parables of Jesus

The Parables of Jesus Christ are some of the most well-known and well-loved passages in the Bible. This resource page of The Parables of Jesus Explained is designed to help you bring Jesus’ messages into your heart and life. Each parable has a meaning that had context at the time Jesus spoke them, but they still apply to life today. Our List of Parables and Their Meaning downloadable pdf is a free printable resource you can use to get a good overview of the meaning of the parables.

The Parables of Jesus Christ are some of the most well-known and well-loved passages in the Bible. This resource page of The Parables of Jesus Explained is designed to help you bring Jesus’ messages into your heart and life.

Jesus with His Disciples. The Parables of Jesus Christ Explained

What is a Parable?

Oxford Dictionary defines a parable as a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson, as told by Jesus in the Gospels. The parables describe ordinary circumstances and situations that people can understand easily, but their moral lessons teach us how to live as faithful Christians, as God intended.

Jesus used parables to teach the people about God’s Kingdom and the way to salvation. At first, the stories (parables) he tells may not seem to have anything to do with God or salvation.

Why did Jesus speak in parables?

The disciples asked Jesus why he spoke in parables in Matthew 13:10. His short answer is in Matthew 13:13 NIV. The whole conversation is: Matthew 13:10-17.

This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

The people weren’t open to God’s message and most were skeptical of Jesus. His messages were unpopular because they challenged people to change in ways they didn’t want to. Jesus chose to teach using parables because it was simpler for people to understand stories about familiar situations than about the abstract afterlife and judgment of God. Even so, the meaning of the parables could be difficult to grasp. To help you extract the most value, each parable is broken down into life lessons below.

Are parables still relevant today?

Sometimes we can’t see how the parables are relevant to us today. But be assured that every parable applies and speaks to each of us today. They provide directions to help us navigate the journey to eternal salvation. God’s expectations never change and the journey to reach Him never changes.

I pray you will take the time to learn more about the spiritual meaning and lessons in the parables that Jesus spoke for your benefit so long ago. He’s inviting you to walk down the path to salvation. Will you accept his invitation?

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What do the Parables of Jesus teach us?

Each parable teaches us about living a life that’s pleasing to God. Typically each parable includes several takeaways that apply to all of us. In the following articles, we offer ways in which the message and meaning in the parables can help keep you on the path to eternal life with Jesus.

How many Parables of Jesus are there?

With the various bible translations and how a parable is defined, the number of parables of Jesus is debatable. For example, if we use the New International Version (NIV) and consider the stories that are identified as parables in the Bible heading sections, then there are 24 Parables of Jesus.

This may vary per other Bible translations and there are other stories included that might also be considered parables, such as Jesus cursing the fig tree and the barren fig tree, which aren’t included as Parable headings in the NIV translation.

What are Jesus’s most famous parables?

As of 2023, the Top 5 most commonly searched Parables of Jesus are the following, in order of internet search volume.

  1. Parable of the Talents
  2. Parable of the Prodigal Son (Parable of the Lost Son)
  3. Parable of the Lost Sheep
  4. Parable of the Good Samaritan
  5. Parable of the Lost Coin

What are the 38 Parables of Jesus?

Thirty-eight seems to be the most settled-upon number of the Parables of Jesus, although there are slight variations in what those parables actually are. In my Parables of Jesus list below, you will find 39 parables of Jesus, as I’ve included any that have been noted as parables in the Gospels.

The Parables of Jesus List

The list below gives you a Bible verse reference, a summary of each parable, and a link to the Parable lessons for us today. The Parables of Jesus are ordered alphabetically in the list according to the most popular name, although their alternative names are also included.

38 Parables of Jesus List and Their Meanings

ParableReferenceParables of Jesus Meaning/SummaryLesson
Parable of the Barren Fig Tree (Parable of the Unfruitful Fig Tree, Unfruitful Tree)Luke 13:6God is generous, slow to anger, and shows mercy. However, we shouldn’t count on His patience to be endless. He has expectations that we will bear fruit at some point for His Kingdom by following Him. At some point, the barren trees will be cut down.HERE
Cost of Being a Disciple, Counting the Cost, The Cost of Discipleship, The Cost of Following JesusLuke 14:25
Matthew 8:18
Following Jesus comes at a cost. For some, the cost is actually their life. For others, the cost is potentially the loss of family or friends, or denying our earthly pleasures. The choice to follow at the potential cost is ours. (But it’s worth it!)HERE
Parable of the Faithful Servant (Wise and Foolish Servants)
Matthew 24:45
Luke 12:42
The return of Christ and His final judgment will be a surprise – at an unknown day and time. His wise and faithful servants will stay faithful to Christ until He returns, whereas the foolish servants will grow weary of waiting and turn to worldly ways, then face harsh punishment when Christ returns unannounced.HERE
Parable of the Fig TreeMatthew 24:30
Mark 13:28
Luke 21:29
Pay attention to the signs of the time around you, because the end will come. Keep yourself prepared for the coming judgment by refraining from the ways of the world and following Christ instead.HERE
Parable of the Friend at Midnight (Friend in Need)Luke 11:5Jesus promises that when we approach Him with shameless audacity, He will listen and answer. He welcomes us to come to Him with all our wants and needs. He promises to open the door when we knock.HERE
Parable of the Good 
Samaritan
Luke 10:25Christians have the love of Jesus written in their hearts. They act upon Jesus’ directive to love one another no matter the circumstances or the inconvenience.HERE
Parable of the Good ShepherdJohn 10:1Jesus is our Good Shepherd and we are His sheep, who can trust Him with our lives. He gave His life for our salvation, so if we just keep listening to Him and following His voice, He will protect us.HERE
Parable of the Great Banquet (Banquet)Luke 14:15The poor and the lowly are as welcome to God’s kingdom as the rich and great. An invitation is extended to all and those who accept it enjoy the reward.HERE
Parable of the Growing SeedMark 4:26The Kingdom of God expands within the world, beginning with the Word of Christ that sprouts within a person’s soul, gradually growing by grace until it matures and springs outward and forward.HERE
Parable of the Hidden Treasure (Buried Treasure)Matthew 13:44Many people know the Word of God only at a surface level –  a superficial relationship with God. Those who choose to dig deep into the Word uncover the valuable treasure that a life lived in step with the Lord brings.HERE
Parable of the Householder (Owner of the House, House Owner)Matthew 13:52As Christians, old and new experiences, teachings, and learning all have a useful purpose for our spiritual growth. We need to keep refreshing ourselves on the lessons to keep growing.HERE
Parable of the Lamp on a Stand (Lamp)Matthew 5:15
Mark 4:21
Luke 8:16
Our light for Christ must shine. It isn’t intended to be hidden within us. As Christians, we should exude Christ’s light with our words and actions.HERE
Parable of the Lost CoinLuke 15:8One lost coin is a lost soul that God will work endlessly to bring back to Him and rejoices in their return.HERE
Parable of the Lost Sheep (Wandering Sheep) Matthew 18:10
Luke 15:1
Christ is earnest in bringing lost sinners home, even when the lost aren’t interested in returning. Our Father wants all His children to be saved.HERE
Parable of the Lowest Seat (Parable of Honor, Place of Honor, Take the Lowest Seat, Lowest Seat at the Feast)Luke 14:8Jesus led by example as a role model for our lives. As such, He expects His followers to be humble servants and not pompous, prideful boasters who seek out public recognition.HERE
Parable of the Prodigal Son (Lost Son)Luke 15:11The Lord welcomes repentant sinners with open arms when they turn back to Him.HERE
Parable of the Master and ServantLuke 17:7We are God’s servants and must remain humble in our service to Him. When we do as He asks, we are only doing our duty and should not expect a reward.HERE
Parable of the Moneylender (Two Debtors)Luke 7:41Our sin is a debt we owe to God and Christ paid the debt for our sins so that we might be saved. The greater the sin forgiven, the more grateful the sinner should be, but all sin is forgiven equally and freely with repentance.HERE
Parable of the Mustard SeedMark 4:30
Luke 13:18
The Kingdom of God begins with the tiniest seed of faith that, when nurtured with care, grows into an enormous tree of life.HERE
Parable of the Net (Fishing Net)Matthew 13:47The Gospel is the net thrown into the sea of people. Some will accept The Word and those who don’t are sorted out and rejected.HERE
Parable of the Pearl (Pearl of Great Price, Great Pearl)Matthew 13:45People are tempted by fake pearls that the world offers. When we search out the Kingdom of Heaven (a true pearl) and realize its priceless value, everything else becomes worthless in our eyes.HERE
Parable of the Persistent Widow (Judge and the Widow, Unjust Judge, Importunate Widow)Luke 18:1The unjust judge relented after being pestered time and again by the woman for justice. How much more will our faithful and just God grant us when we come to Him regularly and faithfully?HERE
Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Two Men Who Prayed)Luke 18:9God’s glory is to resist the proud and give grace to the humble.HERE
Parable of the Rich FoolLuke 12:13A fool prioritizes greed and wealth over his relationship with God. Eventually, the time available to strengthen our relationship with God will run out.HERE
Parable of the Rich Man and LazarusLuke 16:19This parable summarizes Jesus’ teaching that ‘to whom much is given, much is expected’. The rich man had been given much in life, but he had no care or concern for the poor (namely Lazarus). In the afterlife, the rich man was punished for his lack of care for the poor, while Lazarus now reaped rewards for what he lacked in life. The rich man wanted to warn his family and friends so they wouldn’t suffer the same fate, but everything they need to know is already written in Scripture. We have had a fair warning! The only question is whether we will heed it or ignore it.HERE
Parable of the Shrewd ManagerLuke 16:1What we have in life is from God and we’re liable to use these gifts for God’s honor and glory. We’re called to be shrewd stewards in sharing and spreading God’s kingdom so that His gifts are not wasted.HERE
Parable of the Sower (Four Soils)Matthew 13:1 Mark 4:1
Luke 8:1
God’s Word will only flourish and thrive when it reaches the hearts of faithful people who are willing to absorb and grow it. It withers and dies on the hearts of the evil, the uncommitted, the worldly, and the hypocrites.HERE
Parable of the Talents (Gold 
Coins/Minas/Ten Minas/Bags of Gold)
Luke 19:11
Matthew 25:14
God’s gifts are given freely with the expectation that we will use them for His goodness according to our ability. We will all account for our actions according to the gifts and advantages we’ve received.HERE
Parable of the Tenants (Wicked Tenants, Wicked Vinedressers, Husbandmen, Evil Tenants, Evil Farmers)Matthew 21:33
Mark 12:1
Luke 20:9
As people treat others, they treat Christ. Christ’s followers should expect ill treatment from those who oppose Him. God will judge the opponents harshly. As for us, be generous with our fruits (gifts).HERE
Parable of the Ten Virgins (Virgins, Bridesmaids, Bridegroom)Matthew 25:1Be ready and prepared for the day of Christ’s coming. Ensure your lamp of faith is burning brightly with plenty of grace for fuel. Nurture your soul for Christ and don’t let carelessness make you unprepared.HERE
Parable of the Two SonsMatthew 21:28Both sons act poorly, but the first changed his mind and ultimately did the will of his father. The second paid only lip service with no repentance and no action. Our repentance and turning to God is the key to salvation.HERE
Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Unmerciful Servant)Matthew 18:21We’re too sinful to atone for our sins, but through God’s grace, our debts/sins are forgiven. As our debts are forgiven, we must forgive.HERE
Parable of the Watchful Servants (Watchman, Waiting Servants)Mark 13:32
Luke 12:35
Keep watch (stay diligent in our faith) while we wait for our Master (Christ) to return. We don’t know the day or the hour, so be ready and prepared for when He comes, even if during the night.HERE
Parable of the Wedding Feast (Wedding Banquet, Feast)Matthew 22:1The first people invited to the feast represented the Jews, God’s chosen people of the time. When they didn’t come, the doors were opened for all the others, as God’s arms are open to all. Hypocrites (with improper wedding clothing) will find themselves locked out of God’s Kingdom.HERE
Parable of the WeedsMatthew 13:24God created the good in the world and the devil sows evil that sinful people tend and make grow. We live in a world mixed with this good and bad and God will separate them when His judgment is made.HERE
Parable of the Wineskins (Cloth and Wineskins, New Wine Old Wineskins, New Cloth Old Garment, New Patch Old Garment/Coat)Matthew 9:16
Mark 2:21
Luke 5:36
The prior religious teachings would be undergoing change with Jesus’ death and resurrection. It would mean new ways were emerging that might seem incompatible with the old, but should be introduced to new converts as they were able to understand.HERE
Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders (Two Builders, Builder, House on the Rock)Matthew 7:24
Luke 6:46
Those who listen to Jesus and apply His instructions can withstand anything that comes their way. Those who choose not to listen or apply the teachings will struggle and crumble under the weight of worldly troubles.HERE
Parable of the Workers in the VineyardMatthew 20:1When God gives grace to others, it is kindness to them, not an injustice to us. God is fair and merciful, welcoming everyone.HERE
Parable of the YeastMatthew 13:33
Luke 13:20
A small amount of God’s Word that is mixed into the soul spreads and grows slowly and unnoticeably, but with strength and without fail, changing a person from within.HERE

Parables of Jesus List and Meaning – pdf

Are you looking for a list of parables and their meaning? Our List of Parables and Their Meaning downloadable pdf is a resource for yourself, your family, classroom, or ministry. This instant download has NO email SIGN-UP!

Use our parable lessons below to learn how to apply the parables to your life. Our lessons add more depth and context to the meaning of the parables.

Parables of Jesus – Lessons for Children

Our parable explanations have been used effectively as the basis for children’s parable lessons. I invite you to use the concepts to design your lessons according to the understanding of your children.

I’d also love to hear what tools or resources would make this easier for you. I’ve created a comprehensive Parable of the Mustard Seed Bundle for Youth and Parable of the Prodigal Son Youth Bundles that include a lesson, coloring pages, and other activities. Lessons and activities for other parables are underway. Check out the current packages and let me know what you think!

Lessons from the Parables of Jesus Christ

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If you love the parables

If you love the parables, you may be interested in our printable products. We have a growing catalog of adult devotionals, foldable pocket booklets, coloring foldable pocket booklets, and wall prints. For children, we have lesson plans, coloring pages for various ages, wall prints, reflection/journal pages, activity pages, and games. Below is the Mustard Seed Youth Bundle, one of our best values!

Mustard Seed for Youth Bundle includes everything you need for a Sunday School Lesson. Mustard Seed Activities include 3 sets of coloring pages and a set of Journal/Reflection pages.

Cover Image by 4222320 from Pixabay

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