Harmony’s Parables of Christ

A substantial amount of Jesus’ teachings, as much as one-third, were in parables. Early on I was told that a parable is “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning”, while memorable its helpful to understand that it was a common Rabbinical teaching technique. In fact, archives from the first century include more than 3,500 Rabbinic parables among them 18 in the Old Testament and these 30 parables of Jesus and another 23 similes. Weather on a felt board or a mountainside this form of catalytic teaching ignites our imagination, intellect and heartfelt response.1

Sort the table of 30 parables chronologically as they appear in the Harmony of the Gospels or by writer, lesson/week, or audience2 clicking the () sort icon in the column header. While we encourage members to use the Harmony to disciple others in a three-year study, this page may provide a Bible study group, youth group or Sunday school class a helpful introduction to the Harmony of the Gospels.

Parables of Jesus3

Section Parable Week Audience Matthew Mark Luke John
64b Parable of the Sower and the soils 55 Crowd Mt 13:3b-9, 18-23 Mk 4:3-9, 13-20 Lk 8:5-7, 11-15
109 Parable of the barren fig tree 98 Crowd Lk 13:6-9
64d Parable of the weeds 56 Crowd Mt 13:24-30, 36-43 Mk 4:26-34
103 Parable of the Good Samaritan 90 Rulers Lk 10:25-37
59 Parable of two debtors 50 Rulers Lk 7:41-43
108b Parable of a rich man 95 Crowd Lk 12:16-21
64c Parable of the Seed that is sown 56 Crowd Mk 4:26-29
64e Parable of the Mustard Seed 56 Crowd Mt 13:31-32 Mk 4:30-32
64f Parable of the leavened loaf 57 Crowd Mt 13:33
64h Parable of the Hidden Treasure 58 Crowd Mt 13:44
64i Parable of the Pearl of Great Price, 58 Crowd Mt 13:45-46
64j Parable of the Net 58 Crowd Mt 13:47-50
64k Parable of the house owner 58 Crowd Mt 13:51-52
116 Parable of the Lost Sheep 105 Rulers Lk 15:3-7
116 Parable of the Lost Coin 105 Rulers Lk 15:8-10
116 Parable of the Prodigal Son 105 Rulers Lk 15:11-32
117a Parable of the Unjust Steward 106 Disciples Lk 16:1-13
132b Parable of the Two Sons 129 Rulers Mt 21:28–32
132b Parable of the Master who planted a vineyard 129 Rulers Mt 21:33–46 Mk 12:1–12 Lk 20:9–19
132b Parable of the wedding 129 Rulers Mt 22:1-14
139e Parable of the fig tree 138 Disciples Mt 24:32-35 Mk 13:28-31 Lk 21:29-33
139f Parable of the porter 139 Disciples Mk 13:33-37
139f Parable of the Master of the house 139 Disciples Mt 24:43-44
139f Parable of the faithful and evil servants 139 Disciples Mt 24:45-51
139f Parable of the ten virgins 139 Disciples Mt 25:1-13
139f Parable of the talents 139 Disciples Mt 25:14-30
117b Parable of the rich man and Lazarus 107 Pharisees Lk 16:19-31
121 Parable of the persistent widow 113 Disciples Lk 18:1-5
121 Parable of two praying men 113 Disciples Lk 18:9-14
124b Parable of the Landowner’s sovereignty 117 Disciples Mt 20:1-16

Similes, Metaphors and Epigrams of Jesus4

Section Simile Week Audience Matthew Mark Luke John
48 New wine in old wine skins 34 Crowd Mt 9:17 Mk 2:22 Lk 5:37
48 New Cloth Patch on an Old Coat 34 Crowd Mt 9:16 Mk 2:21 Lk 5:36
70b Wise as serpents, and harmless as doves 64 Disciples Mt 10:16
54h Wise and foolish builders 46 Crowd Mt 7:24-27 Lk 6:47-49
64b Lamp on a stand (second time) 55 Crowd Mk 4:21-22 Lk 8:16
70b as sheep among wolves 64 Disciples Mt 10:16
113b Go tell that fox 102 Rulers Lk 13:32
98 I AM the light of the world 85 Crowd Jn 8:12
27 I saw the Spirit come down 17 Crowd Jn 1:32
76a I AM the bread 68 Crowd Jn 6:35,41, 48,51,58
149 I AM the way and the truth and the life 147 Disciples Jn 14:6
150a I AM the true vine 148 Disciples Jn 15:1,5
150a You are the branches… bear much fruit 148 Disciples Jn 15:5
54c You are the salt of the earth 42 Crowd Mt 5:13
54c You are the light of the world 42 Disciples Mt 5:14-16
101a I AM the gate for the sheep 88 Rulers Jn 10:7
101a I AM the good shepherd 88 Rulers Jn 10:11
118b I AM the resurrection and the life 109 Disciples Jn 11:25
149 a well of water springing up into everlasting life 147 Disciples Jn 14:4
96b come unto me, and drink 83 Crowd Jn 7:37
22 every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit 13 Rulers Mt 3:10
148 This is my body 146 Disciples Mt 26:26
106 Lamp of the body 92 Rulers Lk 11:33
  1. Because Jesus himself was a Hebrew rabbi (and Messiah) it is more important to understand the Hebrew word משל/mashal (H4912) than the Greek word (parabole) which can be used for a riddle, comparison or proverb. For an exhaustive understanding of parables read: 1, 23, 4, 5.
  2. The column heading “Audience” refers to the original audience to who the parable or simile was spoken. We use the term “Rulers” to mean Pharisees, Priests, Scribes and the Sanhedrin;  meanwhile the term “Disciples” includes both disciples and the Apostles (who were also disciples); while we use the term “Crowd” for the masses and followers who were not yet disciples.
  3. A parable uses imagery, comparison, juxtaposition and implications, to generate deeper understanding of complex subjects and an intended heart-filled response. Parables are more complete that a simile in that they are a complete story with a beginning, ending and plot. They are “different from an allegory in that the purpose of the story is not found in the points of comparison but in the intended response.” (Fee & Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All its Worth, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1993, p. 140.) “thus forcing people to determine their attitude toward Him and His message of the Kingdom of God” (Marshall & Tasker in New Bible Dictionary: Parables). While the Gospel according to John doesn’t include any parables, he does provide us with the most similes including the great I AM’s of Christ (see table below).
  4. Some versions and Bible translations categorize the stories of Jesus differently in their section headings (for example, Sec. 34 has the heading of “three parables…” but they are in fact similies. A simile is like a parable except that it is not expanded into a complete story. Addionally we have included phrases like “You are the salt of the earth” which is a metaphor and “Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes” which is an epigram. A metaphor is an implicit comparison between two essentially unlike things. While a metaphor is not so true to fact as a Simile, it is much truer to feeling. While the Gospel according to John doesn’t include any parables, he does provide us with the most number of similes including the great I AM’s of Christ.