Complete List of Jesus' Parables in the Bible

What is a parable in the Bible? In short, it is a simple story to provide a more profound lesson or teaching! From the divine wisdom of Jesus Christ, we can learn transcendent, everlasting truths in the simple parables of the Bible.

Updated Mar 15, 2024
Complete List of Jesus' Parables in the Bible

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32)

What is a parable? In short, it is a simple story to provide a more profound lesson or teaching! From the divine wisdom of Jesus Christ, we can learn transcendent, everlasting truths in the simple parables of the Bible. Ranging from the well-known Parable of the Good Samaritan, which teaches love and compassion towards all, to the Parable of the Prodigal Son, illustrating forgiveness and redemption, each parable is multifaceted and full of wisdom. Here, we delve into a complete list of these parables, exploring their timeless teachings that continue to resonate today.

Parables in the Bible: Table of Contents

Definition of Parable

Merriam-Webster gives the following definition for parable: "a usually short fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle." Furthermore, Merriam-Webster provides the etymology for the English word "parable" saying,

Parable comes to us via Anglo-French from the Late Latin word parabola, which in turn comes from Greek parabolē, meaning "comparison." The word parabola may look familiar if you remember your geometry. The mathematical "parabola" refers to a kind of comparison between a fixed point and a straight line, resulting in a parabolic curve; it came to English from New Latin (Latin as used since the end of the medieval period, especially in scientific description and classification). "Parable," however, descends from Late Latin (the Latin language used by writers in the 3rd to 6th centuries). The Late Latin term parabola referred to verbal comparisons: it essentially meant "allegory" or "speech." Other English descendants of Late Latin parabola are "parole" and "palaver."

Bible Meaning of Parables

In the Bible, Jesus teaches His disciples and followers by using parables among other methods. Parables were a way to convey moral, transcendent principles in an allegoric story that people could understand and relate to. A parable is a teaching method using the familiar to illustrate unfamiliar concepts. It is a story or saying that demonstrates a truth using comparison, hyperbole, or a simile.

In Greek rhetoric, people used them for argumentation, clarification, or to prove something. Parables can be one-liners such as “you are the salt of the earth” from Matthew 5:13 or “do not throw your pearls to pigs” from Matthew 7:6.

According to, parables can also represent a picture within a story. This type is called a simple parable and examples are the lost sheep and lost coin in Luke 15:3-10. Another type is the narrative parable. This is a dramatic story with one or more scenes as displayed in the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37. Through the parables from Christ, we learn the importance of accountability for our thoughts, actions, and motives.

As described in the Baker's Evangelical Dictionary, the Bible application of parables can be seen as metaphors:

Jesus' narrative parables are probably best understood as extended metaphors. The story (the image) is a window through which a larger reality (the referent) is depicted. Understanding the message of a parable is more than identifying its "point, " though many parables do have a focal point that is reinforced by the parable as a whole. Thus, it is crucial both to understand the story as it would have been understood by Jesus' original hearers and to understand the referent, the wider reality about which it gives insight. Typically the referent is some aspect of the kingdom of God, the reign of God in people's hearts, or the realm of God's sovereignty. In order to let the parable have its full impact, we need to see the referent in a new way through the parable story.

5 Most Famous Parables Explained

1. The Good Samaritan - Luke 10:29-37

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

This parable is a timeless narrative that Jesus uses to challenge societal prejudices and expand the definition of neighborly love. In response to a legal expert testing him with the question, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus tells the story of a man who falls victim to robbers and is left half-dead on the side of the road. Significantly, both a priest and a Levite pass by without offering help, despite their religious standing. However, a Samaritan, a figure despised by the Jewish audience, demonstrates compassion, tending to the wounded man's needs and ensuring his recovery. 

It shows the transformative power of love that transcends social, ethnic, and religious boundaries. The Samaritan becomes a model of selfless compassion, illustrating that true neighborliness extends beyond familiar circles to encompass those often deemed as outsiders.

2. The Mustard Seed - Matthew 13:31-32

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

The mustard seed was one of the smallest seeds known in the region at that time, and yet, when it grows, it becomes a large and robust plant. This metaphorical use of the mustard seed emphasizes the potential for extraordinary growth and impact that can result from even a small, initial measure of faith. 

This teaching stresses the potency of sincere and steadfast faith in the context of prayer, perseverance, and trusting God's power to bring about transformative change. It's a reminder that, despite challenges or difficulties, even a small, unwavering faith can lead to extraordinary outcomes in alignment with God's will. 

3. The Lamp - Matthew 5:14-16

"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses the metaphor of light to convey a profound message about the role and impact of his followers in the world. This parable emphasizes the transformative and visible nature of the Christian life. In calling his followers "the light of the world," Jesus is illustrating their role as agents of positive influence, moral clarity, and divine revelation in a world characterized by darkness and moral confusion. 

The metaphor of a city on a hill signifies that the followers of Jesus cannot go unnoticed. Their lives, actions, and values are meant to be conspicuous, much like a brightly lit city on an elevated terrain. The image of lighting a lamp and placing it on a stand further underscores the idea that the followers of Jesus are to be intentional and unreserved in their witness. 

The purpose of shining one's light before others is not self-glorification but to direct attention and praise toward God. The good works of believers are meant to point beyond themselves, giving glory to the heavenly Father. This parable, therefore, calls Christians to live in such a way that their actions become a testimony to God's goodness and the transformative power of a life lived in obedience to Christ. 

4. The Lost Sheep - Matthew 18:10-14

"See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.

"What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish."

The image of the shepherd leaving the ninety-nine to search for the one communicates the radical nature of God's love and pursuit of those who have wandered away. It challenges conventional notions of value and importance. The rejoicing of the shepherd upon finding the lost sheep underscores the joy in heaven over the repentance of even one sinner. This joy is not diminished by the apparent insignificance of the one compared to the ninety-nine. 

This all highlights the immeasurable value God places on each individual. It serves as a powerful reminder of God's unfailing love, his active pursuit of those who have strayed, and the immeasurable value he places on each individual, especially those considered the least in society. It challenges believers to share in God's heart for the lost and to actively engage in seeking and restoring those who have gone astray.

5. The Prodigal Son - Luke 15:11-32

"It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found." (Luke 15:32)

This parable is a poignant exploration of forgiveness, redemption, and the boundless love of God. Jesus recounts the story of a younger son who requests his inheritance prematurely, squanders it in reckless living, and finds himself destitute. In a state of desperation, he decides to return to his father, expecting rejection. 

To the audience's surprise, the father not only welcomes him with open arms but also throws a grand celebration, symbolizing divine joy over repentance. The parable introduces a contrasting elder son, who harbors resentment at the father's extravagant mercy, he is a lesson in and of himself.

This narrative reflects the broader context of Jesus' ministry, emphasizing God's grace, mercy, and celebration over the restoration of repentant sinners. It challenges conventional notions of justice and righteousness, urging listeners to grasp the transformative power of divine forgiveness and the Father's relentless love for those who turn back to Him.

Complete List of Parables in the Bible & Their Meanings

Read each parable Bible verse here.

The metaphor of being the "Salt of the Earth" emphasizes the transformative and preserving role that Christians are called to play in society, bringing godly influence and moral flavor to the world around us.

The lamp metaphor underscores the disciples' role as bearers of the light of Christ in a dark world. We are called to live visibly righteous lives, not hiding our faith but actively influencing our surroundings through good works that bring glory to God. The inevitability of revelation suggests that the impact of our witness will become evident over time.

The rock represents a firm foundation of obedience to Jesus' teachings. The wise builder is someone who not only hears the words of Jesus but also puts them into practice. This parable encourages discipleship and obedience to Christ's teachings. It underscores the importance of not only hearing the words of Jesus but actively applying them in one's life. Building a foundation on the rock of obedience ensures resilience and endurance in the face of life's challenges.

The metaphor of new cloth on an old coat emphasizes the need for a coherent and compatible approach to spirituality. Jesus was introducing a new understanding of the Kingdom of God and a relationship with God that transcended Old Testament law. Attempting to mix the old legalistic approach with the new spiritual insights would result in conflict and inadequacy. It underscores the importance of embracing the transformative message of Jesus in its entirety rather than attempting to patch it onto existing religious structures.

The metaphor of new wine in old wineskins underscores the need for receptivity and adaptability to new spiritual insights. Jesus was introducing a new era, a new covenant, and a new way of understanding and relating to God. Attempting to fit these revolutionary teachings into the rigid structures of existing religious practices would lead to conflict and loss. Instead, Jesus encourages a fresh and flexible approach to fully embrace the transformative power of his message.

The parable of the Two Debtors teaches about the extent of God's forgiveness and the appropriate response of love and gratitude from those who acknowledge their own sinfulness. It emphasizes that the depth of one's sin is not a barrier to receiving God's forgiveness. The parable challenges individuals to recognize their need for forgiveness and the graciousness of God in providing it.

The parable of the Sower teaches about the various responses people have to the message of the Kingdom of God. It encourages self-reflection on the receptivity of one's heart to God's Word and challenges us to share the message with others, recognizing that different hearts will respond differently. The emphasis is on the importance of a receptive heart that allows the Word to take root and produce a fruitful, transformed life.

The central message of this parable is the importance of compassion and love for one's neighbor, regardless of cultural, religious, or social differences. The Samaritan, often viewed as an unexpected and unlikely hero in the story, exemplifies genuine compassion and selfless love.

This parable was told in response to the question, "And who is my neighbor?" posed by the legal expert. Through this narrative, Jesus challenges the narrow definition of "neighbor" and teaches that everyone, even those who may be considered outsiders or different, should be treated with compassion and kindness. It emphasizes the universal call to love and care for others, transcending societal and cultural boundaries.

Overall, the Friend at Midnight parable encourages believers to approach God with persistence and faith, trusting in His willingness to respond to their needs and requests. It underscores the idea that God is attentive and responsive to the persistent prayers of those who seek Him.

Key themes in this parable include the sovereignty and power of God in bringing about the growth of His Kingdom, the cooperation of humans in sowing the seed (proclaiming the Gospel), and the inevitability of the harvest when the time is right. This parable encourages believers to trust in God's timing and to faithfully engage in the work of spreading the message of the Kingdom, even when the results may not be immediately apparent. Ultimately, it conveys the idea that the growth of God's Kingdom is a mysterious and divine process, leading to a fruitful harvest in due time.

The primary message is a warning against the dangers of greed and the pursuit of wealth for its own sake. The rich man is condemned for being focused solely on amassing material wealth without considering the needs of others or the uncertainties of life. The parable underscores the transience of life and the uncertainty of our time on earth. It encourages listeners to consider the eternal perspective and not to prioritize earthly possessions at the expense of spiritual matters. 

Jesus uses the analogy of servants awaiting their master's return from a journey. The master may return at any time, whether in the evening, at midnight, at cockcrow, or in the morning. The message centers around the importance of being watchful, prepared, and faithful while anticipating the return of the master.

The servants are urged to stay alert and be prepared, not knowing exactly when the master will return. This emphasizes the importance of a continuous state of readiness for the followers of Christ. Believers are encouraged to live faithfully and obediently, mindful that Christ could return at any moment.

The fig tree is often used symbolically in the Bible, representing Israel or individuals who profess faith but lack the corresponding righteous deeds or spiritual fruit. In this context, the fig tree may represent a person or a group of people who are not bearing the expected spiritual fruit.

The gardener symbolizes Christ or an intercessor who pleads for more time and commits to working on the unfruitful tree. This emphasizes Jesus' role as the mediator between God and humanity, advocating for grace and offering the opportunity for repentance and change.

The parable serves as a call to repentance and a reminder of the need for spiritual fruitfulness. It warns against complacency and highlights the importance of a genuine, transformative relationship with God, which should be evidenced by righteous living and good deeds.

The parable acknowledges the reality of the coexistence of good and evil in the world. In the context of the kingdom of heaven, it recognizes that within the community of believers, there may be both genuine followers of Christ (wheat) and those who oppose or undermine the faith (weeds).

The mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds, yet it grows into a large and expansive tree or bush. The parable highlights the idea that the Kingdom of God may have a humble and inconspicuous beginning but will eventually grow into something significant and influential. 

The mustard seed also serves as a metaphor for faith. It emphasizes that even a small amount of genuine faith has the potential to grow into something remarkable. The parable encourages believers to have faith in the transformative power of the Gospel and the impact it can have on individuals and society.

The parable of the Yeast communicates the pervasive and transformative influence of the Kingdom of God, working quietly yet powerfully to bring about comprehensive change in individuals and society. It highlights the gradual and often unseen nature of God's work in the world, emphasizing its inclusive and transformative impact.

The parable of the Concealed Treasure conveys the priceless value of the Kingdom of Heaven and the willingness to make significant sacrifices and commitments to obtain it. It emphasizes the joy that comes from recognizing and embracing the unparalleled treasure that is found in a relationship with God and participation in His Kingdom.

In this parable, a merchant is searching for fine pearls, but when he finds one of extraordinary value, he is willing to sacrifice everything to obtain it. The pearl symbolizes the supreme worth of the Kingdom.

The net represents the preaching of the Gospel and the activity of God in drawing people into His kingdom. It is cast into the sea, symbolizing the vastness and diversity of humanity. The net catches all kinds of fish, reflecting the inclusivity of God's invitation to people from different backgrounds and walks of life.

The metaphor of the "owner of a house" represents someone responsible for a household. In this context, it likely refers to a person who is entrusted with understanding and teaching the truths of the Kingdom of Heaven.

This parable conveys the immense value God places on each individual. It illustrates God's relentless pursuit of those who are spiritually lost. The joy in finding the lost sheep reflects the joy in heaven when a sinner repents. 

Each person is of great value to God. The shepherd's willingness to leave the 99 to search for the one underscores the individual importance and worth in God's eyes.

The parable of the Unforgiving Servant teaches about the vastness of God's forgiveness, the expectation for believers to forgive others, the ungratefulness and consequences of refusing to forgive, and the serious warning about the importance of forgiving others from the heart. It emphasizes the transformative power of God's mercy and the call for believers to extend that mercy to others.

The parable of the Vineyard Workers teaches about God's generous grace, the equal standing of believers before God, the challenge to human perceptions of fairness, God's sovereignty in reward, and the reversal of expectations in God's kingdom. It emphasizes the importance of recognizing and appreciating God's grace and generosity.

This parable is a story of the importance of humility, the promise of exaltation by God, the inclusivity of God's kingdom, and the contrast between heavenly values and worldly standards. It encourages a mindset that prioritizes others over oneself and aligns with the principles of God's kingdom.

The Great Feast parable communicates the expansive and inclusive nature of God's invitation to His kingdom, the consequences of rejecting that invitation, and the urgency of responding to God's call to enter into a relationship with Him.

This teaching on the cost of discipleship is part of a larger section in Luke where Jesus emphasizes the demands of true discipleship, including love for Jesus above all else and willingness to carry one's own cross (Luke 14:25-27). All this reflects the seriousness of commitment required to follow Jesus and the need for individuals to assess their readiness for such commitment.

The analogy of seeking terms of peace suggests that there is a way to avoid the negative consequences of incomplete commitment. It implies that individuals should seriously assess their readiness for discipleship and be willing to make peace by acknowledging their limitations.

The lost coin represents a person who is spiritually lost. Each coin has value, and the woman in the parable is determined to recover what is lost. When she finds the lost coin, the woman calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, "Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost." There is joy and celebration over the recovery of the lost item. In the same way, every individual has value to God. It emphasizes the restoration and reconciliation that occur when someone turns back to God.

This parable is a poignant exploration of forgiveness, redemption, and the boundless love of God. Jesus recounts the story of a younger son who requests his inheritance prematurely, squanders it in reckless living, and finds himself destitute. In a state of desperation, he decides to return to his father, expecting rejection. To the audience's surprise, the father not only welcomes him with open arms but also throws a grand celebration, symbolizing divine joy over repentance. 

The parable commends the manager's shrewdness in managing his resources to secure his future. Jesus uses this example to challenge His followers to be wise and strategic in the use of their resources, both worldly and spiritual.

The parable illustrates a stark contrast between the earthly wealth and comfort of the rich man and the poverty and suffering of Lazarus. It emphasizes that wealth and status do not guarantee favor in heaven.

The Master and His Servant teaching underscores the humility and obedience that should characterize the disciples of Jesus. It encourages a perspective of recognizing the duty of discipleship without expecting special recognition, acknowledging the privilege of serving the Master.

The primary message of the parable is about the importance of persistence in prayer. The widow's continual coming to the judge represents the idea that believers should persistently and earnestly bring their requests before God.

The parable of The Two Sons teaches about the importance of genuine repentance and obedience. It challenges the idea that mere verbal professions of obedience are sufficient and underscores the priority of a transformed heart that leads to true obedience to God's will.

This parable conveys profound truths about God's relationship with His people, the rejection of His messengers, the ultimate rejection and crucifixion of His Son, and the extension of His covenant to include those who will bear fruit in faithfulness. It also foreshadows Jesus' role as the cornerstone despite being initially rejected.

Here Jesus is extending and explaining God's invitation to the Kingdom of Heaven, the consequences of rejecting that invitation, the widening inclusion of both Jews and Gentiles, and the importance of being spiritually prepared for the ultimate celebration in God's presence.

The parable of the Fig Tree uses the imagery of a fig tree to convey the importance of discerning the signs of the times, emphasizing the imminence of the Kingdom of God. It encourages a sense of watchfulness, readiness, and anticipation among the disciples for the unfolding of God's redemptive plan.

This parable underscores the importance of faithful and wise stewardship, vigilance, and preparedness for the unexpected return of Christ. It serves as a call to responsible and diligent living in light of the uncertainty of the timing of Christ's second coming.

This parable conveys a powerful message about the importance of humility, repentance, and the recognition of our dependence on God's mercy for justification. It challenges conventional notions of righteousness and highlights the transformative power of a humble and contrite heart.

The Ten Virgins parable underscores the critical importance of preparedness and vigilance for the return of Christ. It emphasizes the need for an enduring and personal faith, symbolized by the extra oil, and warns against complacency or relying on the preparedness of others.

The Talents parable teaches about the responsibility and accountability of individuals in using the resources and abilities God has given them. It highlights the rewards for faithful stewardship and the serious consequences of neglect and inaction.

The Sheep and the Goats parable teaches about the inseparable connection between genuine faith and compassionate actions. It highlights the ethical dimension of Christianity, emphasizing that true disciples of Christ actively care for and serve those in need, recognizing the presence of Christ in the vulnerable and marginalized. The parable concludes with a powerful message about the eternal consequences of our actions and attitudes toward others.

Read More: What Is the Meaning and Purpose Behind Parables? -

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