Author: Ron Graham
Seven Themes in Christ’s Parables
—The parables chart
1 Parables about God's Mercy and Grace
As we begin to study particular parables of Jesus, let's look at the general themes that keep on recurring in those parables. Jesus might tell a new story to teach an old lesson. The parable themes are simple, yet they are at the heart of Jesus’s teaching.
Certain parables illustrate the grace and mercy of God, in forgiving us when we did not deserve it, and when we could not make amends for our sins. God shows a Fatherly love for us, and is longsuffering toward us, even though we may be erring children.
2 The Severity of God
On the other hand, the parables often illustrate the severity and wrath of God in the coming judgment, at which all who have not responded to his mercy will be cast out from his presence.
EXAMPLE: The parable of the unforgiving slave illustrates the mercy and severity of God (Matthew 18:23-35).
3 The Importance of Obedience
Obedience to God is important, indeed essential, even though our works by themselves can never make us worthy of his blessings. God requires obedience of us, and repentance from disobedience, if we are going to be saved by his grace.
EXAMPLE: The parable of the two sons illustrates the importance of obedience rather than lip service (Matthew 21:28-32).
4 God Looks on the Heart
Several parables show that God is not interested in outward show, but in the quality of a person's spirit. Humility, mercy, compassion, sincerity of heart, these are the things that matter.
EXAMPLE: The parable of the whited tombs illustrates the way God looks on the hidden inner person, not the outward (Matthew 23:27-28).
5 The Great Value of the Kingdom
The parables often point out the great value of the kingdom of God and of membership in it. The parables show that the kingdom of God should hold first place in our lives (Matthew 6:33).
6 A Spiritual Kingdom for All Mankind
Certain parables bring home the spiritual and universal nature of God's kingdom. The kingdom of God is not an earthly nation, but a heavenly kingdom for people of all nations (John 18:36, Matthew 24:14).
7 A Kingdom in which the Weak are Strong
Yet another lesson in the parables about the kingdom, is that the glory and power of God’s kingdom cannot be understood in terms of material things. The most important persons in God's kingdom may seem to be least important in the eyes of the world. What may seem small and weak to the world, God can make great and powerful (Matthew 11:11).
EXAMPLE: The parable of the mustard seed illustrates the above three aspects of the kingdom of Heaven (Mark 4:31-33).
1. One theme in the parables has to do with exterior and interior. Explain.
2. Two themes in the parables are the two sides of God’s nature. What are they?"
3. Three themes in the parables have to do with the value, scope, and power of what?
4. What theme is illustrated by the parable of the two builders, one wise and one foolish?
5. What theme is illustrated by the parable of the two sons?