Parables are a major part of what Matthew writes. He goes over the parables that Jesus spoke, and I believe that Matthew writes in such a simple and concise way that his writing makes the parables much easier to understand.
The Parable of the Lost Sheep. (Matthew 18:10-14)
“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And, if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than he rejoices over the ninety-nine that never went astray.” (Genesis:18:12-13)
When I read this parable, I hear that it’s intent is to say that God will always seek you when you’re lost. That God doesn’t want a single one of us to be left behind. But, I have a problem with the metaphor of the parable itself. Let’s get real for a minute. If I am the shepherd of one-hundred sheep, and I’m up on a mountain when one of the sheep runs off, I am not going to abandon my other sheep to hunt down this sheep that ran off. If I do I risk losing the other ninety-nine sheep. Now, sure, God is supposed to be grander than I am, so maybe the depth of His care about each sheep is beyond my comprehension, but this parable is lost on me. It’s intent is not. The intent of this parable is beautiful. I love the idea that God loves each and every one of us enough to be willing to seek us out when we’re lost in the mountains, I just think it’s communicated poorly in this parable.
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. (Matthew 18:23-35)
In this parable, the kingdom of heaven is compared to a king who is collecting debts from his servants. One of the servants cannot pay and begs for mercy in the eyes of the king, which the king grants him. Then, the same servant goes to collect a debt from a fellow servant who is unable to pay and begs for mercy. The former servant grants no mercy and sends his fellow to prison until his debt is paid. When the king hears of what the servant has done, the king imprisons the servant for the lacking the mercy that had been shown to him.
This parable is one of my favourites because it displays an expectation of forgiveness and kindness. God, and the kingdom of heaven, will be merciful to you when you ask to be forgiven. And so, God expects you to forgive others in your life, also. Which, is something that I have not seen reflected in the Christian communities that I have been exposed to. I’ve seen so many Christians who turn their noses up, or live their lives in judgement of the choices of others, but I don’t think that’s what Jesus talks about ever. Especially here. Here, I think Jesus is saying the exact opposite. It is not my place, or your place, or the place of people at all to judge others. It is our place to be patient and have compassion for those around us.
The Parable of the Two Sons (Matthew 21:28-32), and The Parable of the Tenants (Matthew 21:33-46).
I decided to read these two parables together as both were spoken by Jesus to The Pharisees (The Jews) about their faith. In The Parable of the Two Sons, there is a man who has two sons. He asks each son to go and work in the fields. One son says that he will not, but changes his mind and does as his father asks of him. The second son says that he will go, but then does not. Jesus then tells The Pharisees that they are less welcome in the kingdom of heaven than are the greatest sinners (tax collectors and prostitutes) because they are like the second son. They claim the word of God, but had not listened to the prophet John when he came. Then in The Parable of the Tenants a man rents a room in his vineyard to some people, and he leaves the country. When the fruit should be picked, the man sends his servants to collect his fruit from the tenants, but the tenants beat, kill, and stone the servants. Then, they kill the man’s son who was also sent to collect the fruit. Jesus then asks The Pharisees what they think the man will do when he arrives to collect from the tenants. “They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.’” (Matthew 21:41) So Jesus tells The Pharisees that they will not be allowed into the kingdom of heaven.
With the knowledge that these parables are aimed at men who believed in the Old Testament of God, but were not seen by Jesus as acting in the word of God, it is difficult for me to form an opinion about these particular parables. I think most of what I hear in each of these parables is that action is greater than word in the eyes of the Lord. Jesus is warning The Pharisees to act in the name of God, not just to speak on His behalf.
The Parable of the Wedding Feast (Matthew 22:1-14)
In this parable there is a king who is holding a wedding feast for his son. The king has his servants send for those who are invited. But, they would not come. The servants are then sent back out to bring anyone to the wedding feast who wants to come. So, they return with all the people they find. But, when the king came to look at the guests he found one who had no wedding garment. So the king sent him away.
This one was initially confusing to me because of it’s ending. I ended up having to go through and mark up my bible a bit to figure out what was what here. I ended up rewriting the story a bit for myself. This is what I came up with.
God is opening the kingdom of heaven for his son. He has invited The Jews to join Him in the kingdom of heaven, but The Jews did not come because they do not accept Jesus as their Messiah. So, when the disciples are sent again to retrieve people to join God in the kingdom of heaven, they return with The Gentiles. But, God sees that among The Gentiles is a man who has spoken the word of God but does not embrace his place as a sinner or appreciate the sacrifice of Jesus. That man is sent to hell.
The Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13)
Ten virgins, took their lamps to await the arrival of a bridegroom. Five of them forgot to bring oil for their lamps and the bridegroom was late. When the bridegroom was approaching, the five virgins were out of oil for their lamps and left to buy more oil. The bridegroom arrived while the unwise virgins were away and the bridegroom refused to let them enter when they arrived later.
This parable is discussing the arrival of the rapture. The virgins are man, the bridegroom is the rapture, the lamps are the purity with which you live your life. “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Matthew 25:13)
The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30)
This parable compares God and the kingdom of heaven to a man who is leaving his home and entrusts his servants with his money and his land. To one servant he gives five talents, to another he gives two talents, and to the last he gives one talent (each one is given a number of talents based on their ability). The servants with five and two talents end up doubling the talents they were given, but the servant with one talent buried the money so as not to lose it. When the master returned he was pleased with the two servants who had doubled his gain, but from the servant who only returned what he had beginning the money was taken away and he was sent away from his master.
This parable uses a phrase that come up a lot in Matthew that has grated across my nerves for awhile. “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Matthew 25:29) This bothers me because it seems so senseless. My opinion is that if you have something, you should do everything that you can to share it with those who do not have it. So, in this example.. I possess the grace of God which is given to me in the acceptance of Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. By the parable I will be given in abundance the grace of God. For me, that means I should share that grace that is given to me with others. I should try to help others who want it seek the grace of God in their own lives. But, by the parable, if I do not accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour, I will not be given the grace of God, and even the happiness and prosperity that I do have in my life without the grace of God will be taken away from me. That is morally not sound for me.
Overall, I find the parables to be a fascinating aspect of what is in written in Matthew. The parables are, to me, such an odd way to teach others. This combination of parables was really great to read. It featured parables which had sentiment that I valued, parables which confused me or I did not find valuable in the modern world, parables which angered me. This reading was informative in a way that I did not anticipate.