Director of Faith & Religious Studies

Parables in the Gospel of Matthew
Over the last few weeks, our Sunday Gospel readings from the Gospel of Matthew have concentrated on Jesus telling parables. Jesus did not invent the parable as such, but he perfected it with his unique personable way of communicating with it. It was probably his favorite way to teach, and it became his “calling card” for his ministry.

What Is a Parable?
A parable is a short and simple story that illustrates a deep and important message and Jesus used it as a teaching tool. We have all heard the saying that “big things come in small packages” right?  However, these small packages can be somewhat tough to unwrap. The parables serve as a good example of this.

Take this one, for example from the Gospel of Matthew from a fortnight ago.

"The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches." (13:31-32)

Here we have a story about a small seed that grows into a large tree. Essentially, there is a “hidden message” or a moral of the story in this well-known parable. The parable can be used to signify many things that can begin small but when nurtured can flourish immensely. The parable has significance in applying the images of the tiny seed growing into a large tree to the human condition, belief and faith and to the Kingdom of Heaven.

The New Testament parables bring in lots of imagery that we are not familiar with, but that Jesus's audience would have known all about.

Why Tell Parables?
We can see that parables not only reveal something but they conceal things as well. After all, the people who heard this must have wondered what Jesus was saying. A little mustard seed is not going to grow into a huge tree! However, believers know that God can make the impossible happen. All it takes it faith the size of a mustard seed.

This is what Jesus tells his disciples when they ask, Why all the parables? (Matthew 13:10). Isn't it better to have everything laid out in the open? However, Jesus knows “the sceptics” in his audience will not get it no matter what he says. They've got eyes, but they don't really see. They've got ears, but they're not listening (Matthew 13:13).

For us today, the parables are still a revelation. The messages, regardless of the imagery conveyed, continue to serve as a teaching tool. Our eyes, our ears and our hearts must be open to receiving God’s Word and the richness for our lives that come from taking the parables as a means for reflection and growth in our faith and ultimately, our loving relationship with God.

Stephen Connelly
Director of Faith and Religious Studies