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The Gospel Parables
by Bishop Alexander (Mileant); Translated by Dimitry Baranov

The meaning of the Gospel parables.

The Lord Jesus Christ often taught the Gospel in the form of short allegoric stories, taking examples from nature or contemporary social life. Such short stories are called parables. Parables were already known in the Old Testament times; however, they acquired their specific perfection and beauty through the lips of the God-Man.

There were several reasons for the Savior to put His teaching into parables. First, the deep spiritual truths He spoke about were hard for His listeners to understand. But a specific, colorful story based on the details of everyday life could impress the memory for many years, and a man who tried to articulate the sense of that story would contemplate it, get into the depth of its contents, and thus approach the underlying wisdom. Second, people who did not fully understand the Savior's teachings could interpret them in their own ways and disseminate the misinterpretation. But the parables saved the integrity of Christís teaching by shaping its contents into a specific tale. Third, parables may prevail over direct instructions because they not only contain the universal Divine Law, but also demonstrate its applicability to oneís private and social life. Christís parables are also remarkable because, in spite of the centuries that have passed, they have lost none of their visual clarity and marvellous beauty. Parables are the living witnesses of the close unity that exists between the spiritual and physical worlds, between the internal cause and its manifestation in life.

In the Gospels, we find over thirty parables. They can be classified according to the three periods of the Savior's public ministry. The Savior told the first group of parables soon after the Sermon on the Mount, in the time between the second and the third Passovers of His public ministry. These initial parables told about the conditions for dissemination and strengthening of the Kingdom of God, or the Church amongst men. This first group includes the parables about the sower, the tares, the seed growing in the ground, the mustard seed, the goodly pearl and others. These will be discussed in chapter 1.

The second group of parables was told by the Lord by the end of the third year of His public ministry. In these parables the Lord told about Godís infinite mercy to those who repent, and worded various ethical rules. In this group we find the parables about the lost sheep, the lost son, the wicked servant, the good Samaritan, the rich fool, the wise builder, the unjust judge, etc. These parables will be discussed in Chapters 2 and 3.

In the third and last group of parables, which were told shortly before His sufferings on the Cross, the Lord spoke about Godís grace and manís responsibility before God; he also foretold the punishment for the Jews who did not believe in Him, His Second Coming, the Last Judgement, the reward of the righteous, and eternal life. This last group includes the parables about the barren fig tree, the wicked husbandmen, the men called to the wedding, the talents, the ten virgins, the laborers who received equal pay and others. These parables are in Chapter 4.

Published with the kind permission of Bishop Alexander Mileant

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