A Par-a-ble is a short tale that means more than it says, and Je-sus was wont to make use of such tales to teach some great truth to his dis-ci-ples and the folks who came to hear him day by day. He would not say just what he meant, but would tell a par-a-ble and then leave the peo-ple to find out the point of it. Of course they had to think a great deal, and all this thought served to fix Christ's words in their minds and make them stay there. In this way they learn more than they would have done if Je-sus had not told the truth in tales.
To show how wrong it is to put one's trust in wealth, he told them this tale: There was a rich man whose land brought forth more fruit than he knew what to do with. His barns were too small to hold it all, so he said, This will I do I will pull down my barns and build some new large ones, in which I will put all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul: Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for long years to come; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said to him: Thou fool, this night thou shalt die; then whose shall those things be which thou hast laid up?
Now this story was meant to teach that as it was with the rich man, so would it be with all those who cared more for wealth than to please God. Some day death would come for them, and then they would have to leave their gold and their goods for some one else --- for as they brought naught with them when they came to this world, so they could take naught with them when they had to leave it.
The dis-ci-ples were poor men, but Je-sus told them that God would take care of them and not let them lack for food or clothes. Think of the birds, he said; they do not sow nor reap nor lay up grain in barns, but still they do not starve, for God feeds them. And hence God would be sure to take care of them. Look at the lil-ies, too; they do not sew nor spin nor make their own clothes. But God gives them robes that are bright-er than were those of the great king Sol-o-mon. If God then cared for these things, how much more would he care for them. They were to seek the king-dom of God, and all things needed would be given to them.
One day while Je-sus walked by the sea shore such crowds came to him that he sat in a boat on the sea and taught them as they stood on the beach. He spake to them the par-a-ble of the sower.
A man went out to sow seeds, and it came to pass, as he sowed, some seeds fell by the side of the way and the fowls of the air came and ate them. Some fell on rocks, where there was not much earth, and they sprang up at once; but, as they did not have much root, they dried up as the sun shone on them. Some fell where there were thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them, so that they brought forth no fruit. And some fell on good ground, and grew fast and bore a great deal of fruit.
When the crowd had gone home the dis-ci-ples said to Je-sus: "What does this tale mean?" Then he told them that the seeds were the words that he spake to them, the words of God, and that by the man who sowed the seeds he meant all those who teach or preach the word of God. The seed that fell by the side of the way were those that fell on the hard path that ran round or through the field. This hard path, that had not been ploughed nor dug up, was not a good place for seed to take root; nor was a hard heart, that had not learned to love God or man, a good place for the words of God to take root. For Sa-tan could pick the word out of a hard heart with as much ease as birds could pick seed off of a hard path.
The seeds that fell on rocks were like folks who heard God's words with joy and at first were glad to heed them. But their hearts --- though not hard --- had not much depth, and as soon as they were called on to do some hard thing they quit their good works and had no more life in them than had the seeds that dried up when the sun shone on them. The seeds that were choked by the thorns fell on ground that had been dug up but not well cleaned, for the thorns were still there and their roots sapped the soil. So the plants which sprang up were not as strong as they would have been if the thorns had not been there to choke or starve them; they grew, but were too weak to bring forth fruit.
As light and air and sap were drawn off from the seed that fell a prey to thorns, so will the words and truths of God be drawn off from the hearts of those who fall a prey to the cares and joys of the world. They will bring forth no fruit, for the good things of this life will so starve their souls that they will have no time nor love for good works. The seed that fell on good ground, that is on ground that had been well ploughed and made soft and light and clean, brought forth much fruit; and so will it be with those whose hearts have been stirred to their depths by love and zeal. They will be full of good works; for they will take the words of truth and keep them and live them, and will bring forth much fruitto the praise of God.
Then Je-sus told the tale of a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while he slept one of his foes came and sowed tares with the wheat, and then went off and let no one know what he had done. But when the wheat sprang up the tares came, too, and then the men who worked the field went to the man who owned it and said, "Sir, didst thou not sow good seed in thy field? Whence, then, hath it tares?" He said, "Some foe hath done this;" and the men asked if they should pull up the tares. But he said, "Nay, lest while ye pull up the tares, ye root up the wheat, too. Let both stay in the field till they are ripe and then I will bid the men who reap pull up the tares to burn ere they store the wheat in the barn."
When his dis-ci-ples asked him to make this clear to them, he said: "The field is the world and I am the man who sowed the good seed. The wheat means those who love and serve the Lord, and the tares those who do not love him and will not keep his laws. The foe who came by night is Sa-tan. The time when the wheat and tares are ripe means the end of the world, and the men who reap are the an-gels. As wheat and tares both grew in the same field till it was time to reap them, so good and bad men must live in the same world till it is time for them to die; and then God will send his an-gels to bear them to him, that he may judge them."
To make them bear these words in mind, Je-sus went on to tell of a thing that taught the same truth they had just learned in the tale of the wheat and tares. He said some men cast a net in the sea to catch good fish, but when they drew it to land it was full of all sorts -- both good and bad. They sat down and took out the good fish to keep, but would not have the bad ones. Just as there were all sorts of fish in the net, so may there be all sorts of men in the church; but at the last day an-gels will come and take the good [saved] ones to live with God, and will leave the bad ones to their fate.
Two more tales that Je-sus told that day were meant to show how the love of God grows in the heart. First he spoke of a man who sowed a mus-tard seed and it grew to be so large that the birds came and lodged in the boughs of it. Just as this small seed took root and pushed its way up, bit by bit, till it grew to be a tree in which birds found peace and rest, so would a small seed of faith take root in the heart of a man, if he would but watch and tend it, and would grow till it grew to be the tree of life in which he might find rest and peace for his soul. Then he spoke of a cake of yeast that was put in some meal and left there to see what it would do. It went to work at once and, though it made no fuss, soon worked its way all through the flour and made it light and sweet. And what yeast does for flour the grace of God will do for our hearts if we but give it room; as yeast makes bread swell and rise, so does God's grace make our hearts swell with joy, and rise with love and praise to him.
Still two more tales, the last that Je-sus made use of at that time, were to teach the great worth of the things of God. The first was of a man who found a rich prize (it may have been a large lump of gold) hid in a field, and so great was his joy at this good luck that he went off in haste and sold all that he had to raise funds to buy the field. For the sake of the prize he gave all his goods; and in the same way should men joy to give up all they have for the sake of Je-sus. He is the best prize, and those who win him can not be poor, though they should have naught else.
The next told of a man who won a great prize. He was a man who dealt in pearls. His work was to buy and sell these gems, and one day, in the way of trade, he saw a fine large pearl that he knew was worth much more than the rest. He felt that he would like this pearl more than aught else in the world, and he did not rest till it was his, though he had to sell all he had to raise the large sum it took to buy this choice gem. Je-sus is the pearl of great price, and men may well be glad to part with all the world calls rich and great if they may but win so fair a prize as the love of
At this time a man came to Je-sus and said "Lord, I would like to stay with you all the time, to go where you go, and to live in your home." Je-sus told him he had no home; that the beasts and birds had holes and nests to live in, but the Son of Man had not where to lay his head.