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Parable / Double-edged Parable


A parable is a story with a spiritual message. However, some are partially or fully allegorical. In an allegory, the characters or events are symbols of something moral or religious. The literal meaning of parable is “cast alongside.” It can be a comparison or similitude of a spiritual fact, or figures taken from everyday life. Parables are also an expanded proverb because proverbs are condensed similitudes serving similar purpose.

Jesus used parables extensively to teach the spiritual truth that he wanted to communicate to ordinary people. Synoptic gospels give thirty-five parables. Jesus used them to illustrate the spiritual truth by casting it alongside an earthly story. People could remember such stories and hand over to diverse cultures and generations. Parables were excellent teaching aids, especially in the past when people were illiterate.

In the early part of his ministry, Jesus taught without parables. Later, when the Pharisees confronted Jesus, he taught in parables. The higher-class Jews, who were against Jesus, were close-minded. So, Jesus wanted to conceal the truth from them, while he continued communicating the truth to his disciples. He even explained the meaning of parables to his disciples. There was a time when he said nothing without parables (Mk 4:34). For this reason, the disciples asked Jesus why he was speaking to the people in parables (Mt 13:10).


A double-edged parable has two parts, each with its own message. For a double-edged parable, the message of the second part has precedence over the first.

The story of the two sons (Prodigal Son) has two parts with diverse messages (Lk 15:11-32). The message of the first part is the magnanimity of God the Father to offer unconditional forgiveness to the repentant and His amazing joy in the sinners’ conversion. The second part gives importance to the necessity of the “righteous” to join the father’s magnanimity in accepting the repentant sinners.

Another double-edged parable is the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31). The message of the first part is that people involved in luxury without concern for others would have torments in the afterlife, whereas God would comfort people who trust in Him amid suffering or take up suffering for the Kingdom of God in the afterlife. The second part of this parable deals with the five brothers of the rich man who were also self-centered and representatives of the Pharisees during Jesus’ public ministry. So, the primary emphasis of the parable is the urgency for repentance of the elite group.


The teachings of Jesus are relevant now and forever because they are the eternal message from God. The wisdom of Jesus and the simplicity of his teachings understandable to the ordinary people are clear from the use of parables. Let us learn from the Bible and communicate that with our children and others.

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