The editors at Lord’s Library created the complete list of parables in Mark’s Gospel explained through Bible scripture.
The Gospel of Mark is the oldest synoptic gospel is Mark since Matthew and Luke essentially incorporated the story in their books. It’s also the shortest. Because he was not one of Jesus’ twelve apostles, some scholars claimed his version came from Apostle Peter. This book is also known as a book of action, and the phrase “at once” appears numerous times throughout the text. Mark was written for non-Jew believers known as Gentile converts, especially those who were in Rome.
The book’s focus is on answering the question, “Who is Jesus?” The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is used as a starting point. The second message focuses on what it means to be a follower of Jesus. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must renounce their desires and take up the cross.” Mark 8:34, NIV.
The second Gospel of the New Testament, Mark also chronicles Jesus’ life and teachings. In this book, there is an emphasis on the works of Jesus and his miracles. The book of Mark is written as a motivational sermon, summoning readers to action. And given that this book includes 9 Parables of Jesus Christ in total it’s important to have the parables in Mark’s Gospel explained.
Note: This resource features a list of the parables in Mark in the order in which they appear in the Bible.
Parables in Mark’s Gospel Explained
The Parable of the Lamp
Also known as the Parable of the Lamp on a Stand, the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Bridesmaids
In the Parable of the Lamp, Jesus teaches the importance of living their faith on their sleeve. He calls his followers “the light of the world.” Believers are to reflect the love of Christ, illuminating the fallen world with the light of God.
Jesus uses a common household item, a lamp, as a metaphor to resonate with His audience. He reminds them that none of them hide a lamp under a bowl. Instead, they are instructed to leave it uncovered so light illuminates the house. In the same way, He calls believers to shine and show the world His love. The Parable of the Lamp can be found in Matthew 5:14-16, Mark 4:21-25, and Luke 8:16-18:
- Mark 4:21-25: “And he said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick? For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad. If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given. For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.”
The Parable of New Cloth on an Old Garment
Also known as the Parable of New Cloth on an Old Garment, the Parable of New Wine in Old Wineskins
In this parable, Jesus gives two illustrations: sewing a new piece of cloth on an old, damaged garment and pouring new wine into old wineskins. In both illustrations, the message is the same. If one is to embrace a new life of faith in Christ, they have to leave their old life behind.
Jesus is teaching us that if we simply patch faith into our old life, that it will not be compatible. What we live out will not be a genuine expression of faith. The garment will tear and the wineskins will burst. To truly live out the faith, it’s crucial that one embrace a new identity in Christ.
The Parable of the New Cloth on an Old Garment can be found in Matthew 9:16-17, Mark 2:21-22, and Luke 5:33-39:
- Mark 2:21-22: “No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles.”
The Parable of the Divided Kingdom
Jesus performed many miracles, including the driving out of demons. Looking to denounce His works, the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of demons! This leads Jesus to deliver a parable to counter their outrageous claims.
The parable is of a divided Kingdom that can no longer stand because of its division. Jesus explains that if Satan and his forces of evil fight amongst themselves that they will only weaken themselves. Jesus continues to explain that by casting out demons by the power of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived. This parable thus confirms Satan’s grip on our world but also the breaking in of the Kingdom of God to drive Him out and reclaim God’s children.
The Parable of the Divided Kingdom can be found in Matthew 12:24-30 and Mark 3:23-27:
- Mark 3:23-27: “And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end.”
The Parable of the Sower
Also known as the Parable of the Soil
In this parable, Jesus tells the story of a farmer planting seeds. Some of the seed falls on a path and is eaten by birds. Other seeds fell in rocky places where there was not enough soil to nourish and give them roots. The rest of the seed fell on good soil where it prospered and provided a bountiful crop!
This parable describes how the receiving of the Gospel blooms in the lives of different people. Some will hear the message of the Gospel but not understand it. Before it can take root, evil snatches it away. Then there are those who reacted positively to the message but don’t keep with it because it has not taken root in their heart. There are those who develop strong roots in the Gospel and it blooms into a massive crop within their hearts as well.
The Parable of the Sower can be found in Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, and Luke 8:4-15:
- Mark 4:1-20: “And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land. And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine, Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred. And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables? The sower soweth the word. And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts. And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended. And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.”
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
In this parable, Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed. Though it is the smallest among all seeds, it grows to become a large tree that houses families of birds. In the same way, the Gospel starts as a small seed within the heart and blooms into a life-giving and transformative catalyst in the lives of many.
The Parable of the Mustard Seed can be found in Matthew 13:31-32, Mark 4:30-34, and Luke 13:18-21:
- Mark 4:30-34: “And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it. And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it. But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.”
The Parable of the Tenants
Also known as the Parable of the Tenant Farmers, the Parable of the Wicked Tenants, the Parable of the Wicked Husbandman, The Parable of the Landowner
The Parable of the Tenants is one Jesus used to show the Pharisees their sin, but one that also teaches an important lesson today. In it, a landowner plants a vineyard and rents it to tenant farmers to take care of. When he sends people to collect the fruit, the tenant farmers kill them. The landowner sends his son, thinking they’ll respect him, but they kill him as well. Then the landowner comes and puts an end to them, giving the farm to other tenants.
Jesus tells the Pharisees this is what will happen to them. They didn’t believe the prophets God sent and they killed them. Now, they were about to kill God’s very Son. Thus, God would take away their status as His chosen people and share it with the Gentiles as well. For us, we must ensure that we do not walk the path of the Pharisees ourselves, but rather live life in a genuine and heartfelt relationship with God.
The Parable of the Tenants can be found in Matthew 21:35-45, Mark 12:1-12, and Luke 20:9-18:
- Mark 12:1-12: “And he began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country. And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard. And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled. And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some. Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son. But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours. And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard. What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others. And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner: This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people: for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them: and they left him, and went their way.”
The Parable of the Budding Fig Tee
Also known as the Parable of the Fig Tree, the Parable of Signs of the Future from a Fig Tree
Here, Jesus speaks of a budding fig tree. He says when the twigs are tender and the leaves come out, you understand that summer is near. In the same way, when the signs of the times appear, you will know that His return is coming soon. This parable reminds one to keep their eyes and ears open to the world around us so we can be prepared for Christ’s return.
The Parable of the Budding Fig Tree can be found in Matthew 24:32-35, Mark 13:28-33, and Luke 21:29-31:
- Mark 13:28-33: “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near: So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.”
The Parable of the Faithful and Unfaithful Servant
Also known as the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Servants, the Parable of the Watchful Servants
In this parable, Jesus speaks of a master who goes away and leaves his servant in charge of his household. The wise servant feeds everyone at the proper time and takes care of the matters of the house. But the wicked servant uses his freedom to abuse his power and mistreat the other people of the house. When the master comes back, this wicked servant will face judgment!
Jesus is showing us what will happen to those who don’t follow His teachings during this time He is away. If we neglect all that He has taught us while He is gone, we will be in serious trouble when He returns! And He will come back at a time we do not expect, so we best be ready at every moment.
The Parable of the Faithful and Unfaithful Servant can be found in Matthew 24:45-51, Mark 13:34-37, and Luke 12:35-48:
- Mark 13:34-37: “For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.”
The Parable of the Growing Seed
Also known as the Parable of the Seed Growing Secretly
This parable compares the Kingdom of God to growing seeds. All by itself, the soil brings forth grain. When it is ripe, they know the harvest has come. In the same way, the Kingdom of God begins as a seed planted in the heart, growing and growing until it is fully ripe. God sends believers out to harvest and to spread more seeds of faith among the people of the world.
The Parable of the Growing Seed can be found in Mark 4:26-29:
- Mark 4:26-29: “And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.”
In Mark, Jesus delivers a long discourse in parables to His disciples but they fail to understand. The most-known and only unique parable to the Gospel of Mark is the Parable of the Growing Seed, which compares the Kingdom of God to growing seeds. The book of Mark also includes miracles and a passion narrative.
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