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Jesus was unique in so many ways. Not only in His birth, death, and resurrection. But Jesus delivered the greatest moral teaching this world has ever known.
One of the ways in which Jesus communicated to those around Him was through storytelling. Each of His stories - or parables - illustrates an important spiritual truth.
There are many of these parables centring around the Kingdom of God, and each designed to impart an important aspect of God's kingdom. In these Kingdom parables, it should be borne in mind that when Matthew refers to the Kingdom of heaven, this term is synonymous with the Kingdom of God.
The different gospels were written with different audiences in mind. That's why, even though there are so many similarities, there are also significant differences.
For instance, Mark was writing primarily for the Romans. The Romans were an action-oriented people. So Mark had to keep his gospel brief and full of action. Thus we see that Mark's gospel is the shortest of all the gospels. It is full of action, with relatively little dialogue, and repeated use of the word "immediately" to keep up the pace.
On the other hand, Matthew was writing for the Jews. In keeping with that goal, Matthew's gospel is full of Old Testament quotations. To the Romans and the Greeks, the Old Testament had much less relevance. But to the Jew, it was the God-inspired Scriptures.
Another thing that Matthew had to be aware of when writing for the Jews was their reverence for the name of God. Although the Old Testament Scriptures repeatedly use the name Yahweh (or more accurately, YHWH), the Jews believed that God's name was so holy it should be avoided. Because of this sensitivity, whereas Luke refers to the kingdom of God, Matthew very often changes that to the kingdom of heaven so as not to offend his intended readers.
Something that needs to be kept in mind when interpreting the parables is that they are about the Kingdom, not about us!
By that, I mean that we need to resist the temptation to show off our amazing ability to assign a meaning to absolutely everything in the parable. Jesus Himself did not necessarily interpret everything in His parables. For instance, He did not interpret the meaning of the stones on the stony ground in the parable of the sower.
Much of the power of these parables consists in the simplicity of their message about the kingdom. So we need to stick to the KISS Principle - Keep It Simple Stupid!
The following Parable Bible Studies are available: