Of Pigs, Pearls, and Prodigals: A Fresh Look At the Parables of Jesus (Hardcover)

by John Bytheway


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Product Description

“This book would be a wonderful way to study the New Testament in conjunction with the Sunday School lessons. I can see families doing a different parable each week for Family Home Evening, for example.” — The Association for Mormon Letters

Enlighten your study of the New Testament!

Bestselling author John Bytheway's fascination with the parables of Jesus Christ grew deeper after his first visit to the Holy Land, where he “beheld in high definition the backdrop for the life and teachings of the Savior.” In this insightful volume, he discusses what he has learned about more than thirty parables, sharing cultural background and other information about them and offering ideas for how we can apply them today. Throughout, visual images clarify and enrich the discussion.

Beginners and seasoned students alike will enjoy this lively and practical treatment of the Savior's parables.


  1. The Parable of the House Built upon a Rock
    Matthew 7:24-27
  2. The Parable of the Sower (of Four Kinds of Soil)
    Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23
  3. The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares
    Matthew 12:24-30, 36-43
  4. The Parable of the Mustard Seed
    Matthew 13:31-32
  5. The Parable of the Leaven
    Matthew 13:33
  6. The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price
    Matthew 13:44-46
  7. The Parable of the Gospel Net
    Matthew 13:47-40
  8. The Parable of the Householder
    Matthew 13:51-52
  9. The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
    Matthew 18:23-35
  10. The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard
    Matthew 20:1-16
  11. The Parable of the Two Sons
    Matthew 21:28-31
  12. The Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen
    Matthew 21:33-46
  13. The Parable of the Royal Marriage Feast
    Matthew 22:1-14
  14. The Parable of the Ten Virgins
    Matthew 25:1-13
  15. The Parable of the Talents
    Matthew 25:14-30
  16. The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats
    Matthew 25:31-46
  17. The Parable of the Seed Growing Secretly
    Mark 4:26-29
  18. The Parable of the Two Debtors
    Luke 7:36-50
  19. The Parable of the Good Samaritan
    Luke 10:25-37
  20. The Parable of the Foolish Rich Man
    Luke 12:16-21
  21. The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree
    Luke 13:6-9
  22. The Parable of the Chief Seats
    Luke 14:7-11
  23. The Parable of the Great Supper
    Luke 14:16-24
  24. The Parables of the uncompleted Tower and the King's Warfare
    Luke 14:28-33
  25. The Parable of the Lost Sheep
    Luke 15:3-7
  26. The Parable of the Lost Coin
    Luke 15:8-10
  27. The Parable of the Lost (Prodigal) Son
    Luke 15:11-32
  28. The Parable of the Unjust Steward
    Luke 16:1-8
  29. The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus
    Luke 16:19-31
  30. The Parable of the Unjust Judge (or Importunate Widow)
    Luke 18:1-8
  31. The Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican
    Luke 18:9-14
  32. The Parable of the Pounds
    Luke 19:12-27
  33. Conclusion
    Sources Cited

Product Details

  • Pages:  224
  • Size:  6x9
  • Published:  2010

About the Author

JOHN BYTHEWAY served a mission to the Philippines and later graduated from Brigham Young University. He has a master’s degree in religious education and is a part-time instructor at the BYU Salt Lake Center. John is the author of many bestselling books, audio talks, and DVDs, including How to Be an Extraordinary Teen; Life Rocks; and his first children’s picture book, The Sacrament. He and his wife, Kimberly, have six children.

Chapter 1


Matthew 7:24–27; Luke 6:47–49

Who: Multitudes gathered to hear the Sermon on the Mount

Where: Galilee

Why: Concluding the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus likens those who hear his sayings to houses built upon rock or upon sand, depending on whether they become doers of the word or hearers only (see Matthew 7:21–23)

Matthew 7:24–27
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.


Matthew 7:24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock

We usually think of Joseph and Jesus as carpenters who worked with wood, but perhaps they also worked in stone. Wood wasn’t as readily available as stone in the Holy Land. The Greek word translated as “carpenter” is tekton, and means “artificer or craftsman,” which could apply to either wood or stone.

Dr. D. Kelly Ogden observed:
[Joseph and Jesus] could just as well have been artificers or craftsmen of stone, which was much more available and used in the building trades. Note that the imagery in Jesus’ teachings frequently includes the use of stone in building. (See, for example, Matt. 7:24–25; 16:18; Luke 14:28–30; 20:17–18) (Where Jesus Walked, 98).

It’s also interesting to note that the ancient city of Sepphoris was only six kilometers away from Nazareth, and it was in the process of being rebuilt at the time of Jesus, so the images of stones, buildings, and foundations would have been familiar to the people of the area.

Matthew 7:25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock

Visitors to the city of Nazareth will notice right away that it’s not in a level valley or plain, but in rocky, hilly country. This makes the effects of a sudden or heavy rain more dangerous.

According to author Joel Kauffman:
Like every first-century builder of hillside homes, they knew that one must begin by building upon the bedrock. Otherwise, winter rains will rush down the hillside in torrents, undercutting soil from beneath the foundation. With nothing to hold the walls up, one stone after another would drop out, letting the house collapse (Nazareth Jesus Knew, 24).

In Luke’s version of the parable, sometimes referred to as the “Sermon on the Plain,” Jesus refers to “the stream [that] beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it” (Luke 6:48). Perhaps because of illustrations or paintings we’ve seen, many of us have pictured the house in this parable built on relatively flat land—we haven’t imagined this structure on a hillside, but Jesus clearly did.

Matthew 7: 26–27 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

Whether structures are built on sand or on stone, they will be subject to the same forces of nature, but one will stand and another will fall, depending upon its foundation. How firm a foundation, you ask? That’s the key question. Hearing and doing Jesus’ words is the only sure foundation, whereas hearing only, or hearing without acting, is like building on sand.



To hear is good, but to hear and obey is to hearken, and that is the sure foundation. This parable is about hearkening to the teachings of the Savior. Half a world away, and a few decades before Jesus was born, Helaman also spoke of the “only sure foundation.”

And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall (Helaman 5:12).

It’s important to note that building on a sure foundation doesn’t change the weather. It won’t eliminate rain, storms, hurricanes, or hail; it only ensures that we won’t crumble when they come. God doesn’t eliminate our trials, but he is our greatest ally in helping us get through them.

Howard W. Hunter: The words of the Master regarding the house without a foundation say to me that a man cannot have a shallow and reckless notion that he is sufficient to himself and can build his own life on any basis that happens to be easy and agreeable. As long as the weather is fair, his foolishness may not be evident; but one day there will come the floods, the muddy waters of some sudden passion, the rushing current of unforeseen temptation. If his character has no sure foundation in more than just lip service, his whole moral structure may collapse (in Conference Report, October 1967, 13).

While there is only one sure foundation, there are many faulty ones. Another interesting way to apply the parable to life is to identify some of the more popular weak foundations upon which people build. Some build their lives upon their wealth or accomplishments. Others may build on their fame or popularity. Still others may believe that image or appearance is where happiness can be found. Modern contractors might call these weak foundations “bad mud.”

Wealth. Speaking of the riches of the world, Alma taught his son Corianton, “behold, you cannot carry them with you” (Alma 39:14). It is clear from the Book of Mormon that when the people were righteous, the Lord prospered them, and he often blessed
people with wealth. It is also evident that once the people got a -little bit of stuff, they did something very odd—they suddenly decided to relocate to a weaker foundation (see Helaman 6:17). Rather than setting their hearts on God, they set their hearts on their riches, and suddenly the rain began to fall—or worse, the Lamanites began to fall on them and destroy them. (We’ll talk more about this when we discuss the parable of the foolish rich man.)

Accomplishments. You could spend your life amassing a room full or trophies, awards, and degrees, then spend your old age reminiscing about your glory days to anyone who will listen. But one problem with building your life on your accomplishments is that you will always be able to find someone who did more or did better than you. Besides, what could you have accomplished without God? Or, as King Benjamin said, “Of what have ye to boast?” (Mosiah 2:24). It’s great to set and accomplish goals, but beware that they don’t become life itself. Danger comes when your heart is set on the wrong things. Your finest goals will be those that involve service to your fellow beings and to God.

Appearance. Seminary teacher Kim Peterson gave members of his class scorecards to use in rating people based on their appearance. He held up a poster of a person, and the class would decide if that person was a “10” or some lesser integer. After the group had rated numerous celebrities, actors, actresses, and singers, Brother Peterson held up a poster of the Savior. The room got quiet, and the disconcerted scorers finally gave Jesus a “10.”

“You know,” remarked Brother Peterson, “there’s something wrong with a system where Tom Cruise and Jesus Christ get the same score.” Yeah, there is something wrong with that. Certainly, we should all look our best and be appropriately groomed and clothed, but building your life on the image of your face, your clothes, your car, or your home is “bad mud.” Focus only on your outside appearance if you wish, but remember, the Lord looks on the heart (see 1 Samuel 16:7), and that heart must be set on Christ and his gospel.

The parable of the house built upon a rock is a perfect place to begin our study of the parables! Now, as we encounter the other parables, we’ll have to ask ourselves: What will we do with these teachings of Jesus? Are we doers or hearers only? Will we make them foundational by hearkening, or will we try to build around them and get washed away when the storms come?

COMING -UP . . .

Next, we’ll move from the mount to the Sea of Galilee, where multitudes gathered to hear Jesus, and where their surroundings may very well have included sowers casting seeds in their fields.


by  Customer  -   reviewed on  January 04, 2011

I love John Bytheway's approach to teaching the gospel. All of his books/talks seem to really resonate with me on a level where I can understand.

Fantastic & Insightful

by  Joseph  -   reviewed on  February 20, 2011

I received this book for my birthday and it highlights the parables in sound and profound way to ease the study of the parables of the Savior.

reading it now

by  Dorothy  -   reviewed on  February 15, 2011

I started reading this book yesterday ... I'm loving it!

A Must-Have Reference for Bible Study

by  Kristen  -   reviewed on  February 15, 2011

Doctrinally correct, insightful and well-organized. This book is a must-have as you ponder the Savior's teachings through parables. I sincerely appreciate the author's talent for simultaneously simplifying gospel topics while going deeper into them.


by  Joseph  -   reviewed on  February 13, 2011

I just got this book and have read only a couple of chapters but it is very straight forward and easy to understand. Just like the front of the book says "A Fresh Look at the Parables of Jesus." It is a great book for new converts, like myself. Highly recommended!

Expected More from Bro. Bytheway

by  Nathan  -   reviewed on  March 08, 2011

This is a fairly simple look at a number of the parables contained in the New Testament. Nice work, but I was hoping for more. More in depth discussion, more detail, more examination. This is some good milk, not a lot of meat.

Great supplement to your study of the New Testament

by  Customer  -   reviewed on  March 22, 2011

I LOVE this book, and have learned so much. It has helped me gain new insights into the parables that I had never thought of before. I've especially appreciated sharing these insights in Gospel Doctrine class as we study the parables together. This is a great book, and Brother Bytheway's writing and organization of the book make it a great reference.

loved it

by  misdy  -   reviewed on  February 16, 2011

This book is great very informative and easy to read! I have a hard time staying focused and this book was really easy!!! learned a lot and loved it!!!!

An excellent supplement to scripture study!

by  Chelsea  -   reviewed on  March 07, 2011

I found this book to be very helpful as a supplement to scripture study. Each chapter introduces a new parable, and begins with the parable's scriptural reference. What I found to be most interesting was the cultural background of each parable that explained the historical significance. For example, in The Parable of the Sower, Bytheway explains the different methods of sowing seeds that were used when the Savior preached the gospel, helping the reader to better understand the symbolism in the parable. Bytheway also offers helpful insight on how the parables can be applied today. I highly recommend this book to anyone who desires to have a more clear understanding and interpretation of the parables of Jesus Christ.

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