One of the most striking features of the teaching of Jesus is his use of parables. He told down-to-earth stories that had the ring of real life and made his points in a memorable way. What are the parables? Some points about interpreting parables can be made. First, a parable is not an allegory. An allegory is a story in which every item stands for something else. Second, the parables are not illustrations of a general truth. Such generalized truths are usually trite, and rarely applicable. Third, parables should be placed in the context of Jesus' ministry. Much information is now available on the times in which Jesus lived. This kind of information provides important help in the interpretation of His parables. Fourth, we must be careful with the usual introductory formulas to the parables, which usually go as follows: "The kingdom of God is like…" The temptation is to identify God's kingdom with the first object mentioned in the story. But the comparison may be in the conclusion, or in the contrast between the first item and a later one. Fifth, if we understand the parable in its own context, it will find its own authentic way to speak freshly and forcefully to our situation. Using these principles of interpretation, how would you interpret the main thrust of the first parable in our Gospel? The key to the first parable is the coming of the harvest. "You may only see a few signs of the kingdom." It is as if Jesus says, "But when your eyes are truly opened, you will see that the kingdom is ready and that I will bring in the harvest." The parable encourages us to confidently grasp the sickle and reap the harvest. It is not up to us to sow the seed of the gospel, as if without us it would not be in the world. Our task is to claim for God what he has already prepared. What is the central point of the mustard seed parable, then? It relates to the humble appearance of Jesus and his disciples. Like mustard seeds, they are small. "But don't judge by appearances," it is as if Jesus says. "Rather, judge by results."