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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Life and Ministry of Jesus Christ

Don Stewart :: Why Did Jesus Speak in Parables?

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Why Did Jesus Speak in Parables?

The Life and Ministry of Jesus Christ – Question 15

One of the methods Jesus employed in communicating His message was through parables. A parable is basically an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. When Jesus started telling parables to the people, His disciples asked the obvious question:

And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” (Matthew 13:10 NKJV)

They wanted to know why Jesus resorted to teaching this way.

Jesus Gives a Revealing Answer to Their Question

Jesus’ answer to the question was quite revealing. Matthew records His response:

He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says: ‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.’ (Matthew 13:11-15 NRSV)

Unwillingness on the part of the people to receive Jesus’ message of the kingdom of God was the reason that He taught in parables. They heard the truths of the kingdom of God, but they were not understood. It was not because God was hiding the truth from them—it was because they did not want to hear.

The People Had the Chance to Believe

These facts points to a great truth. God has given the people every chance to accept the message of Jesus Christ. His ministry was attested by astonishing miracles. He offered the proper credentials as the Messiah, yet they still did not believe in Him. The realities of the kingdom, therefore, were not theirs to know. The people who believed in Jesus as the Messiah would understand the parables. They would comprehend the great truths of the kingdom of God.

They Are to Be Understood Spiritually

Some years later the Apostle Paul would echo the same truth. He wrote the following to the people at the church in Corinth:

No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”— but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:7-14 NIV)

The spiritual truth that Scripture reveals must be understood spiritually. Indeed, God has given His Holy Spirit to believers so they can discern spiritual truths.

Most People Were Not Interested in the Truth

The truth of God is ultimately to be understood spiritually. The great majority of the people in Jesus’ day were not interested in God’s truth. Jesus clearly explained this,

Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. (Matthew 13:13 NASB)

Unfortunately, this is still true today. Most people do not want to hear God’s truth. God is speaking but they are not listening.

Summary – Question 15
Why Did Jesus Speak in Parables?

Jesus Christ spoke in parables during His public ministry. These parables are earthly stories with a heavenly meaning. He did so that His disciples would comprehend His teachings and that unbelievers would be without comprehension.

Indeed, those interested in understanding the truth of His message would understand while those not interested would remain without understanding. His message is still clear for anyone who wants to hear it.

Could the Teachings of Jesus Have Come from a Different Source than God? ← Prior Section
Did Jesus Know the People Would Reject Him? Next Section →
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