Jesus taught and revealed the mystery of God’s Kingdom through the use of parables. But only those who had “ears to hear” could discern them. (Matt. 13:10-13, Mark 4:11)
During his brief three-year ministry, Christ preached good news to the poor, healed the sick, raised the dead, defended the weak, delivered the demon-possessed, and discipled His elect.
A simple reading of the four Gospel accounts reveals that Christ’s primary teaching mission was to instruct His followers in the precepts of the Kingdom of God. And when sharing these precepts with the crowds, which almost always included religious leaders like the Pharisees and Sadducees, his teaching method of choice was the parable.
The following video helps explain the purpose of Christ’s usage of teaching parables…
VIDEO: Why Did Jesus Speak In Parables?
But What Exactly Is A Parable?
Before continuing our exploration into why Jesus spoke in parables, let’s first define the word parable.
The word “parable” is the English translation of the original Greek word “parabole.
Parabole is a compound word:
“pará,” = close beside, with
“bállō” = to cast
Put simply, this word means to teach through the use of comparison or analogy.
This definition makes sense as Christ often began his teaching parables with a phrase such as: “The kingdom of heaven is like a…”
Jesus aimed His message to the hearer in the form of a simile. For He says: “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it?” (Luke 13:18)
Jesus deployed the parable when preaching His Kingdom message in public. And while some of Christ’s parables include an accompanying explicit interpretation, others do not.
When properly understood, Christ’s spoken parables laid the ax to the root of man’s deepest spiritual questions and struggles. However, because Christ revealed these spiritual truths through the use of parables, the answers were often left hidden in plain sight, which often served to confound the crowds. In fact, some of Christ’s parables are so unusual that they appear even as riddles.
Even the Apostles Asked Why Jesus Spoke in Parables
Among the perplexed were Christ’s own disciples. In one instance, we find the disciples coming to Christ privately to inquire about his use of teaching parables. Christ’s answer is incredibly revealing.
Read the exchange below taken from the gospel of Matthew.
"And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?" Jesus answered them, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted." (Matthew 13:10-11)
Put simply, Christ explains that His mission was to clearly reveal the mystery of the Kingdom of God to His disciples. However, all others were destined to hear these deep spiritual truths in the form of parables.
Why are the clear and simple truths about the Kingdom of God only explained to Christ’s disciples and not to all others? The answer given by Christ is simply extraordinary.
"For whoever has, to him [more] shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. "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 13:12-13)
Put simply, Jesus spoke in parables to the surrounding crowds because of their spiritual blindness and spiritual deafness. It was their own hard hearts that led Christ to deploy the use of parables in the revelation of Kingdom truths.
But Christ’s answer to His disciples does not end there. Jesus goes on to explain that the spiritual blindness of the people, which led Him to teach in parables, was in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophetic writings.
"In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES, OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM." (Matthew 13:14-15)
But, by the grace of God, Christ is able to deliver plain truth about the mystery of the Kingdom of God to His disciples. Why? Read the answer for yourself.
"But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. "For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see [it], and to hear what you hear, and did not hear [it]." (Matthew 13:16-17)
The answer then, as to why Christ spoke plainly to His disciples, is that they had “ears to hear” and they had “eyes to see.”
In other words, God intentionally hid the deepest parts of his teachings about the Kingdom in parables from those who were wise in their own eyes. But He revealed them plainly to the humble and lowly disciples who forsook all to follow Him as Lord and Savior.
Because the mystery of the Kingdom of God was delivered plainly to Christ’s disciples, who are also known as Apostles, we must be rooted and grounded in the Apostolic doctrine in order to fully discover the mystery.
Learn more about this mystery of the Kingdom that was delivered to the Apostles, but hidden from the spiritually blind by way of parables, in the video teaching here.