Why Did Jesus Speak in Parables?
Updated: Mar 29, 2022
But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed 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)
“Then the disciples came and said to him, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’ And he answered them, ‘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 the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:’
‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’
‘But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.’” (Matthew 13:10-17 esv)
Why Did Jesus Speak in Parables?
In this passage in Matthew, Jesus says that the hearts of the people have grown dull. They don’t have spiritual ears to hear the Truth, and their eyes are closed. Why though? Why are so many people unable to see the light of the gospel in all its glory? It's because they simply don't want to hear, or see, or understand the Truth. Often times, it's pride. Other times it's ignorance or simply indifference and self-absorption. Deep down people know that if they choose to believe the Truth, then they will have to submit to it. This would mean they would have to repent of their sins and trust God’s will for their lives, over their own selfish wills. You see, the love of sin and the depth of pride has such a grip on lost souls. Many people love themselves and their sins just too much to repent of their ways, turn to God and trust in His will, and so be saved from their sins. They'd rather die in their sins than to repent, believe the gospel, and receive eternal life. It's a choice.
People's refusal to believe the Truth comes first, and then in response, God amplifies their pride and stubbornness through their own disbelief and rejection of the gospel through speaking in parables to them. Those who are humble and sincere can (and will) be able to hear the message of the gospel through parables and accept it. But most people will not. In Matthew 7:13–14 it says "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find are few." People are held responsible by God for refusing to understand what is clear and obvious, and as a result, God speaks through parables to keep them from further understanding the Truth. (Proverbs 29:1).
Jesus' Parables Were a Judgment
Jesus taught in parables because it was a judgment; A judgment on willful, hard-hearted unbelief; A judgment on those who previously chose to reject His already clear teaching of Scripture and the Truth. The parables were designed to hide and obscure the Truth from people who already chose to deny the gospel and God’s plan of salvation through faith in Christ. So for those unbelievers, the parables were a mystery to them, and it was a judgment on their final unbelief. Jesus’ parables were also merciful. There was an element of mercy within the judgment of them. You see, if Jesus kept speaking to unbelievers in clear, unmistakable terms, kept explaining Scripture, and kept proclaiming objective doctrinal Truth, their culpability to accept it would continue to increase with every passing time the gospel was presented to them.
To Whom Much is Given, Much is Required
“To whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48). That is referring to judgment. If you keep sharing the gospel with someone who continues to reject it, Scripture says it only increases God’s judgment on that person in the end. That’s why Christians are called to stop sharing biblical truth with people who dismiss or reject the message of salvation through the gospel and trample underfoot the Son of God. “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you" (Matthew 7:6). Christians are not to get into any theological debates, respond to insincere or empty questions, or get into arguments with anyone, let alone someone who tramples on what is holy. We are not to waste things of such supreme value on those who do not appreciate them, or those who even get angry by the loving offer.
Scripture embraces the immense value of seeking to share Truth with unbelievers. However, there is a big difference between sharing the gospel with willing, sincere people, versus wasting energy on the proud and hard-hearted. It’s wise and merciful to depart from that person, and all you can do is pray for him or her. It's a command that we shake the dust off and leave that person alone. “And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.” (Matthew 10:13-15)
If we as Christians continue to share the glorious gift of salvation with someone who continues to trample all over it, we are called to be quickly discerning of that. We are to stop forcing the miraculous gift of eternal life on the stubborn, unwilling, and especially on the spiteful. If we kept sharing the Truth to a person like that, he or she would only be storing up more and more wrath for him or herself on the Day of Judgment. Continuing to hear the good news of the gospel and yet still choosing to reject it is simply someone suppressing the knowledge of the Truth. Romans 2:5 says, "But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed."
Concealing the Truth in the parables is an act of judgment tempered with mercy so that God doesn’t add guilt, upon guilt, upon guilt, upon guilt every time that person rejects the knowledge of the Truth. As I said before, we can still always pray for them. You never know what goes through people's minds when they are faced with death, or how they may view things differently, knowing their days are numbered. You never know when God may grow that seed of Truth that was planted 50 years ago through hearing the gospel.
All our days and hours are numbered with precision, and we never know how many we have left. That being said, the day of salvation is today. It's now. Don't sit around and wait or put it off until tomorrow. “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;" (Isaiah 55:6). Repent and believe the gospel, and you will be saved.
My own personal belief and hope is that God does a lot of saving on deathbeds and in final days, moments, and even in a final breath; in the half of a tick of a tock I believe God saves anyone's soul who cries out for Jesus. I have to have that hope in my heart, otherwise it's just incredibly painful for me to think of how many people may perish without Jesus.
The gospel is urgent because death is certain, sin is damning, hell is a reality, salvation is available, and there is only one way, and that’s through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
“At that time Jesus declared, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden things from the wise and intelligent and revealed them to little children; yes Father, for such was your gracious will.” (Matthew 11:25-26)
“The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)
"But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more." (Luke 12:48)
"Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” (John 13:20)
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24-27)