Why did Jesus speak in parables? Was it simply a teaching device to keep His audience engaged? No, it was more than that. Keep Reading...
Of course, the use of parables made Jesus’ teachings very memorable. We often remember stories more than a list of principles. Jesus used parables as a way of speaking the language of his day. He used illustrations that everyone could relate with… whether rich or poor, religious or non-religious. His use of parables presented a clear teaching with an important obedience step.
But Jesus also used parables to reveal who was in the kingdom and who was not. The understanding of His parables (and the desire to understand) revealed one's kingdom allegiance (Matt. 13:11-23). It is very important to clarify current kingdom loyalties, so that people can be called from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light.
In other words, Jesus' use of parables revealed the unbelief that was resident in the hearers' hearts. It is always unbelief that keeps us out of the kingdom. Jesus clarified to his disciples why he spoke in parables by saying, “This is why I speak to them in parables: ‘Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.’” Matthew 13:13-14
The problem with the religious leaders is not that they didn’t understand Jesus. It was that they didn’t want to understand Jesus. His use of parables revealed their hard and rebellious hearts. It is not until hardness of heart gets revealed that we have a chance to be softened. Jesus’ parables did not encourage people in their unbelief and rebellion. It cut like a sword - bringing revelation of truth to those who wanted Jesus and revelation of a hard heart to those who didn’t want Jesus in the first place.
The use of parables is similar to using public proclamation as an evangelism tool. It quickly reveals who is soft and ready to receive the Gospel and who is walking in unbelief.
In our teaching, there should always be a point of revealing unbelief and calling people into faith. Do not be afraid of confronting unbelief. Matt. 13:34 says that Jesus ALWAYS used parables in speaking to the crowds. In other words, Jesus ALWAYS made a point of confronting unbelief in the lives of His hearers. Jesus didn't always confront this unbelief in plain language. But, he allowed the unbelief to naturally reveal itself through the stories He used. Unbelief or hardness of heart was then revealed to people on their own as they listened to Jesus. Once unbelief is recognized and dealt with, then people have an opportunity to be transformed by Jesus.
Missionary. Teacher. Worship Leader. Deeply desiring to make God's Word accessible and understandable to all. May you be transformed as God's Word fills your life.