Why did Jesus use parables so often?


I have been stumped on this question for awhile. I do not understand why Jesus uses parables to explain certain truths instead of simply and straightforwardly explaining them. It seems as if these parables conjure up confusion among the people. Why did he only explain these parables exclusively to his disciples? Was every single person in “the crowds” not worthy in some way to receive his messages?


I think maybe it’s because us human beings generally like ‘stories’, and can remember them better than ‘lectures’. Parables will often relate to a daily life event; they could easily be a true story. In fact, given that Jesus is God, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that each and every parable has happened at some point in time, in some way.

Also, parables lead you to dig deeper into the message, and find the moral behind it, which will make it stick with you longer.


The Bible says that Jesus always spoke in parables (“without a parable he spoke not unto them”) and it was for very good reason, because he was showing us that mysteries are hidden in them:

“…‘I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things **which have been kept secret **from the foundation of the world.” (Matt. 13:35, see also Mark 4:2,34, 12:1, Matt. 13:3,10,13,34)

Jesus opened the scriptures (things which had been kept secret) via the parables:

“I will incline my ear to a parable: I will **open my dark saying **upon the harp.” (Psalm 49:4)
“I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter **dark sayings **of old.” (KJV Psalm 78:2)

A parable is also a dark saying(s)/sentence:
“And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up.” (Dan. 8:23)

Speaking of Daniel:
“Forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and showing of hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel…” (KJV Dan. 5:12, and verse 16).

The phrase ‘dissolving of doubts’ is the ability to unravel the mysteries of the parables, and also the ability to interpret prophetic dreams.

*dark sentences and hard sentences are also synonymous

“To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise and their dark sayings.” (Proverbs 1:6)

A proverb is also a parable, also known as knowledge, understanding and wisdom.

Daniel (among others) could unravel the dark sentences/hard sentences/dark saying(s)/dark sentences/knowledge/understanding/wisdom.

Matthew 25 speaks of the 5 wise (had wisdom) and that they were ready when the bridegroom arrived but the foolish were not ready because they did not understand the dark sayings/wisdom.


He was speaking to different people from many walks of life: fishermen, businessmen, farmers, few if any had access to books and straightforward lessons. They learned through their occupations…and daily activities. Even today a parable teaches me better than a lecture of a direct abstract idea. Jesus was a carpenter so I’m sure He was very practical…most carpenters I’ve met are such.


One study said people only remember 7% of what they hear, unless it’s a story. We remember stories, and can learn from them years later, as we reflect on them from different stages of our lives.


How many answers!
I guess, in addition, that when a parable is dark, difficult to understand, Jesus wants to talk to who really wants to understand. So the comprehension comes only after reflection, meditation, and questions, discussion, and finally human relations within the Church.


The most troubling parable to me is in Mark 11 where Jesus curses a fig tree. I come from a background where the preaching was this “feel good” babble with a few random biblical platitudes thrown in, where I was taught that this was an illustration of exercising “faith”(?) I believe if Jesus had just come out and said plainly what he meant to say we wouldn’t have so many harmful differences of opinion, (and so many heresies)!:shrug:


Jesus wasn’t writing scriptures. He told stories which are easier to remember and passed down through generations because Jesus wanted His stories to teach and to be remembered for eternity.

Matthew 24: 35. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.


It’s interesting to read peoples ‘idea’ of why Jesus spoke in parables. But why not turn to the Bible where Jesus was asked that same question?

Matthew 13:10-15 (NIV)

10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”

11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:

“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.

For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’

Mark 4:9-11 (NIV)

9 Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

10 When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11 He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables

Luke 8:10 (NIV)

10 He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,

“‘though seeing, they may not see;
though hearing, they may not understand.’


These verses sound like Calvinism where God pre-ordains some people to be lost and nothing they can do will change it!:shrug:


The truth of God is a mystery. Propositional language can’t capture it. Stories do a much better job.



It sure gives heretics something to keep busy. Like those who invented the Rapture teaching, Prosperity Gospel, Pre-destination! etc


Jesus was showing us a spiritual lesson; he was alluding to the **fig tree *(serpent) of the garden that had deceived Eve;"“…and they sewed **fig leaves *** together, and made themselves aprons.” (Gen. 3:7b, apron/covering)

After eating the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve knew that they were naked. So they went to the *fig tree *to try and cover themselves but it had no fruit (spiritual sustenance) and so they were forced to try and cover their nakedness with its leaves. It was an inadequate covering as they were still afraid and then had to leave the garden.

The serpent was forever cursed because of what it had done to our first parents.


All I know is I wish I’d never heard of the Prosperity Gospel as taught on so much Protestant radio or TV programs and so many “churches” It certainly messed up my thinking, as if my mind wasn’t already mixed up.:blush:


Indeed. Which I think explains Jesus’ language about blinding and hardening.

If you want to turn the Gospel into a puzzle and feel as if you are God’s special friends for figuring out the puzzle, then you can do that.

Scripture is a divine fire–enough fire to damn yourself with, if you so choose.

That’s why Christians have always said that although scholarship is great, humility and charity are better hermeneutical keys in every way that really matters.



So you found it appealing?

Well, like all heresies, it has some truth to it. God does desire us to have abundant life, and God does care about the physical and not just the “spiritual.” But abundant life in God’s eyes looks very different from the way it looks in the eyes of the world. That’s the real dichotomy–not physical vs. spiritual but the world’s twisted scale of values vs. the values of the Cross.



The Bible is not stories but as you say “My (as in God’s own) words” - if it was just a matter of stories then scripture could be paraphrased but as it is, translators work hard to ensure it is translated word-for-word, otherwise the otherworldly attributes are lost:

“For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matt. 5:18, see also Luke 16:17)


It seems Hell is going to be pretty full of those “hermen” guys!:blush:



Not nice.


Granted the Rapture teaching in Evangelical circles has taken a bad turn somewhere, but there is reference to ‘being taken’ [just as Enoch (Gen. 5:24, Heb. 11:5) and Elijah 2:1&11] in Matt. 24:40, Luke 17:34,35).

Can I ask how you interpret this?

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