Why Do You Speak in Parables?


Matthew 13:10–13 (NKJV)

And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”

He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.”

Jesus doesn’t say that this is about things being too wonderful to understand. He’s speaks of people who don’t, or won’t, understand things they should understand.

But notice that His disciples don’t ask, “Why do you speak to us in parables?” They ask, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”

Of course, Jesus is speaking in parables to everyone, notably you and me, but their question is just about one group of listeners.

Then Jesus answers a question they didn’t ask. He tells them, and us, that we are able to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. He doesn’t focus first on the “them” they asked about but on the disciples themselves. He isn’t just saying that He speaks in parables to “them” because they can’t understand, He’s emphasizing that we can.

This is shockingly encouraging. No doubt, the things of God are beyond human comprehension. Still, Jesus tells us, straight up, that, “It has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.”

We can’t know everything, but we can know a lot.

The analogical teaching in Jesus’s parables typically relates two things that aren’t the least bit similar. The kingdom of heaven doesn’t look anything like the things in His parables. For example, it doesn’t look like a batch of bread dough. Comparing those two is a stretch. Why do this?

He’s calling us to use our imagination!

That feels dangerous. I can imagine a lot of things, many of them wrong. How can we do this safely?

Recognize the danger. Stay humble. Realize that the things we imagine are not the full, accurate truth (otherwise Jesus could have just told us that and been done with it.) Don’t let the products of our imagination turn into idols. And, most importantly, stick to the Bible’s teaching, carefully interpreted.

So, that’s where this series is going. We’re headed down a dangerous and complex path, always trying to be as careful as we can be.

It’ll be full of warnings and caveats, but it goes somewhere.

All the weekly study guides, which include all five devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.