Why Jesus Speaks in Parables: Matthew 13:10-17; Mark 4:10-12
In the gospels, much of Jesus' teachings are in the form of parables (short stories that illustrated an aspect of: God, his kingdom, the end times, and other such topics). In the gospel of Matthew and Mark, Jesus explains to his disciples why he speaks in parables.
"Then the disciples came and asked him, 'Why do you speak to them in parables?' He answered, 'To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.'" (Matthew 13:10-11; also Mark 4:11)
Essentially Jesus is stating that he speaks in figures of speech so that only those who interpret them metaphorically and spiritually will understand. Those who in interpret his parables literally become confused.
However, Jesus also says, "For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away." (Matthew 13:12)
And in the gospel according to Mark, he says, "'Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.'" (Mark 4:24-25)
This last statement about "those who have, more will be given, and those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away" is actually a main point of several of Jesus parables. Jesus makes this same statement in:
In each of these parables, the thing to be "had" is essentially the same thing.
In Mark 4:25 and Luke 8:18, Jesus has just told the Parable of the Lamp Under a Basket. In this parable, the thing to be "had" (that can be given or taken away) is summarized in Jesus' concluding statement:
"Then pay attention to how you listen; for to those who have, more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away." (Luke 8:18)
In this context, it is "understanding" and "knowledge" of the kingdom of God that is to be had, because we are urged to pay attention to how we listen.
In Luke 12:41-48, Jesus tells the Parable of the Faithful and Wise Servant. He concludes by saying, "From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded." (Luke 12:48)
In this context, Jesus is speaking of the servant who was at work and doing what the master wanted while he was away. "Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives." (Luke 12:43)
And then Jesus says, "That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating." (Luke 12:47) Therefore, in this context, the thing that is given is an understanding of what was wanted by the master (again, knowledge and understanding of: God, his kingdom, want is expected, etc.).
In Matthew 25:29 and Luke 19:26, Jesus has just told the Parable of the Talents and Pounds. He concludes these parables in the same way as the others, by saying, "For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away." (Matthew 25:29; also Luke 19:26)
Like in the Parable of the Faithful and Wise Servant, the servants who are rewarded are the ones who are at work for their master while he is away. They are the ones who know what the master wants and therefore do what is expected.
Jesus directly tells us why he speaks in parables, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given." (Matthew 13:11)
Those who misunderstood who Jesus was, and therefore misunderstood that his parables are not literal, sometimes became confused about what Jesus taught.
Also, from the parables we examined, we can see that Jesus makes this statement about "those who have, more will be given, and those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away" to mean that he speaks in parables to reveal "knowledge" and "understanding" of God and his kingdom (the secrets of the kingdom).
Jesus teaches in the "talents/pounds parable" and the "faithful and wise servant parable," that those who have understanding of what is expected of the master, and act on those expectations by working for the master while he is away, are the ones who are rewarded by the master when he returns.
What is expected of Jesus until he returns?
Jesus tells us in Matthew 28:19-20, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you."
Jesus also tells us what is expected of us in Matthew 22:37-39, "He said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"
And James tells us that loving God and people includes serving people: "If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,' and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead." (James 2:15-17)
Jesus' work is for us to be a witness of his resurrection and salvation to all who repent of their sins and believe, as well as loving God and people through our actions. As these parables teach us, those who do his work while he is away will be rewarded accordingly.
However, those who do not work will receive consequence by receiving eternal death instead of eternal life. "The master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and put him with the unfaithful. That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating." (Luke 12:46-47)
The bad slave is put with the unfaithful, because of his actions, because Our Actions Reveal the Truth.
This fact is true because we show with our actions what we truly believe. "They profess to know God, but they deny him by their actions." (Titus 1:16)
This teaching of Jesus can be difficult to accept unless we understand both the loving AND righteous nature of God. "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God's wrath." (John 3:36)