Throughout His ministry, Jesus taught life lessons by using a variety of different parables. To understand the purpose of the parables of Christ, I go to the explanation of Jesus Himself.
The very first parable that Jesus used is the parable of the sower teaching the lesson about how important it is to hear the word of God. After He told this parable, “the disciples came and said to Him, ‘Why do You speak to them in parables?’” (Matt. 13.10). Listen to how Jesus answered them.
Notice how often the word “hear” or “hearing” is used as Jesus explains His use of parables.
The purpose of the parables of Christ is to help us become better listeners. They are designed to help us better understand what Jesus is teaching. Let's go back and break down what Jesus said in reference to the purpose of parables.
He said, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given”
The idea of a mystery does not imply that something is incomprehensible. It means that something has been hidden or concealed. Once enough information is made known, then the secret is revealed, and the mystery is solved (Eph. 3.1-5).
Those things that related to the coming of Jesus, the death of Jesus, the establishment of the church, the salvation of grace through faith were mysteries. They were unknown. It was not until Jesus came and taught His disciples were those things that were previously unknown, now made known.
In reference to this point, the apostle Paul wrote...
Jesus is telling us that there are many spiritual truths which are hard to grasp because they are unknown. These mysteries have been given to His disciples in the first century because it was their responsibility to go out and teach these mysteries to the world.
There were many prophets of the Old Testament who desired to see and hear these things, but were unable (1 Pet. 1.10-12). Why? Because it was not given to them. It was given to these specific disciples
Not everyone was called to be a preacher or teacher. Therefore, the divine revelation that was to be preached and taught throughout the world was made known to these certain individuals who were with Jesus.
The parables of Christ were to help illustrate and drive home the specific lessons that He had in mind. The Parables of Christ were to be a learning tool that would to help His audience better understand.
Why was such a method of teaching by parables necessary? Jesus explains that “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.” (Matt. 13.12). As a point of fact, Jesus was not intentionally hiding the truth. He was expressing the idea that some were not interested in learning.
Many are the opportunities to hear and learn from Jesus. However, some were uninterested. Jesus said that the one who has a desire to learn will gain understand in abundance. In contrast, those who have no desire to learn, even those things that he understands will not make sense in light of what Jesus teaches.
These were individuals whose “hearts…have grown dull.” These were individuals whose “ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed.” (Matt. 13.15).
Jesus said that there were some who would not listen to Him, and would close their eyes to the truth “lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.” (Matt. 13.15).
Jesus desires to heal those whose lives are broken as a result of their bad choices. Jesus is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3.9). If these individuals who were uninterested in the truth and refused to listen to Jesus would just open their eyes and listen with their ears, Jesus would help them.
How interesting that Jesus explained the purpose of parables in a context of the parable of the sower. Here is a parable about the different ways that people listen.
We are in a context of how well people listen and understand. This is why Jesus spoke in parables. He wanted to make His message as simple and as easy to understand as possible.
In my sermons, I do not merely state the facts. The facts and principles that I teach in my sermons are then supported by illustrations that help clarify and drive home the meaning of the lesson. I’m sure you do the same when you are trying to help someone understand something.
In like manner, the parables of Christ were used to make those who are dull of hearing have an easier time grasping His teachings.
He wanted to use analogies and illustrations, and tell stories to really drive home His lesson. Those who had trouble listening and whose hearts were not into spiritual matters, He used things like fig trees and farming, and other things that people could understand. In doing so, Jesus could convey ideas that they might otherwise find confusing.
The parables of Christ make spiritual lessons easy to understand.