The Purpose of Parables: Mark 4:10-13

We ended our last sermon by saying that Jesus left the crowd without an explanation or an exposition of His parable. He simply told His parable(s) and left them at that. While Jesus did not only teach in parables and He did use explicit teaching at times with the crowds, the sense is that His use of clear and explained teaching diminished as His ministry went on. Additionally, His parables were not plainly expounded upon. Even His disciples needed...

I. A Clarification. (read and discuss verse 10)

They had listened to the parables and they were not exactly sure of two things:

Why Jesus used the parable as a primary way of teaching the crowds (see Matt. 13:10), and

What the parable of the soils meant (Luke 8:9).

There are times when we hear the Word of God and we are not fully comprehending either why something is being taught the way it is or what exactly the teaching means. These questions are one’s that we should be taking to the Lord, asking Him that He might illuminate our understanding so that we can clearly see what He is saying.

The problem is not the clarity of Christ’s teaching, the problem is our understanding. Sometimes, as with the disciples here, our understanding has not been developed enough; we may be open and responsive as they were, but needing to grow and develop. While the Lord is kind and patient with us, He delights in delivering us from a slowness of heart (see Luke 24:25).

II. A Dual Purpose of Parables (read and discuss 11&12)

To instruct and enlighten the open hearted (read and discuss verse 11)

To those who have ears to hear they find that they have the ability to perceive that parables illustrate a spiritual truth and embrace them. This ability to understand the parables for what they really mean is a gift from God. (see “given to know” Matthew 13:11).

Yet, it is not only the ability to know that they disciples received. They also received further teaching, an explanation of the parable. To those who receive with open ears the light they have been given, more light will be given. To those who long to be taught, more teaching will be supplied.

Jesus tells them that they had been given the secret(s) of the Kingdom of heaven. What is this secret(s)? When the New Testament speaks of a mystery or a secret it does not mean that some impossible to understand teaching is being given or that a truth to high to grasp is being uttered. Rather, it means that something that had been a mystery up until that point is now about to be clearly revealed and explained.

George Ladd beautifully tells us what this secret is in the following: “The new truth, now given to men by revelation in the person and mission of Jesus, is that the Kingdom which is to come finally in apocalyptic power, as foreseen by Daniel, has in fact entered the world in advance in hidden form to work secretly within and among men.”

To conceal and harden (read and discuss verse 12)

Those who had continually received the Word of God through the prophets and finally through the Son of God and continually rejected it, God in His wisdom, would no longer give explicit teaching, but would use parables as a way to obscure or hide the truth as a means of judgment upon them.

God elected not to soften their hearts, but to allow these people to pursue their own willful disobedience (see Deut. 29:4), passing over them and by doing so allowing their hearts to become increasingly harder against the truth. This was actually an act of mercy as He could have increased their condemnation by giving them explicit teaching that they would have rejected.

Discuss how Edward’s illustration of the sun being removed, helps us to understand God’s purposes of withdrawing His active mercy and thereby passively hardening the one who refuses to believe. Sin is never, ever caused by God. He hates sin and He grieves over those who continue in it. We saw how Saul was an illustration of rejecting the clear instruction of God. Also, look up and discuss Luke 7:30.

III. A Gentle Chiding (read and discuss verse 13)

Jesus gently chides His followers (not only the twelve) for their lack of understanding. Jesus is pointing out their weakness without Him. We do not rightly understand His Word without Him.

Discuss the following means for understanding parables:

  • Understanding that each parable is pointing out one main spiritual truth,
  • The blessing of Pentecost, and
  • The full canon of Scripture (Old and New Testament).