More about Jesus

Why Parables? Why not Straight Talk?

To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God; but those who are outside get everything in parables.
—Mark 4:11, NIV (Jesus speaking)

Why did Jesus teach in parables?

From watching religious programs on television, I notice that most Christian teachers love to be admired for telling it like it is. These guys don’t pussy-foot around. They describe what they feel are the ills of our society in graphic terms.

Now I would sooner wash my mouth out with soap than to talk in public like some of those guys, but even I can recognize that sometimes tough talk is necessary to cut through tough shells and penetrate into the real person inside. Sometimes it takes the shock value of frank language to cut through to a person’s inner being and lay the secrets bare. In my opinion, if frank language is used to move people to repentance, that is laudable; but if it is just used to move people to outrage, that is demagoguery. So it is a two-edged sword that people don’t always wield correctly.

So for those among us who are used to straight talk from the pulpit, Jesus’ teaching methods seem excessively gentle. We are used to people telling it like it is, but the whole essence of a parable is to tell it like it isn’t!

Modern teachers do not think up parables to get their point across, so if your only access to the Jewish world of the first century is in the New Testament, you might think that parables are a peculiarity of Jesus. You even might develop the idea that Jesus deliberately misled his listeners.

Why did Jesus teach in parables?

There were several reasons:

Even in this day and age of telling it like it is, I daresay more sermons and commentaries explore the parables of Jesus than most other parts of Scripture.