Mark 4:33-34

When editors have to read a sentence more than twice to understand it, that’s usually their cue to help writers find a better way to express what they’re trying to say. But when I read why Jesus speaks in parables, I always find myself reading his sentences multiple times. I know that’s not my cue to edit Scripture or change a sentence, but to work on my own understanding. 

Why does Jesus speak in parables instead of simply spelling out his message to the crowds? Inquiring minds like the disciples’ and the gospel writers’ want to discuss that question. And when the disciples asked what these stories meant, Jesus explained everything in private
(v. 34). 

Earlier in this chapter Jesus tells his disciples that he preaches in parables so that they will hear him and not understand (v. 12). Communicators do a double take on that verse. This isn’t what we expect Jesus to say. Wouldn’t he want to make his message of ultimate importance clear? Stories help us picture truth and speak to a varied audience on multiple levels. Why not reply along those lines when they asked, “Why parables?”

Could it be that Jesus wants us to love God with our minds by making an effort to think about what he is telling us? Perhaps Jesus is nudging us to go deeper. Maybe the parables are difficult because we need to work at thinking deeply. Jesus takes the disciples aside and explains that he wants them to listen and pay attention. He wants to push them farther in their understanding. When Jesus calls his disciples, he calls them to learn.


What is Jesus pushing you to learn more deeply?


God, show me how to be your life-long student. Help me care enough to question when I don’t understand. Teach me to dig more deeply for the wisdom you offer us all. Amen.

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