The Purpose of the Parables (Luke 8:9-10)

The Purpose of the Parables

9 Then his disciples asked him what the meaning of this parable might be.

10 He answered, “Knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of God has been granted to you; but to the rest, they are made known through parables so that ‘they may look but not see, and hear but not understand.’

Jesus begins teaching about the Kingdom of God through parables and even his disciples, the men who’ve seen and heard Him the most and know him best, ask what the parable means.  The good news for them is that through Christ’s teaching, and by God’s grace, they will know these mysteries. However, for the crowds that they encounter, the preaching and teaching won’t open their eyes and ears.

To the people in the crowds, the ones Jesus refers to as “the rest”, these mysteries are made known through parables.  But curiously Jesus says “so that ‘they may look but not see, and hear but not understand’”.  This seems like a strange thing to say, but Jesus is referring to a time in Israel’s history when they were willfully deaf and blind to preaching and teaching.  In the 8th century B. C. the Northern Kingdom of Israel had so egregiously strayed from God’s precepts, they had become so sinful, that they had lost all of God’s protection and were destroyed by the Assyrian Empire.  The Southern Kingdom, Judah, was following in their footsteps and the prophet Isaiah preached to them.  He preached without ceasing and made every attempt to bring the people to conversion.   He preached and pleaded so much that the people of Judah became deaf to his preaching and blind to his teaching (see Is 6:9-11).

However, now Christ will not try to bring the people to conversion by only telling them about the kingdom of God.  Through parables, He will tell them what the Kingdom of God is like.  In these comparisons, they will hear, and relate, and imagine in terms and images that they can connect with their daily lives.

Each parable that we read will bring us to a deeper understanding of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.  Our prayerful response should be to ask for the grace for this knowledge.


Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition© 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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