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The Purpose of the Parables

Mark 4.10-12, 21-25
And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that “ ‘they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven”’… And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
This passage of scripture has been the hardest for scholars to interpret throughout the book of Mark. Mark’s version of this story paints a picture of Jesus being alone with only His twelve and the ones who were His closest followers. The question that arose for the Apostles and Jesus’ closest followers dealt with the purpose of the parables.

Jesus told them in verse 11, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables.” One would assume that Jesus wanted everyone to know what the parables meant, not just His closest followers. But it seems Jesus was making a distinction between those who were inside the kingdom of God and those who were outside the kingdom. The religious sect of Israel was on the outside looking in while a group of ragtag members and followers were on the inside. Truly the answers given by Jesus would have made them feel special and blessed to have had the position that they had being disciples of Jesus. But was that really what Jesus was going for?

This parable opens up some of the most theological mysteries found anywhere throughout the whole New Testament. It pleased God to reveal the mysteries of the kingdom to this ragtag bunch while withholding this information from the outsiders who happened to be some of the most respected religious leaders in Israel. What is the great mystery of the kingdom that Jesus is veiling with these parables?

It is Jesus Himself. Starting in verse 21 Jesus speaks again discussing the “lamp under a basket” parable. Jesus identifies a lamp, which is actually a depiction of Himself, in this parable.  Jesus, who is the Lamp of God, has come to bring the light of God to a lost and dying world. Just like no one would act so foolish by actually buying a lamp and then putting the lamp under a basket or a bed, neither would God act so foolish by hiding the light of God from the world forever. But it seems God was ok with Him being hidden until He was lifted up during the resurrection which correlates back to verses 11-12.

It seems what Jesus is saying here in verses 11-12 is that those who are outside the kingdom of God will fail to fully hear and see who Christ truly is. Their capacity for understanding spiritual truths dwindles until there is no desire to hear these spiritual truths any longer. Their hearts would not receive the spiritual truths that were being declared to them. That’s why they would not be able to recognize Christ until after He had been crucified and resurrected from the dead.

Praise be to the Lord today that we have the ability to truly see Christ for who He is truly is. Wherever you are at today, trust in Christ; let His Word enrich you deeply as you learn to trust and become more and more like Him.

In Christ’s Service,
Cody Ragland
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