And the disciples came, and said to him, Why speak you to them in parables?…
It is not sufficiently observed that our Lord adopted the parabolic style only after he had been teaching for some time. His earlier discourses are full of illustrations, and they set truth in paradoxical sentences which excite thought and inquiry; but the parabolic was a new method of hiding truth for a while, and from some, which was called for by certain results attending Christ's teachings. It should be clearly seen that the parable is designed to wrap truth up so that it may be kept safe, but be hidden from the many for the present; and uncovered and brought to light, by the spiritually minded now, and for all by and by. The previous chapters of Matthew have shown what a divided feeling was growing up, even in Galilee, concerning Christ. Some, indeed, held fast their hope in him; but the official Pharisees took a decided position against him, and they influenced very many; even our Lord's own relations had joined the distrustful party. Jesus was influenced by these conditions. He wanted to warn, correct, and reprove; but these people would only turn to evil everything he said, and become more embittered against him if he spoke out plainly. So he wrapped truth of warning and correction up in parables, which would carry his meaning without his actually speaking it out. Three reasons for the use of parables may be given.
I. One reason was related to his immediate disciples: IT ENABLED HIM TO CONTINUE HIS TEACHING OF THEM. A chief part of our Lord's work was preparing the apostles for their future work. And he did this not only by direct teachings, but also by examples of teaching. But opposition might have stopped these examples if our Lord had not changed his style and adopted the parabolic.
II. One reason was related to his ordinary congregations: IT ENABLED HIM TO ADAPT HIMSELF MORE PRECISELY TO THEIR CAPACITIES. It is quite possible that our Lord found the paradoxical style of the sermon on the mount misused, and therefore tried the pictorial style of the parable, which is so eminently suited to the child-minded. All who teach such know how they are helped by being shown what things are like. By them principles are grasped when they are illustrated in incidents, or painted in pictures.
III. One reason was related to his enemies: IT ENABLED HIM VERY SEVERELY TO REPROVE THEM WITHOUT GIVING OPEN OFFENCE. No one could take exception to our Lord's beautiful descriptions and incidents, but men with bad consciences quickly perceived that he spake the parables against them. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?