Does Jesus *Want* to Confuse People?

by Andrew Forrest

Today’s scripture passage is listed below, but I want to address something else from yesterday’s reading: does Jesus tell parables for the purpose of confusing people? He certainly seems to imply it:

10 When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11 He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that,
“‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
    and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!'”

Mark 4:10-12

Jesus quotes from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, chapter 6:9-10. It’s Isaiah’s prophetic instructions from the Lord. Here’s Isaiah’s divine job description: “go to my people and preach to them, but be forewarned: they aren’t going to listen. However, if they ever did listen, then things would change for them immediately.” Basically, God sends Isaiah to the Israelites out of an abundance of forbearance and grace.

So, when Jesus quotes Isaiah, he is not saying that he wants to confuse people; rather, he is identifying himself with the prophetic mission: to preach to people who won’t listen. The Parable of the Sower is about the many people who won’t listen; but if only they would, then great things would happen: “Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown” (Mark 4:20).

Today’s Scripture

Mark 4:21-34

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Ben Wright May 9, 2019 - 8:47 am

As I read along in the story, I wonder why Jesus speaks in unexplained parables to the public, and then explains them in private to his disciples.

Andrew Forrest May 9, 2019 - 2:38 pm

I think it’s a matter of access: the disciples just get to ask him “backstage” what the crowds wish they could ask him.


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