Confusing: Did Jesus use parables to confuse people intentionally? Here, in Mark 4, when he explains the purpose of parables to his disciples, he says, “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.’” . Did parables contain mysteries for those on the inside, while they hardened those on the outside?
Understanding: First, Luke specifically writes that Jesus tells parables to people with the apparent suggestion that the parables are to be understood by them. Moreover, ‘outsiders’—such as the lawyer who hears the Parable of the Good Samaritan and the chief priests and Pharisees who hear the Parable of the Tenants—understand the parables they hear.  So what does Jesus mean by this riddle?
Riddle: Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart write, “Most likely the clue so this saying lies in a play on words in Jesus’s native Aramaic. The word methal which was translated as parabolem in Greek was used for a whole range of figures of speech in the riddle, puzzle, parable category, not just for the story variety called ‘parables’ in English. Probably verse 11 meant that the meaning of Jesus’s ministry (the secret of the kingdom) could not be perceived by those on the outside; it was like a methal, a riddle, to them. Hence his speaking in mathelin (parables) was part of the methal (riddle) of his whole ministry to them. They saw, but they failed to see; they heard—and even understood—the parables, but they failed really to appreciate the whole thrust of Jesus’s ministry.”
Prayer: Lord, Why did people hear the parables and fail to see your ministry? Were their hearts hardened to your grace? Were they stubborn in their sin? Did they fail to know the Scriptures? O Lord, let that not be us! Open our eyes to see and our ears to hear so that we may turn and be forgiven. Unlock the secret of the kingdom so that your ministry is not a riddle to us. Amen.
 Mark 4:10-12 ESV |  See Matthew 21:45; Luke 10:25-37; 15:3; 18:9; 19:11.