Why Does Jesus Seem To Want To Hide His Message From Some People? by Justin Day
July 2, 2009, 8:00 am
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by Justin Day

In my quiet times I have been reading through the Gospel of Mark and a few questions have come to me recently. First of all I am curious why Jesus chose to speak in parables instead of “straight talk.” The purpose of Jesus using a parable is something that I cannot comprehend. It seems that parables would be the opposite of what one would want to do if you were trying to tell someone a message so important as the Gospel.

In chapter 4 of Mark’s gospel we get the reason why Jesus chose to speak to us in parable form. Jesus tells the disciples, “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.’” I understand this to be saying that Jesus wants the power to understand his message to not be in our hands, but rather to be in his hands. One must repent and be forgiven before one can actually comprehend what Christ is saying. And as we know regeneration is in the hands of Holy Spirit alone.

How should we understand this? Why would God want to reveal his message only to some instead of all? Lastly, how should we view this in light of 1 Timothy 2:4 where it says that God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”?


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He spoke in parables to fulfill a prophesy is what I understand from the OT.

Comment by Justin Day

Isaiah 6.

Comment by Jonathan Kelfer

Good thought! The ESV Study Bible’s notes say this about Isa. 6:9–10 – God decrees that [Isaiah]’s ministry will have a hardening effect on his own generation, whose character was laid bare in chs. 1–5. The NT quotes this text to explain why some reject the good news of the gospel (cf. Matt. 13:14–15 par.; John 12:39–40; Acts 28:25–27). The openness of faith is a gift of grace, but the unresponsive hearer finds that the message only hardens him to God’s gracious purposes (cf. Isa. 29:9–10; 42:18–25; 65:1–7; Luke 2:34; John 9:39; Acts 7:54; Rom. 11:7–10, 25; 2 Cor. 2:15–16; 1 Pet. 2:8).

Comment by Johnathan V.

in regard to the last question, i have heard it to mean that “all people” does not indeed mean “everyone” but rather all “types” of people, such as people from all different nations…

but then i have also heard it interpreted that God’s plan to receive the most glory for Himself doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to align with His actual desires. this doesn’t make much sense in “our” minds, but Calvinists can just conclude with saying it’s a mystery anyway, right? haha slight humor.

Comment by some weirdo

Similarly the ESV has this to Say about 1 Tim 2:4

Evangelistic prayer for all people is rooted in the fact that God desires all people to be saved. It appears that Paul is countering an exclusivist tendency in the false teachers or at least their downplaying of the importance of evangelizing the Gentiles (along with their emphasis on the Jewish law). This statement figures prominently in theological disagreements over the extent of the atonement. It cannot be read as suggesting that everyone will be saved (universalism) because the rest of the letter makes it clear that some will not be saved (4:1; 5:24; 6:10; cf. Matt. 25:30, 41, 46; Rev. 14:9–11). Does that mean God desires something (all people being saved) that he cannot fulfill? Both Arminian and Calvinist theologians respond that God “desires” something more than universal salvation. Arminians hold that God’s greater desire is to preserve genuine human freedom (which is necessary for genuine love) and therefore he must allow that some may choose to reject his offer of salvation. Calvinists hold that God’s greater desire is to display the full range of his glory (Rom. 9:22–23), which results in election depending upon the freedom of his mercy and not upon human choice (Rom. 9:15–18). However one understands the extent of the atonement, this passage clearly teaches the free and universal offer of the gospel to every single human being; “desires” shows that this offer is a bona fide expression of God’s good will. Come to the knowledge of the truth highlights the cognitive aspect of conversion, i.e., individuals must come to understand key truths in order to be converted. “The truth” occurs often in the Pastorals as a synonym for the gospel (cf. 1 Tim. 3:15; 4:3; 2 Tim. 2:15, 18, 25; 3:7, 8; 4:4; Titus 1:1, 14).

Personally I reconcile this with Romans 9:14b-23

14b “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory.

Here we are reminded that God is in charge of who is or is not an object of His mercy. So then how is it that He supposedly desires all to be saved? The answer is less of an answer and more of a shift in perspective. It is not as if God forced us into sin. It is not God’s intent that we are sinners, that is a result of the deception of our first mother and the cowardice of our first father. So naturally as our creator, God did not and does not cause us to be sinful creatures who daily incur His wrath. Rather, we are all running as fast as we can away from God, until in His mercy, He picks us out of the crowd and turns us around.

So, to stay with the metaphor, Paul is telling Timothy that God desires that we would all run to Him. However, we know that is not the case. All are guilty of sin and deserve God’s wrath. Could God subvert His justice and save everyone? Of course, but God by His very nature, is a God of Justice.

Let there be no mistake, Hell glorifies God. Hell is an expression of God’s justice. I do not know why God could not have punished Christ for the sins of everyone for all time, but I suspect that God desires glory for both is mercy and his justice, hence both of God’s purposes are served through his sovereignty in salvation.

Comment by Johnathan V.

My thought has always been that Jesus came to earth to die and to begin the new covenant, not to convert… he left that to his disciples. How could Jesus die if everyone heard and understood? Who would kill him?

Comment by 0regon


Very interesting questions. I’m just a random that found this blog as a suggestion from another blog. Anyway, I teach a class on the book of Mark in a high school, and we cover the question of “Why did Jesus speak in parables”. I don’t necessarily disagree with any of the previous points, but I have a slightly different take on it. I think Jesus was concious of the political climate of the time, so he chose to conceal his identity until it was ready (or else he would be crucified too early). To read more about my thoughts head to this page

Anyway, great questions.

Comment by urbanmission2009

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