Why Did Jesus Speak in Parables? (Matthew 13:10–13)
On one level, parables were not difficult to understand. Jesus masterfully taught moral principles by using simple, down-to-earth illustrations about everyday objects familiar to farmers, fishermen, merchants and others in his audience. At the same time, the spiritual significance of Jesus’ parables seemed obscure (even incomprehensible) to those who opposed Jesus or who simply were not attuned to his mission and message.
People with “ears to hear” (Mk 4:9), that is, those seriously seeking the truth, could dig deeper and find profound spiritual insight. For others, Jesus’ parables were little more than fascinating but puzzling riddles. Those who were resistant to his message did not have the interest or the energy to pursue the deeper truths found in his parables.
Jesus frequently used parables when speaking to large crowds, but in private he provided his disciples with more detailed explanations (see Mk 4:33–34). At this point in Jesus’ ministry, it was God’s intent that certain secrets of the kingdom be kept somewhat hidden from the many casual observers, from the overzealous but poorly informed supporters and from outright opponents. Sometimes, however, Jesus did use more direct teaching methods (cf. Mt 5:1—7:27).
Taken from NIV Essentials Study Bible