I have been reading through Mark when I came upon a verse in Mark 4 that gave me pause. In the NIV, verse 33 is translated “With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand.” This translation seems problematic to me because just a few verses earlier Jesus had told his disciples that he was speaking in parables to the crowds so that they would not understand. In Mark 4:11-12 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 so that, “they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!””
I found it strange that in one place Jesus would tell his disciples the purpose of parables was one thing and then later it seemed to change. The NASB and the ESV have a better translation of verse 33 that makes more sense in context. Instead of saying that Jesus spoke as many parables as they could understand, these versions say that Jesus spoke as many parables as they could hear. To me this passage reflects the way that the gospel works on people. The gospel message has two purposes. The most clear purpose is that those whom God has chosen would hear it and have their hearts pierced, their souls convicted, and then they would repent of their sin and turn to Him. The second purpose is that there will be those who hear the gospel message and it will only work to further their rebellion. It will only work to harden their heart. In this way the gospel will stand as an accusation against that person in judgment. The gospel will come across as parables,stories, and fairy tales. There will come a time when they can bear to hear it no longer. The message of the gospel is foolish to those who are perishing but I am grateful that to those being saved it is the power of God.