Why does Jesus speak in parables? And what is the purpose of this parable that we have before us today? On the one hand, we could say that parables, because they draw on everyday experiences, can be understood by everyone: even children could recognize that seed sown on a hard path or into a patch of weeds would not produce fruit. But if the meaning of the story is that obvious, why tell it at all? In fact, the parable is meant to tease the listener into further reflection. The listener recognizes at once the obvious, literal meaning — but has to ponder more deeply its significance.
Biblical scholar C.H.Dodd offers this definition of a parable: “At its simplest, the parable is a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application to tease it into active thought.”[i] So the purpose of a parable is to “tease [the mind] into active thought.”