"he did not speak to them without a parable"

I've been noticing again Jesus' unique way of communicating. We're used to direct discussions, and preaching or lectures on a specific topic, but it seems that Jesus often didn't directly explain his thoughts or engage in theological debates about them. In his preaching he often used parables, for instance. And in Mark, there's this line:
With many such parables Jesus spoke the word to [the people], as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything. (Mk 4.33-34)

I've wondered about that before. Why not just explain simply and clearly? I've heard many say that parables were just Jesus' way of illustrating his ideas, making them more accessible. But Matthew, Mark, and Luke all suggest otherwise: "Jesus said, 'To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but for others they are in parables.'" (Lk 8.10; also Mk 4.12, Mt 13.13) The parables were a bit obscure, and could be interpreted in various ways. I imagine Jesus' simple stories often left people scratching their heads.

But privately to his disciples Jesus explained everything. Why this difference? Maybe it had to do with the disciples openness to what Jesus was saying, and their faith (though they still often did not truly understand). Maybe Jesus knew that the vast majority of people would immediately reject his message if he spoke it plainly and clearly. It would be better to simply leave them with a strange image, or even leave them confused. Better that than an unfruitful argument or outright rejection. So Jesus only spoke plainly and discussed openly with those who he saw were open to hearing the good news he had to offer.

Not that he didn't communicate with the others; it was just different. He communicated with parables and with the example of his life. Anyone could see how he lived differently than most everyone else, radically different. In Jesus' choices and example people saw what the kingdom of God looked like, not as an ideological argument but as a living presence. (Now that I think of it, the parables also described the life choices and actions of people that communicated God's message in a similar way.) And if people became intrigued by this and opened themselves more to what he had to say, Jesus would teach and discuss with them openly, as he did with the rest of his disciples.

I think I've probably been been too quick to discuss and argue with people, often with rather unhelpful results. Now I find myself withdrawing from such discussions, at least the public ones, because of how disappointed and frustrated I've become (with myself as much as anyone else). But Jesus' example shows that there may be other ways to keep communicating. Through choices and the way we live, which are perhaps not as clear or easily interpreted, but might still be better than a discussion that just divides people. And what people see might draw them into discussion eventually, when the time is better for real understanding.