Have you ever heard someone explain that Jesus taught in parables because He was such an awesome teacher that he could explain both simple and deep things at the same time? That He was providing earthly stories with Heavenly meaning, and thus giving us deep spiritual truths in a language that we mere mortals can understand? It all sounds very good and it fits well in the “Jesus was a role model” perspective. However, Jesus was far more than just a role model, and we have an answer in scripture to the question.
Matthew 13:10-17 (ESV)
10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:
“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
15 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’
16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
Jesus explains that He teaches in parables specifically so that they will not understand. The disciples themselves did not understand all of the parables, and they did not understand the parable of the sower. Regardless of their lack of understanding, they had already believed in Him and His Word. Therefore, to those who had, more was given in abundance. The masses were not in the same place as the disciples were. Unless they are ready to accept Jesus as the Christ, son of the Living God, they simply are not ready to understand the kingdom of heaven. Nevertheless, Jesus DID teach, and He taught in parables and explained several of the parables to His disciples directly. When Jesus promised them He would send the Holy Spirit, John 14:25-26 (ESV) 25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you…” Though His time on this earth was short, He did not leave us as orphans, and we who believe on Him have both His Word and His Spirit. We can now teach His parables, having been equipped with the understanding of their meaning by the Grace of God.
If you remember the confrontations, the miracles, and testimony of the Christ presented to the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 12, we see (before the parable of the sower and before Jesus explaining why He teaches in parables) the point where Jesus rebukes their unbelief. After they attack Him for healing on the Sabbath, and accusing Him of performing signs via Satan. We see Jesus draw the line for them beginning in Matthew 12.
Matthew 12:30-42 (ESV)
30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. 33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” 38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.
Jesus did proclaim the kingdom to all, and those who had an ear to hear, heard and accepted/believed (good soil). He did not pre-judge those who would not believe; rather, he sought them out and shared the Word of God with them. They rejected Him, and so the wrath of God remained on them.
John 15:18-27 (ESV)
18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’
26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.
As we study God’s Word, we will invariably encounter portions of Scripture (not just parables) that escape our understanding. As long as our faith remains firmly rooted in Jesus Christ, and the Word of God we can turn to God and ask for wisdom from the Holy Spirit. Accept what is written as the Word of God, and pray to the Lord for understanding. We have also been given Elders, Pastors, and Teachers to whom we can turn for guidance, instruction, and correction, in the Name of Jesus. I urge you, brothers and sisters, that when you approach your church leadership with questions regarding scripture, take your Bible with you. Ask that they demonstrate in the Word of God the answer to the question. In doing so, you will not only receive an answer, but you will gain valuable insight/training in how we can turn to the Word of God for answers.
Hebrews 13:7-9 (ESV)
7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9 Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them.
Hebrews 13:17 (ESV)
17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
May the Lord bless and keep you,
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[…] We are going to skip this discussion for now, but know that we will revisit this portion (CTT: Why did Jesus Teach in Parables). Suffice it to say that unless Jesus explained the meaning of this parable, we’d all be […]