Why did Jesus teach in Parables? Were they easy to understand? What was He trying to accomplish by teaching this way? The next two weeks we'll be looking at a couple different well known parables of Jesus and we'll start with the parable in Matthew 13 that He uses as a parable for why he uses parables. 🙂
The Parable of the Sower
1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”
11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:
“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’[a]
16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.17 For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
The meaning of these parables are always pretty vague, almost like a riddle or something. But they do have the amazing property of hitting us right in the heart and because of that we're still talking about them and wrestling with them over 2,000 years later! How many teachers from 2,000 years ago do we still talk about this much?
Jesus was not only Messiah and God incarnate but in my opinion, He was also the best teacher ever!
Why does He teach like this? Well, He knows that part of the human condition is that we are terrible listeners. He teaches this way because it forces us to think for ourselves!
Verse 11: The mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven. My understanding of "The Kingdom of Heaven" has certainly grown quite a bit over the years. I used to think it was basically synonymous with heaven or the restored earth way in the future sometime. A promise for the future surely but not something we can really access right now. However, as I read through the gospels more and more I can't help but think that it's more about Heaven crashing into and invading earth in the person of Jesus Christ.
What if the gospel was less about just trying to get people out of this earth and on their way to heaven and more about transforming them inside this earth and in this life for the sake of others?
God is taking His world back through the person of Jesus Christ. He's already won! Satan can definitely still influence and that's why we have to be on guard but The Kingdom of God is accessible here and now. How cool is that! You don't have to wait to experience His unfathomable joy, peace and security.
"Though hearing they do not understand." Verse 13. The two primary audiences that Jesus was addressing here were the Pharisees and the commoners who were intrigued by his message.
By teaching in this way Jesus put the Pharisees in a situation where they would either go from the anger they already had for Jesus to pity and their hearts would harden even more or, they would become like the commoners who were there to listen to Jesus, full of hopeful curiosity. The intrigued commoners would hear an invitation to go deeper, search their soul and follow Him! For those who came into the speech from Jesus already convinced that He's crazy and/or stupid it would only convince them more but for those intrigued it would put the ball in their court, forcing them to take self responsibility for their journey toward God.
What category are you in right now?
19: They hear the message about the kingdom but hardens their heart and rejects it. "I'm a good person, I don't need God."
20-21: They receive it with joy but then fall away when pressed. Publicly Christian but denounce when asked to proclaim truth or stand for Christ.
22: They know the truth but are consumed with materialism, greed, worldly pursuits.
23: Understand the eternal implications of their life on earth and what is really important. Hears and "understands" / hears and lives it out!