Why Jesus Spoke in Parables

(Matthew 13:10-17)

When Jesus taught the people he used parables, analogies, stories and figures of speech to convey the messages of the Kingdom of God. Why Jesus spoke in parables was so that the truth of the kingdom could be spoken and at the same time kept hidden from those who chose not to find it. There are deep messages in the parables and the words of the truth, but without the revelation of these words they cannot be understood.

It is a bit like trying to learn a complex subject without a teacher. Can you understand quantum physics, advanced mathematics and so on unless you have someone to guide and teach you? Probably not. But the truth of the gospel is different because unlike those things, it is very simple and accessible to any person even though Jesus spoke in parables. You do not need to be a great intellect to see and hear the truth of Jesus ministry. But in its simplicity many people miss the point and fail to see the kingdom of God. They fail because they try to approach it like you would approach human knowledge. Yet in Christ the way we approach God is through faith.

The truth of the kingdom and understanding the parables of Jesus and his words of truth only comes through the revelation of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. Jesus showed this in John 16:12-13 saying, “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” To those who come to the Lord and receive his spirit, who seek out the truth and ask for his insight, will receive it. It is by the Holy Spirit that our eyes are opened to see God’s kingdom, and our ears are opened to hear the truth and our minds are given the understanding of the words that lead to eternal life.

In this section of Matthew we see Jesus explain why he spoke in parables. The disciples had been given the understanding of the words of the kingdom of God, but the general masses remained ignorant even though they heard his words. Many followed him not for the sake of the teaching, which was backed by signs and wonders, but because they were being fed. As Jesus said after feeding the multitude on loaves and fishes, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal.” (John 6:26-27) He counsels the people to seek the spiritual food, which are the teachings of the kingdom, and not the food, desires, pleasures, riches and things of this life.

The disciples were given the understanding, but the rest were not. Though the people as well as the Pharisees and scribes saw and heard they did not understand his words. They did not recognise the power he brought to lead them to life. To those who did not receive this understanding, his words were just a bunch of interesting stories. But to those to whom the truth was revealed those same words were life, and on the opening of their eyes to the truth they were amazed and humbled.

If you seek his kingdom you will receive it. “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7) And here in Matthew 13:12 we see Jesus say that everyone who receives something of the understanding of the kingdom will receive more. “For to him who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

It may seem odd to say of those who have nothing that what they have got will be taken away. How can you take away something from someone who has nothing? If you have nothing there is nothing to take. However we must understand that Jesus is not talking about matters of the flesh but of the spirit. He is not interested in the things of this world but the things of the spirit. In a spiritual sense everybody has something. They have life, as does every person on the planet, and they have the promise of eternal life if they choose to follow Jesus. When he says, “from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away,” he is talking about these things of the spirit. They will lose their life and the promise of eternal life by choosing to reject God’s salvation through Jesus Christ.

The insight that Jesus has given us in the New Covenant far outweighs anything that preceded it in the Old Covenant. The old prophets testified to the coming of the Messiah and the New Covenant. They saw it from afar and longed to gain the insight into it. They were not permitted to see it as they were told this was for a later generation. We are of that later generation and fortunate that the revelation of this truth is now open and available to all. If we choose to seek it out we will find it today. But even today as back then, many will see and not perceive, hear and not understand and choose not to believe, for they still seek the things of this world and miss the glory of the kingdom of God.

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