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.

The Parable of the Sower

(Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23)

The parable of the sower gives us tremendous insight into how people will react to hearing the words of God. It shows us what they will do upon hearing it and helps us understand why it is that some people do not, cannot or will not accept Jesus.

In the first part of the parable of the sower we see that a seed is sown. The seed is the word of God that is sown by preaching to men. As it is sown it falls into different areas of ground with different degrees of fertile soil. The different grounds are the different types of people who hear the word and how it affects them. Jesus shows us that there are four basic types of ground and thus four different types of people who receive the seed of his word.

The first group do not even listen to the words. This is the seed that falls along the path. He indicates that the birds come along and take the seed away even as it falls. The analogy here is that when they hear the words of the kingdom, they do not understand them and so the evil one comes along and immediately snatches it out of their heart. The seed never gets a chance to take root. They do not believe and often oppose the words of God, turning on and attacking those who do accept his words.

The second group are like those where the seed falls into rocky soil. There is no depth of soil among the rocks and so nowhere for the seed to take root and grow. These people take the word and receive it with joy. They may appear to be on fire for the Lord. However at the first sign of tribulation or opposition, or if they get persecuted and put to the test for the sake of what they believe, they crumble and wilt under the intensity of the heat of opposition. They walk away from the Lord as they don’t have the depth or desire to continue on in the face of opposition and stand up for what is right. They have put their own comfort ahead of their eternal salvation, and sometimes it can be uncomfortable being a Christian. Sometimes we do have to swim against the current to stand up for what is right. Peter said that this would happen when he said, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” (1 Peter 4:12-14) We will go through fiery ordeals in our walk with Christ, which is why it is important that the word of God needs to take root in our lives so that we can stand in the face of these fiery ordeals.

The third group of people are like seed that falls among the thorns and grows with the thorns, but is eventually choked by them. Jesus says that these people have heard the word of God but the cares of this world and the delight in riches choke the word and it proves unfruitful. It is easy to get caught up in the things of this world. It is easy to chase after the good things of this life, perhaps even more so today as we have sophisticated and targeted marketing to induce us to go down certain paths. They promise the world, but often not for our sake or any real benefit. Paul wrote about the issues of those who fall among the thorns suffer saying, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:9-10) It is the love of money and the desire to be rich that causes all manner of evil in people’s lives. Money is only a medium of exchange, but many seek it as if it is an end in itself. They are lured and enticed to their ultimate destruction. Consider all who are gamblers of any type. The lure is to make money. Any pursuit where the lure is wealth can be a snare and a trap for people. And ultimately the chase after the things of this world chokes out any effect that the words of God may have had in their life.

The final group are those where God’s seed falls on fertile ground. It grows and they bear fruit for the kingdom of God. These are the people who hear and accept the word and it takes root in their lives. They see the value of the word and they make it a priority so that they can live a godly life now and have the reward of entering God’s kingdom when Jesus returns. Even among those who receive the word there will be different degrees of fruit. He speaks of some producing thirty fold, some sixty fold and some one hundredfold. When we come to God we are not expected to all achieve one hundredfold as we all have different talents, abilities and gifts. The important thing though is that we accept Jesus into our life through faith and we learn from him. We need to be receptive to his words so that he can work with us and transform us into the image of God.

Paul showed that there would be different levels of belief among people who come to the Lord. He said, “According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it. For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw– each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.” (1 Corinthians 3:10-13)

All have the one thing in common, the foundation of Jesus Christ. But what is built upon that foundation, which is the teachings and beliefs accepted by each person, may be of poor or good quality. Like seed bearing thirty fold or one hundredfold. When the fiery ordeals of life come against the building, that is when they are tested. If they burn up it is clear the quality of teaching was low. If they stand it is good.

There are many things taught in the church today that have no foundation in the scripture. The only way we can truly find the truth is to first come to Jesus through faith, second seek out his truth and his word and third, compare all that we hear with the truth of the gospel in the bibles he has given us. Only then will we become like seed that produces one hundredfold with buildings of gold that are actually purified by fire, built on the foundation of Jesus Christ.