A parable is a story using everyday events to illustrate a truth. This was Jesus’ main mode of teaching the public. “But without a parable He did not speak to them. And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples” (Mark 4:34).
The disciples asked the question many Christians have asked, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” (Matthew 13:10). Jesus gave a full and fascinating answer over the next several verses. We usually think that a parable is used to explain a truth. Jesus’ reason is surprisingly different.
“Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them” (Matthew 13:14-15).
Jesus used parables to tell the public about the kingdom of God to fulfill prophecy. Prophecy states that the Jewish people will hear but not understand. They will listen to truth about the kingdom, but not know how to apply it. Let’s look at an example.
In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus tells us why the seed (teachings about the kingdom of God) do not produce results. In one case, it’s because people are distracted by the cares of this world or decieved by riches, and these prevent the word of God from making a difference in their lives (Matthew 13:22).
How many of you are not growing in your faith because you are more concerned for the things of this life, or for wealth, so you have little time for the word of God? Then you are hearing the word, but not understanding it – you don’t see your precarious position and repent of it. The truth always demands change on the part of the hearer.
Only to his disciples does he explain everything: “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given” (Matthew 13:11). How can you tell if you are one of these privileged people?
Jesus explains: “For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath” (Matthew 13:12). If you put the kingdom teaching to use and change, God will add more to it. If you apply those new words, God will add even more to it, and you will grow in understanding and wisdom. If you are not growing, it is because you are not applying the word and, according to Jesus’ teaching, God is taking away even what little you had. This was the state of the Jews at the time Jesus came, and it is the state of many today in the churches.
“But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear” (Matthew 13:16).
What Do You Think?
a. Do you think about what the word of God means for you, and how it should affect your life? Why or why not?
b. What is so important in your life that you choose it over studying the word of God?