The Purpose of Parables

10 And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”

11 He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 13 Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:

‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,
And seeing you will see and not perceive;
15 For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.’

16 But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; 17 for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” — Matthew 13:10-17.

Verses 10-13 — Proper interpretation of Jesus’ parables involves a faith commitment on the part of the hearer as well as the illuminating power of the Spirit. Parables demand a response! This response combines the power of God and the free will of the believing hearer.

Verse 11 — “the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” Jesus uses this term for the New Age (cf. Matthew 5-7) with its new way of viewing reality. These mysteries are about Him and His New Kingdom. This term is used to describe God’s eternal redemptive plan that is only now being revealed by God’s Messiah (cf. Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:28; Eph. 1:11; 1 Pet. 1:12). Every hearer does not understand (cf. Matt. 13:13,16-17,19,23; Mark 4:11-12).

Verse 12 — The Jewish leadership, with their scriptural knowledge, should have recognized and embraced Jesus and His teachings, but they did not. Therefore, those who could have/should have are more responsible (cf. Luke 12:48). Their partial knowledge results in complete judgment (similar to 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Verses 13,14 — Jesus quotes from Isaiah 6:9-10. This related to Isaiah’s call and mission. God told him that he would speak, but the people would not hear and respond. This same OT passage is quoted in John 12:40 and Acts 28:25-27. Isaiah didn’t speak in riddles when he went to Israel, he spoke plainly. In fact, listen to the charge against Isaiah.

“Whom will he teach knowledge?
And whom will he make to understand the message?
Those just weaned from milk?
Those just drawn from the breasts?
For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept,
Line upon line, line upon line,
Here a little, there a little.” — Isaiah 28:9,10.

Isaiah was ridiculed because he spoke so plainly. His critics said he spoke so simply that even children would understand him. So to fulfill his commission Isaiah did not speak in code, he worked to speak with clarity. It wasn’t that the people didn’t understand what Isaiah was saying, they understood, but they still turned away.

Jesus is not saying that the parables are making the people unresponsive; it is their calloused hearts that bring confusion. They refuse to listen and that is why they will not be brought to faith. Jesus spoke in parables to illumine the truth, not to hide it. But as the people rejected the truth they became even less able to understand it. The more they resisted the less sensitive they were to God’s message.

To those who have faith, God will progressively reveal more truth as they walk in the light they have, but to those without faith the Scriptures are dark and silent! Parables open truth to those who will hear but veils truth to those who refuse faith in Christ.

Verses 16,17 — New Testament believers know more of God’s eternal redemptive plan and purpose for all humans than did any of the Old Testament characters (1 Pet. 1:10-12). This gives us an awesome responsibility!

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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One thought on “The Purpose of Parables

  1. Pingback: The Parable of the Talents | To The Praise of His Glory!

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