Throughout His, rather brief, ministry, Jesus insisted upon using parables to share the knowledge of the kingdom of heaven. I’m positive that most readers of the Bible, like myself, are curious as to why Jesus was not more cut-and-dry with His approach to teaching His followers. In fact, the disciples themselves, in the book of Matthew, asked Christ this very question.
10 His disciples came and asked him, “Why do you use parables when you talk to the people?” (Matt. 13:10 NLT)
It’s important to remember that the disciples were normal people, like you and I. The disciples, who were physically able to follow Jesus, were not afraid to question Jesus on the things He was teaching. Curiosity is part of human nature, as is the desire for understanding. Jesus, knowing full well that the human mind is limited, was willing to clarify and expand on some of His parables. He did so without anger or contempt. If you grew up in an environment that scorned any questioning of scripture, know that those closest to Jesus had their concerns, as well. The Lord will reveal to us what we seek. We must be willing to receive the answers without influence from our own ideologies or preconceptions.
I want to preface the following by saying: This is my own, personal interpretation; and therefore, you must realize that I am human and fallible. I believe it to be useful to hear what others have to say about scripture; however, it is important to remember that we should always put our faith in God’s Word, not man’s word. Due to man’s sinful and imperfect nature, he will never be able to fully comprehend the kingdom of God.
11 He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not. 12 To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. 13 That is why I use these parables,
For they look, but they don’t really see.
They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand. (Matt. 13:11-13 NLT)
At first glance, the answer seems to be that Jesus wanted to share knowledge of the kingdom of heaven, only to those that were willing to receive it. Parables require the listener/reader to put forth some sort of effort in order to derive its true meaning. Jesus may have wished to separate those who truly wanted to understand His teachings from those whose only goal may have been to scrutinize and mock his teaching. Man is required to exercise his free will if he wishes to receive the gift of salvation, that our Savior provides. Jesus had no interest in providing knowledge to those that were unwilling to receive it, and, based on the second half of verse 12, He wished to remove any understanding from them, as well. It is all or nothing; one cannot be lukewarm, when it comes to faith.
14 This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says,
‘When you hear what I say,
you will not understand.
When you see what I do,
you will not comprehend.
15 For the hearts of these people are hardened,
and their ears cannot hear,
and they have closed their eyes—
so their eyes cannot see,
and their ears cannot hear,
and their hearts cannot understand,
and they cannot turn to me
and let me heal them.’ (Matt. 13:14-15 NLT)
The above verses certainly would have applied to those that were following Jesus’ ministry, in person; however, His teachings were not exclusive to the society of His time. The teachings of the Son of Man are just as, if not more so, relevant in today’s culture. These verses hit very hard with the realization of their accuracy. Society’s current view of Christianity is not a good one. Our behavior in the name of God has certainly contributed to society’s cynical view of the church. This view is not exclusive to those on the outside; those within the church have grown increasingly complacent in their walk with Jesus, and, in many cases, people have begun to reject any suggestion that they may not posses a complete understanding of scripture. Man’s own arrogance may be the biggest threat to his salvation.
My harsh criticism is not meant too be accusatory but rather a call to action. I am just as guilty of succumbing to the whispers of pride. There have been many times in which I have sought out my own ideals within scripture, only to come up short. I looked, but I did not see. My own perception of understanding blinded me from seeing the truth that would have, otherwise, been revealed to me. When reading God’s word, one need only be willing to receive what is to be revealed. God will provide what insight He knows is necessary; thus, it is imperative that we do not distract ourselves with our own ambitions. God’s Word speaks to that which is not bound to this physical world, the soul.