“This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” -Matthew 13:13-15 (NIV)
Jesus often spoke to the masses in parables. In some of His public discourses, he spoke exclusively using only parables (Matthew 13:34).
Apparently, no one understood Jesus the first time He spoke in parables, which prompted His curious disciples to ask, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?
Why does Jesus speak in parables?
Traditionally, the explanation is so that the ordinary folks can easily understand Jesus’ teaching. It sounds logical since Jesus uses familiar activities and objects in His simple stories. This is what we have been taught and made to believe.
But Jesus said otherwise in His reply to His disciples. Read the text for this reflection again. Essentially, Jesus said that He used parables to veil His message, making them not easily understood.
Somehow, it just does not make any sense. Why would you want to preach and teach, yet do not want your listeners to perceive the essence of your message? However, if you read the gospels carefully, you would realise that this is consistent with Jesus’ sayings and doings.
On one occasion, Jesus said, “No one knows the Father except the Son and those the Son chooses to reveal Him” (Matthew 11:27). This is the case with Jesus’ Kingdom parables. The disciples understood the parables only after Jesus had explained to them. Parables can only be understood through revelation.
On another occasion, Jesus fed five thousand men with only five loaves of bread and two fishes. This remarkable miracle convinced the crowd that Jesus must be the Messiah whom they had been eagerly anticipating. So, they followed Him over mountain and sea intending to make Him the King of Israel. If Jesus had wanted to be King on their terms, He just needed to step forward. Instead, He withdrew to a mountain by Himself (John 6:15).
Apparently, Jesus is not into the number game. Number and size do not impress Him. Sincerity does. He does not want people to follow Him for the wrong motives and reasons. He only wants true believers and genuine followers; those who not only believe but are willing to surrender themselves to labour alongside Him to accomplish God’s mission. These are people who will not bail out when the going gets tough.
This is the reason He told the Parable of the Sower, which is Jesus’ first Kingdom parable (Matthew 13:18-23). In this parable, seeds are sown on four kinds of ground, which symbolise four kinds of heart and responses to His invitation to the Kingdom of God. The first kind of people reject His message outright. The second kind are excited by the prospects of the Kingdom, but their enthusiasm is short-lived. When the excitement and music fade, so does their faith. The third kind are weighed down by the cares of this world or their love for the world distracts them from single-minded devotion to God. The fourth kind of people are those whom Jesus came to die and save. These are the true believers and the evidence is in the fruit they produce.
So, why does Jesus speak in parables? These simple yet difficult-to-understand parables serve as a sift to separate the wheat from the weeds, which is the subject of Jesus’ second Kingdom parable (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43). The wheat represents the true believers while the weeds the false ones.
Only those who truly believe will diligently seek the Lord Jesus Christ. In response, Jesus will reveal the Heavenly Father and the secrets of the Kingdom to them while the rest will be ever hearing and never understanding, and ever seeing but never perceiving.
That is the reason immediately after explaining to His disciples about the Parable of the Wheat and Weeds, Jesus told them the Parable of the Hidden Treasure and the Parable of the Pearl (Matthew 13:44-45). True seekers are like the treasure hunter and pearl merchant. They are willing to give up everything in exchange for Christ.
Are you the good ground that produce fruit, bearing a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown?
Pastors Les & Adeline Chua