September 12, 2004
WHAT PARABLES REVEAL ABOUT YOU
In the Bible Jesus says, “I came to seek and to save what was lost.” Jesus came to proclaim good news to the captives. Jesus came to reveal the truth about God. Jesus came to be light in a dark world. But what if I told you that it’s not quite as simple as that? What if I told you that there’s another side to Jesus’ ministry? What if I told you that, in certain situations, Jesus didn’t come to reveal the truth? Instead, he came to hide the truth? What if I told you that at certain times Jesus purposely declared God’s truth in a way He knew most people wouldn’t understand?
Turn with me to Matthew 13:1-15. In Matthew 13 we discover a disturbing fact. Jesus, who came to seek and to save the lost, sometimes hid God’s saving truth from them. Why would Jesus do that? And if Jesus sometimes hide the truth from the lost, could he be hiding truth from you? Could he be hiding truth from me? Let’s see if we can answer those questions. And let’s begin by reading Matthew 13:1-15.
Matthew reports, That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into the boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying, “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear.”
The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 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 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.”
In Matthew chapter 13, Jesus begins to teach the people with parables. A parable is a story based on a real-life situation that teaches a spiritual truth. The problem is that the hearer has to figure out what the spiritual truth being taught is. In other words, when Jesus taught with parables he was teaching in an indirect way. When Jesus taught in parables a lot of people had a hard time figuring out exactly what He was telling them. And some of those people happened to be his own disciples. So in Matthew 13:10 his disciples come to him and ask, “What’s up Jesus? Why do you speak to the people in parables?” Do you know what the essence of Jesus’ answer is? Jesus says, “I teach in parables in order to conceal the truth.” Now understand—Jesus doesn’t teach in parables to conceal the truth from everyone. He teaches in parables to conceal the truth only from those who have already rejected Him.
To his disciples, Jesus says, The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them (that is, to the people who have already decided against Jesus).
Now why would Jesus hide the truth from hard-hearted unbelievers? Why not continue to reach out to them? Why not continue to offer grace? Why not teach them in a clear and direct way? Why use parables? Why? We’ve already said it. Because the people Jesus speaks to in Matthew 13 are people who have already heard the truth about Jesus and forever rejected it. They are hard. They are unrepentant. They are not interested in anything Jesus has to say.
These are people who have already seen Jesus heal the sick and raise the dead. Matthew 12:24 tells us that these are the people who accuse Jesus of driving out demons by the power of Satan and not by the power of God. These are people who blaspheme the Holy Spirit. In Matthew 12:39 Jesus calls these people a wicked and adulterous generation. Do you want to know why Jesus teaches in parables? Do you want to know why Jesus hides the truth from these people who refuse to receive it? Jesus hides the truth because Jesus honors the truth.
We need to see something Jesus said earlier in this book. Look with me at Matthew 7:6. Listen carefully to what Jesus says. Jesus says, Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.
Here’s something we must remember. The good news of Jesus Christ is precious. There is nothing of greater value in all creation. In Christ we find all the fullness and glory of God. In Christ God held nothing back. Jesus died our death. He paid our penalty. In Christ God loves us with unconditional love. In Christ God receives us when we deserve to be rejected. He forgives us when we deserved to be condemned. In Christ, God gives us heaven when we deserve hell. In Christ we find freedom and peace and joy. In Christ, God gave Himself up for the sake of wicked people like me and like you. There is no greater truth than the truth about Jesus. It’s sacred truth. And God will not let the cross of Christ be profaned by people forever. For those who mock, the day of grace is always followed by a day of judgment.
For the Pharisees and the Jewish leaders, the day came when Jesus refused to offer any more of God’s sacred things to dogs. The day came when he refused to throw any more of His pearls to the pigs. We need to learn from that. We ought not think we can keep on rejecting Jesus today and then receive Him tomorrow. Don’t let your heart become hard. Keep on rejecting truth and the day may come when Jesus begins to hide the truth from you. Don’t be like the people Jesus describes in Matthew 13:13-15:
This is why I speak to them in parables, Jesus says. 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.
Have you been hearing, but refusing to understand? Have you been seeing, but refusing to perceive. Has your heart become calloused? Do you still refuse to submit? Do you still refuse to obey? Today is the day to give your life to Christ. Pray that it’s not too late for you.
Why does Jesus teach in parables? He teaches in parables to conceal truth from those who adamantly reject Him. But that’s not all. There is another side of the coin. At the same time the parables conceal truth from hard-hearted people, parables reveal truth to anyone who has ears to hear. In Matthew 13:1-8 Jesus tells the parable of the sower. In verse 9, He extends an invitation to everyone who hears it. Jesus says, He who has ears, let him hear. Do you know what that means? It means that if you really want to understand the parables you can understand them. It means that if you’re really seeking Jesus, God will reveal His truth to you.
Let me put it this way. When Jesus taught in parables, He divided the people who came to hear him into two different groups. When the first group came to Jesus, they came and heard a nice story. But they had no interest in the spiritual truth Jesus was teaching. They weren’t interested in obeying. They weren’t interested in a closer walk with God. They went home entertained. The second group was different. When they heard Jesus tell a parable they didn’t just listen for the sake of the story. They listened for the sake of the truth. When the disciples didn’t understand a parable, they went and asked Jesus to explain it to them. Do you know why? They wanted to know the truth. They wanted to obey the truth. That’s why, in Matthew 13:16, Jesus praises His disciples saying, But blessed are your eyes because they see and your ears because they hear…
Can I ask you a question? Which group are you in? Do you come here week after week always hearing but never perceiving? Or do you have eyes that see and ears that hear. Do you really seek the truth? Do you apply it to your life? That’s a question you need to answer for yourself as we go on to hear Jesus explain the parable of the sower. Because His disciples want the truth, Jesus explains the truth of his parable to them.
In Matthew 13:18-23 Jesus says, Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.
The first thing we discover about this parable is that the seed sown by the farmer represents the message about the kingdom. It represents the Word of God. The four kinds of soil the seed falls on represent four different ways a person can respond when they hear the Word of God proclaimed. The first soil Jesus talks about is the hard path. In Jesus’ day, paths crisscrossed the fields. Because these paths were packed down by the feet of travelers, any seed that fell on them could not penetrate the ground. It just laid there and became easy pick’ns for the birds. In the same way today, a lot of people have already made up their minds about Jesus. They don’t understand because they have hardened their hearts against the truth. For them God’s Word becomes like a piece of junk mail. They never open the envelope to see what’s really inside. Without any consideration, it goes straight into the trash. Sometimes, these are the people who refuse to believe in God or eternity. For them, life on earth is all there is. Then again, sometimes these are very religious people. Unfortunately, their religion has blinded them. They think they have no need for Christ so they will not listen. And then there are those who love their sin too much to ever consider giving it up. Whatever the case may be, when we refuse to even consider God’s truth, Satan comes and snatches it away.
The second kind of person who hears God’s Word is illustrated by the rocky soil. Some of the soil in Palestine is very thin. Limestone bedrock lies very near to the surface and is sometimes covered by only an inch or less of soil. This very thin soil is the first soil that warms up in the spring. The seed that falls on this soil is the first to sprout and grow. The problem is that the roots of these plants are very shallow because they can not penetrate the bedrock. When summer comes and the days grow long and hot, the rocky soil dries out. It doesn’t take long for those plants that looked so promising to shrivel up and die. In the same way, Jesus says that many people hear the good news and receive it gladly. They want forgiveness. They want eternal life. They want God to be there for them. They want to go to heaven instead of hell. They’re tired of hurting. They want God to fix up their broken life. At first, they’re all excited about the life Jesus gives. They’re at church every Sunday. They pray. They read their Bibles. They share their faith in Christ. It’s so exciting to see. But then something happens. Maybe a child dies. Maybe they lose their home. Maybe the doctor says, “It’s cancer.” Or maybe they get laughed at or persecuted by their friends. Whatever it is, they get disappointed with Jesus. Or maybe they just get mad. They decide that Jesus isn’t worth it after all. When life gets tough, they cop out. They wash out. They turn and walk away.
Then there is the person Jesus compares to soil crowded with thorns. This person hears the Word of God and initially receives it. But in the end, she won’t give God’s truth the space in her life that it needs to grow. This person gives more space to worry than to truth. This person has plenty of time for activities and entertainment but not for God. This is the person who invests his life in the pursuit of money and the things money can buy. This is the person who really believes, “Tomorrow I’ll make more time for God.” But tomorrow never comes. How tragic it is to hear the truth, agree with the truth, but then never make space for the truth in your life.
Finally, the fourth soil Jesus describes is the good soil. This is the man or the woman who hears the truth and obeys it. This is the true believer who produces fruit.
What kind of soil are you? Are you hard soil? Do you dismiss God’s Word without consideration? Are you rocky soil? Do you profess faith in Jesus only to turn away when things get rough? Are you crowed soil? Are you just too busy for Jesus? Too worried? Too materialistic? Or are you good soil? Are you producing fruit?
It’s not too late to change. It’s not too late to repent. But one day it will be. If you keep on rejecting Jesus, one day your heart will become calloused. One day you will be hearing but never understanding. You will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
Don’t let that day come for you. Listen and believe. Today is the day of salvation. Today is the day to put your trust in Christ. He died on the cross and paid the penalty for all your sins. He rose from the grave and lives today to be your Lord and your Savior. Trust Him and he will save you from your sin. Seek Him and He will not hide His truth from you.