Matthew 13:1-23 is an amazing passage because it contradicts the popular assumption that the Living God is desperate for human response. God is thought of as leaning over the guard rails of Heaven, searching for any scrap of attention people may throw His way.  He is seen as being so grateful that people notice Him and give Him an occasional nod of acknowledgement.  Please read Matthew 13:1-23, the Parable of the Sower.  

The parable divides into three sections:    

SectionVersesHow May VersesColumn Inches
The parable itself3-973.5
The question10-1787
The interpretation18-2365

This means that the parable itself is only 1/3 of the text.  The interrupting question –  “Why speak in parables?” — is the longest section – eight verses; longer verses result in more column inches.   

The Placement Shows Its Importance     

  • This parable among other parables:     Matthew 13 is the largest collection of parables in the Bible.  Nowhere else is there such a rich group of parables assembled together. The parable of the sower is the first parable in this longest collection, showing its importance.  It is given first, indicating its significance.  The Lord emphasized this parable by saying, “Don’t you [the disciples] understand this parable? How can you understand any parable”  (Mark 4:13)?
  • In the middle of this parable:   the disciples ask a question that holds center stage – “Why do You speak in parables?” This question interrupts what our Lord was saying, placed as it is between the parable and the explanation of the parable.  

So the interrupting question comes in the middle of the first parable in the largest collection of parables in the Bible, given us some understanding of all parables. 

“Why do You Speak in Parables?”   The amazing answer is so that most will not understand.   Very clearly we are told that understanding wuz given to some and not to others (vs. 11,  16 & 17). To give spiritual knowledge to some and hide it from others, Jesus spoke in parables.  

This is shocking to haughty humanity. The popular attitude is that God is a bell-boy standing by to serve any way He can.  Whoa!  At the least, that could be foolish, uninformed, self-centered childishness or, at its worst, it is blasphemy! 

But the Lord’s statements are clear.  Some are given insight and understanding and a degree of self-awareness; others are not (vs. 11, 16 & 17).  There is such a huge variety of mental capacities in mankind. Some grasp mathematical, physical, engineering and cooking things immediately; others who are brilliant in secular things (Steve Jobs;  Tom Cruise) see nothing of value in the Bible.  Why? Because they have not been given see that see or ears that hear. 

Eyes that Do Not See; Ears that Do Not Hear      And then in an intriguing statement, the God-Man said, “Whoever has will be given more . . .  whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him” (vs. 12).  I interpret this to mean that those who see some truth will be given more as they pursue what spiritual knowledge they have.  While others, as in the parable (vs 19-22), will have whatever knowledge they have snatched away by the devil, choked out by the cares of this life or extinguished by material pursuits.  

Providing a fuller explanation than the disciples may have expected, Jesus Christ then quotes two Old Testament passages to support and explain His use of parables:   Deuteronomy 29:4  (Jeremiah 5:21 and Ezekiel 12:2 are similar) and Isaiah 6:9 & 10.   The Deuteronomy passage reads  “. . .  to this day, the Lord has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear.”  Eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear is seen throughout the Old Testament as a description of spiritual dullness.  Unaware. People do not know what they do not know.  In reality, the blindness of humanity is simply God leaving people in their state of rebellion again Him.  Leaving us in our lost, spiritually dead condition (Ephesians 2:1).  

Application   The issue of the disciples – “Why do You speak in parables?” – captures center stage and explains why so many simply are unresponsive to the Gospel. Christian soldier, continue to live and speak the Gospel do have eyes that see and hears that hear.  Recognize also that even good soil will yield a different sized crop – 100%,  60% and 30%.  Christians different significantly in their fruitfulness.  

This is not to say, “God does not care about people,” but it does balance the “God is so eager for our response: orientation of 21st century people.  

3 thoughts on “Speaking in Parables

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