Jesus had been traveling and teaching for some time. Much of His teaching was straightforward, easy to understand, instruction. However, He came to a point in His ministry when He began to teach truths by means of parables; a short storied meant to illustrate a point, or points. Jesus continued teaching those closest to Him in the same clear way He always had; however, He modified the way He taught those outside His inner circle.
This change in Jesus’ teaching method puzzled His disciples, “And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables? Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.” (Mt. 13:10-11). Jesus indicated that there was a clear distinction to be made between His true followers and everyone else. But, why was there a distinction made? What made His followers different from those others?
Jesus explained to His disciples, “For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him” (Mt. 13:12). Jesus’ close followers were receiving from Jesus. They were accepting His teachings as truth. Jesus was now telling them that the time had come to make a distinction between the way He treated His sincere followers and the way He treated the skeptics and unbelievers. There comes a time when even the most dedicated witness must stop throwing “pearls before swine” (Matthew 7:6). In other words, there may be instances in our lives, as we witness to unbelievers, when we realize that the person to whom we are witnessing, has already made up his or her mind and further witnessing is useless. We continue to pray for those people, but we must focus our efforts elsewhere in order to do the most good for God’s Kingdom.
Jesus was no longer going to treat His opponents the same way He treated His followers, “Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand” (Mt. 13:13). By teaching this way, anyone who was sincerely interested in what Jesus had to say could, by exerting a bit of mental effort, figure out the meaning of Jesus’ words; the dedicated scoffers would merely ignore what He was saying and continue on their deluded way. Jesus knew that there were many to whom He was speaking that did not even want to understand Him, they preferred ignorance; therefore, He was going to alter the means by which He taught, thereby making it obvious who was truly interested and who was not.
This skeptical attitude, which continues today, was predicted many years before Jesus’ time, “In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; You will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; For the heart of this people has become dull, With their ears they scarcely hear, And they have closed their eyes…” (Mt. 13:14-15a). It is not that they don’t understand the truth, it is that they refuse to accept it. Jesus’ audience, as well as so many people today, has rejected the Gospel for so long that they no longer even consider its claims. This is what is meant by “hearing, but will not understand” and “seeing, but will not perceive”. They are actively, willfully rejecting the truth that Jesus is trying to teach. The same thing happens today.
Even though Jesus’ hearers rejected Him and His teaching, His offer of forgiveness for sin was still available to them, “Otherwise they would see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, And understand with their heart and return, And I would heal them.’” (Mt. 13:15b). Then, as now, it is each person’s choice whether to accept or reject God’s offer of salvation. God has done everything to provide us with salvation; but, it is up to us to choose to receive it. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Mt. 11:15, 13:9, 43; Mark 4:9, 23; Luke 7:16, 8:8, 14:35).
Article by Robert Driskell
*All Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible