I can’t tell you how excited I am, both about this particular message AND the enormous encouragement that I know it will bring you as you listen!!!
In this week’s PODCAST, we break the seal on the parables. As you will hear, Jesus had quite compelling reasons for completely changing His teaching style — from preaching to the masses to huddling with the disciples; from sermons to stories; from proclamation to parables.
This particular discussion will set up our autumn, sort of a series within a series, as we will take the next several weeks to consider together each of Jesus’ parables in Matthew 13. Specifically, what they meant to the disciples to whom Jesus spoke them, and what they mean to us today.
Jesus used parables to reveal new truth never before mentioned in the Old Testament. This is brand new stuff. Stuff that relates specifically to the day in which you and I are living. Stuff that explains some of the many challenges we are facing as committed Christ-followers today.
This is a personal as it gets.
So thank you for coming along for this wild ride, and making the journey with us.
Let’s begin by looking at Matthew 13:1-3
“That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around Him that He got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then He told them many things in parables”
Now, before we get too deep into this week’s study, here’s a fun fact: This is the first of 77 times that the word “parable” is mentioned in the New Testament, with only one of them used outside of the four Gospels (number 77 is used in the Book of Hebrews). Therefore parables are fairly significant when we look at the life and teachings of Jesus.
So what is a parable? By definition, it’s basically a made up story. Jesus uses them to take something that is abundantly familiar to His audience (farming, shepherding, rebellious children, losing coins, etc.) and laying it side-by-side with a spiritual reality of which they may not be aware, similar to a metaphor.
One thing too many people do in regards to Jesus’ parables is to treat them as though they were historical events rather than made up stories (i.e., the dead rich man in hell begging Abraham to allow Lazarus the beggar to warn his family of their ways).
Also, remember that every parable basically has one spiritual principle that Jesus was trying to explain to His audience. Luckily, most of the time, Jesus explains what that message is for us. When He doesn’t, it’s usually so obvious that it’s not easily mistaken.
All this to say, we could drive ourselves crazy trying to derive meaning from minuscule details that are irrelevant to the main spiritual principle that He was trying to teach.
So, why did Jesus change His teaching style from addressing the crowds with straightforward sermons to addressing his disciples in parables? (even when He tells the parables to the crowds around Him, He often only offers the parables’ explanations to His disciples afterward).
Well, to gain better understanding, we should probably look at a later moment in Jesus’ life – in fact this discussion happened just prior to Jesus going to the cross. In John 19, we read this dialogue between Jesus and Pilot, the Roman Governor:
6 When they saw him, the leading priests and Temple guards began shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
“Take him yourselves and crucify him,” Pilate said. “I find him not guilty.”
7 The Jewish leaders replied, “By our law he ought to die because he called himself the Son of God.”
8 When Pilate heard this, he was more frightened than ever. 9 He took Jesus back into the headquarters again and asked him, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave no answer. 10 “Why don’t you talk to me?” Pilate demanded. “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?”
Now, to understand why Jesus didn’t answer Pilot and what this has to do with parables (much less with our lives today), we need to turn the page back to John 18:
33 Then Pilate went back into his headquarters and called for Jesus to be brought to him. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked him.
34 Jesus replied, “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?”
35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you to me for trial. Why? What have you done?”
36 Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”
So, In chapter 19, when Pilate asked Jesus where He was from and Jesus remained silent, it was probably because He had just told Pilate where He was from when He said, “…my Kingdom is not of this world.”
In mathematical terms, the discussion would look like this:
- Truth Revealed + Truth Rejected = No More Truth Given
Therefore, the converse is true (both mathematically, and as we will see in Jesus’ life and teachings):
- Truth Revealed + Truth Received = More Truth Given
This principle rings true of God’s revelations, dating back all the way to the beginning in the Garden of Eden, and it shows why Jesus shifted His teaching style from wide-reaching sermons to narrowly focused parables. God does not waste His words on those on those for whom hearing His words is not a priority. In other words, God will not force His words down the throats (or into the ears) of anyone.
Therefore, hearing (or reading) the Bible and understanding what God has to say is a privilege; and God only grants to those who are hungry and thirsty for His truths. It’s not a privilege that God bestows on those who treat His Word with indifference or contempt.
Jesus, Himself, emphasized this in the beginning and the end of His Sermon on the Mount:
“God blesses those people who want to obey Him even more than they want to eat or drink. They will be given what they want.” (Matthew 5:6)
Then, at the end of His sermon, Jesus said this:
“Don’t give to dogs what belongs to God. They will only turn and attack you. Don’t throw pearls down in front of pigs. They will trample all over them.” (Matthew 7:6)
Then, immediately after saying these words, Jesus contrasts those who would trample all over God’s Word with those who hungrily seek after Him:
Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened for you.8 Everyone who asks will receive. Everyone who searches will find. And the door will be opened for everyone who knocks. (Matthew 7:7-8)
So, when we seek God and ask for more of Him, then He will reveal Himself and His truths to us.
- Truth Revealed + Truth Received = More Truth Given
So, why is this introduction to the parables, combined with Jesus’ trial before Pilate encouraging to us? Because by the very fact that you are reading or listening to this, you are seeking God’s Word! You are receiving His Truth and can expectantly and eagerly seek for more!
And, when it comes to how we should hungrily seek Him, all the way back in Deuteronomy, God told His people these encouraging words:
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
So, going back to Jesus’ parables and the crowds that had gathered when He began sharing them. So, to His disciples, He used parables to reveal new truths. Prior to this, He preached on the truths that were written in the Old Testament (albeit with a new perspective). But, now that the climate has changed around Him, Jesus is obscuring the truth to those who don’t sincerely want to hear it.
So, stay tuned for the next several weeks as we dive into these parables and reveal the truths that Jesus has blessed us with as we hunger and thirst for Him!
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