2017-04-23 – Matthew 13:10-17 – The Purpose of the Parables

2017-04-23 – Matthew 13:10-17 – The Purpose of the Parables

The Purpose of the Parables
10 Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 13 The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ 14 With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says:

‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. 15 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.’

16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.

Good morning everyone. I am so happy to see you all here today. What a beautiful day it is. Last night was prom night in our house. Both Adeline and Estelle participated in the activities this year, and I can tell you that adds up to some pretty tired parents. But what a wonderful blessing it is to see our precious little girls becoming beautiful young ladies.

Vacation Bible School
We are looking for volunteers for VBS. Please keep all of this in prayer as there is a lot of preparation needed yet to make this all a success. We have a new VBS sign-up sheet in the back of the church. The week of July 17-21, please consider blocking that week off on your calendars for VBS work in the evenings. We don’t yet have a exact starting time for each day, but we will be meeting to discuss that before long.
As you can see there are a lot of rolls and duties to fill, I hope you all will support it with your time and talents like you have in the years prior.

And please start praying now for a successful event, that lives will be changed for God’s glory.

Today marks the start of our sermon series about the Parables of Jesus.

Parables are a similar to illustrations. Chuck Swindoll said this about illustrations, (so this is an illustration about illustrations) He said, sometimes we come to some knotty problems in Scripture. It’s like buying a little can of Minute Maid orange juice that’s concentrated. No one drinks out of that little can, it is way too powerful to be enjoyed. Instead you mix that with a lot of water to dilute it so that it becomes delectable and tasty to your palate. It’s too concentrated for you to take it all in. Knotty text need a mixture of other Scriptures to make their full flavor come to balance.

So Parables, like illustrations, complement other text, so that the reader or hearer of the text might more easily apply what is intended to be conveyed.

As you can see in this graphic there are 30 some Parables, some of which are small and some are larger, some are related to others so there are opportunities to combine. But Jesus used Parables to teach the Disciples and others that were within earshot before He was crucified. This last year we went through the whole book of John, but John’s gospel didn’t have any of these teaching Parables, so we will look into the other Gospel accounts of Mathew, Mark and Luke to derive the lessons Jesus had for them and has for us today.

Please turn in your Bible to Matthew 13:10-17, or Page 14 in the Pew Bible.  Which is the Inspired, Infallible, and Living Word of God     [PRAYER]

To give you a little background to today’s message, you should know that Jesus had just started His preaching and teaching around Jerusalem and Galilee. He had chosen the twelve Apostles, and He was already starting to experience some internal strife and negativism from the Jewish church. Jesus had just given one of His first parables to the crowd about that of the Sower. The disciples and the others that heard Him were wondering why He was speaking in parables in His teaching instead of normal plain talk as was expected.

The Purpose of the Parables
10 Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.

Generally Jesus’ parables are seemingly simple and memorable stories, often with imagery, and all of them convey messages. Many of Jesus’ parables refer to simple everyday things, such as a woman baking bread, a man knocking on his neighbor’s door at night, or the aftermath of a roadside mugging; yet they deal with major religious themes, such as the growth of the Kingdom of God, the importance of prayer, and the meaning of love.

The parables remind me of stories told around the campfire, or stories handed down generation to generation. Generally easy to comprehend although maybe with deep understanding and implication.

You should know that Jesus was speaking these Parables to several different groups and gatherings with various backgrounds and education. The Jewish leaders that were there and along with some of the Roman’s too probably had been educated. However, the Samaritans and the poor and lowly were also there with very little education or worldly understanding.

There were also many international visitors present that were coming to Jerusalem for Passover and to visit the Jewish Synagogue, so their understanding of Aramaic and Hebrew were probably limited.

Jesus spoke Aramaic, but also knew Hebrew as He would quote from the Hebrew scrolls and the Torah. The New Testament we enjoy here is in English, but you should know that it was initially written in Greek as it was the language of the Roman empire, and Greek was taught during the years of the New Testament was being written from 50 to 100 AD. So the New Testament authors wrote the original text in Greek. We think in America it is difficult to deal with two languages, while they were and still are dealing with multiple languages.

So Jesus probably understood both Hebrew and Greek, but He generally spoke in Aramaic to a very international crowd. These Parables of Jesus were designed to be understood at different levels based upon the listeners situation and status.

It has been estimated that at least one-third of Jesus’ recorded teaching is found in the parables. The word “PARABLE” is actually a transliteration of the Greek word “parabole” (para-bow-LAY), that means “to place beside, to cast alongside”, or “a story that places one thing beside another for the purpose of teaching”, “It puts the known next to the unknown so that we may learn”. In verse 12 it says:

12 For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 

This is an interesting statement by Jesus here. He restates this same sentiment later in Matthew 25:29 “For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. But the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”

Effectively, Jesus was saying that for those that have accepted His teaching, and have chosen to believe and open their hearts to Christ as God Incarnate, they will understand these parables. However, those that have not received Jesus as their savior and Lord, what they hear they will not understand, it is gibberish to them.

13 The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ 

14 With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says:

‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. 15 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.’

Here Jesus’s explanation might seem a little harsh and out of character.
Was He deliberately trying to hide the truth by speaking in parables?
Were the mysteries of the kingdom of God to be known only by the disciples?

Jesus quoted from Old Testament, Isaiah 6:9-10. The prophet Isaiah had found that people were so lost in sin that they resented hearing God’s Word and deliberately turned away. Jesus experienced the same disappointment and frustration. Thus, the most common interpretation of Jesus’ saying is that the people’s hardness of heart (pride, arrogance and prejudice) prevented them from understanding and accepting Jesus’ teachings. A commentator named Barclay explains it this way:  When Isaiah spoke, He spoke half in irony and half in despair and altogether in love. He was thinking, “God sent me to bring His truth to this people; and for all the good I am doing I might as well have been sent to shut their minds to it. In other words, he might as well have been speaking to a brick wall”. Ever been there?

Have you ever attempted to teach a class or try to instruct a group of folks, only to be greeted with blank stares? This past week I was trying to explain Jeremiah 1:5 to the children on Wednesday night. In that verse, it says effectively that God knew us before we were in our mother’s womb. Well after I had to explain to the boys (with the help of the girls) what a womb was (“their mommas belly”), I saw in their eyes a total lack of comprehension. Well the same thing was happening to Isaiah and Jesus in our verses here. Many did not understand.

So as Jesus spoke in parables; He saw many of their eyes were dull or blank in comprehension or showing that they were seeking more clarity. He saw so many people blinded by prejudice, deafened by wishful thinking, or maybe even too lazy to think at all. So He turned to His disciples and effectively said to them: “Do you remember what Isaiah once said?  He said that when he (Isaiah) came to deliver God’s message to God’s people in Israel in his day, they were uncappable of understanding. You would have thought that God had shut their minds instead of opening their minds; well I feel like that to-day.” When Jesus said this, He did not say it in anger or irritation, or bitterness, or exasperation. He said it with frustrated love. The poignant sorrow of a God-man who had a tremendous gift of knowledge and instruction to give, however the people were too blind to receive.

Little Prayer: God save us from our not hearing or not understanding Your truth.

By nature, a parable invites the reader or listener to supply the interpretation, and some of Jesus’ parables have been interpreted in many different ways.
Jesus Himself, supplied the interpretation for some of His parables. But in other cases, it is left to us to determine the meaning and lesson.

I must admit that some of the parables are difficult to interpret, however the meaning is clear for most of them. Even Jesus’ enemies often understood His parables even though they may not have accepted the lesson. Jesus’s original audience in first century Palestine probably knew exactly what He was saying in most cases. Those of us who are far removed from that time and place might need some help from historians and Bible scholars to understand the original cultural context and issues involved. I will do my best to convey that understanding to you in the weeks ahead.

You should know that Jesus’ purpose in these Parables was to Conceal in some circumstances, and to Reveal in other circumstances. Jesus began speaking in parables because of the hardness of many people’s hearts, therefore Parables were used in that case to Conceal. Whereas through some of the Parables, we can even learn about “the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven”.

 In verse 16 it says: 16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.

This Jesus told His followers that day, and He tells that to His followers here today as well. You are blessed to understand what Jesus has to say and what Jesus has to teach us through these parables. I pray you listen and I pray you seek understanding as it can make a huge difference on your life going forward.

jumping forward just a bit in verse 34 it says,

34 Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing. 35 This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet:

“I will open my mouth to speak in parables;
    I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation of the world.”

By speaking to the crowd, Jesus elected to use parables so that those who were gifted to know what they meant, they also might remember them. It wasn’t like they had many bibles laying around like we do today.

Do you know the average American home today has 4.4 Bibles. Now I am not suggesting that they actually read them, but they are available if they ever desire to read and reflect upon God’s Word. We can even pull it up on our phones, and computers or tablets. The Point is, Bibles are readily available. During Jesus’ times, very few people had access to the precious scrolls. Very few were given the privilege to actually read from them. But many people memorized the Old Testament, especially in song and hymns that came from Psalms or Proverbs. By reciting the psalms and stories in rhyme and pose, people had a better opportunity to remember them, dwell on them and apply them. The same goes for Parables, as they are commentary stories and people remember stories.

This reminds me of an old story my father-in-law told my daughters when they were wee little girls. He said, “One cold dark stormy night the captain and his men sitting around the campfire and one of them said ‘come-on Jim, tell us a story’ so Jim began.. One cold dark stormy night the captain and his men sitting around the campfire and one of them said ‘come-on Jim, tell us a story’ so Jim began.. One cold dark stormy night the captain and his men sitting around the campfire and one of them said “come-on Jim, tell us a story” so Jim began.. At about the third time through, little Estelle at two years old said, “So Jim began, Jim began, Jim began”, lol.  Repetition of these hymns, poems, and stories (parables) is how we might more easily remember them.

Jesus was a masterful communicator, and he knew thare is a science or practice about our ability to remembering things. He wanted people to remember what He taught them. Many people have memorized scripture through reading it, but there is a greater utility that can be gained by hearing God’s Word as well.
I recently was working with some youth and it became apparent the value of the different ways that we learn. We can read with our eyes, and we read aloud with our voices, then we hear it being said.. and by doing so, especially in repetition then it has a good chance of getting stored in a way you can recall it. Especially if it is repeated or said in a poem or song. Something to think about.

Jesus taught in parables, and many of His parables often have an unexpected twist or surprise ending that catches our attention and drives home the lesson. The parables give us a feeling and insight into heavenly and spiritual concepts that cannot easily be expressed in mere words. They also give us a much richer understanding of the kingdom of God and its values, which are often the opposite of worldly values. These parables are a gift from our Savior Jesus Christ and they deserve our time and attention.  And that is why we are going through this sermon series of the Parables of Jesus.

So what can we learn here.. what can we apply to our own lives today.

  • We should know that as mature Christians, we tend to use a language that a lot of other people will not understand. Jesus experienced that, Isaiah experienced that and we also will experienced that. We frequently use words like Sanctification, Salvation, Communion, Baptized [Movie]

We should be sensitive to the receiver of the messages we intend to give. Our Christian language could be complemented by illustrations or parables or our experiences to make clearer the message to the listener.

  • Just like Jesus quoted from Isaiah in the old testament to help the people understand; we should consider referring to and maybe even quoting scripture more in our own conversations, as we are dealing with and deliberating on real life issues of which HE is the authority.
    Get into God’s Word. I promise you will be blessed in doing so.

So I hope you got something out of this introduction to our sermon series on Parables. Like the orange juice concentrate in those little cans, I hope I watered it down enough so that you too will enjoy the fruit of Jesus’s Words in the weeks ahead.

Will you please rise..