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Speaking in Parables

Query for the Month

of March 2003

Next up-date: April 1st 2003 (God willing).

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Query:

Matthew 13:

34 All these things spoke Jesus to the multitude in parables; and without a parable spoke He not to them: 35 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, "I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world."

Why was it so important that Jesus speak in parables?


Answer:

In Christ's parable teaching the same principle is seen as in His mission to the world. Christ took our nature and dwelt among us so we might become acquainted with His divine character and life. John 1:14. Divinity was revealed in humanity; the invisible glory in the visible human form. John 14:9. Men and women could learn of the unknown through the known; heavenly things were revealed through the earthly; God was made manifest in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:7.

So it was in Christ's teaching: the unknown was illustrated by the known; divine truths were revealed by earthly things with which the people were most familiar. All was made simple to understand but not compulsory to accept.

Matthew 13:

  • 10 And the disciples came, and said to Him, "Why speak you to them in parables?" 11 He answered and said to them, "Because it is given to you to know the mysteries [uncomprehended truths] of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given [because they don’t want them]. 12 For whoever has [faith], to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance [of understanding]: but whoever has not [that desire], from him shall be taken away even that he has [because he doesn’t want it anymore]."
  • 13 "Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. 14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which says, ‘By hearing you shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing you shall see, and shall not perceive: 15 for this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed [as their choice]; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them’." (See Isaiah 6:9-10.)
  •  
  • 16 "But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. 17 For verily I say to you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which you see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which you hear, and have not heard them [the understanding of the kingdom is progressive]."
  • Leading from the natural to the spiritual kingdom, Christ's parables are links in the chain of truth that unites man with God, and earth with heaven. In His teaching from nature, Christ was speaking of the things which His own hands had made, and which had qualities and powers that He Himself had given them. John 1:3.

    In their original perfection all created things were an expression of the thought of God. To Adam and Eve in their Eden home their surroundings were full of the knowledge of God, teeming with divine instruction, enough to last for eternity. Wisdom spoke to their eyes and in this way was received into their hearts, for they saw God through His created works. See Job 38:36.

    However, as soon as the holy pair sinned, the brightness from the face of God departed from the face of nature. They felt it and made themselves coverings of fig leaves. Genesis 3:7. Since then the earth has been marred and defiled by sin, yet even in its blighted state much that is beautiful remains. Genesis 3:17. God's object lessons are not entirely obliterated. Rightly understood, nature still speaks of her Creator. But in the days of Christ on earth these lessons had been lost sight of to a great degree. The sinfulness of humanity had cast a pall over the fair face of creation; and instead of revealing God, His works had become a barrier that concealed Him. Men "worshiped and served the creature [creation] more than the Creator." Romans 1:25. Thus the heathen "became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened." Verse 21. Man's teaching had been put in the place of God's. Not only the things of nature, but the understanding of the sacrificial service and the Scriptures themselves - all given to reveal God - were so perverted that they had become the means of concealing Him.

    Christ sought to remove that which obscured the truth. He came to draw aside the veil that sin has cast over the face of nature, bringing to view the spiritual glory that all things were created to reflect. His words placed the teachings of nature as well as the words of the Bible in a new aspect, and made them a new revelation. Matthew 13:51-52. He ignored the sacrificial system in His teaching because He knew it would cease when the temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70AD. Colossians 2:14.

    He gave the lesson,

    Matthew 6:28-30

  • "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; and yet I say to you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."
  • Then followed with the sweet assurance,

  • "Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?"
  • In the sermon on the mount these words were spoken to the multitude, among whom were men and women full of worries and perplexities, and sore with disappointment and sorrow. So Jesus continued:

    Matthew 6:31-33

  • "Therefore take no thought, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or, ‘What shall we drink?’ or, ‘Wherewithal shall we be clothed?’ (for after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your Heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things."
  • Then spreading out His hands to the surrounding multitude, He said,

  • "But seek you first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you."
  • Thus Christ interpreted the message which He Himself had given to the lilies and the grass of the field. He desires us to read it in every plant and every blade of grass. His words are full of assurance, and tend to confirm trust in God, the Provider of all.

    In the earlier part of His ministry, Christ had spoken to the people in words so plain that all His hearers might have grasped truths which would have made them wise to salvation. But in many hearts the truth had taken no root, and it had been quickly caught away. See Matthew 13:3-9.

    Matthew 13:13-15

  • "Therefore speak I to them in parables." He said; "because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. . . . For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed."
  • Although Jesus desired to awaken inquiry many had closed their eyes and ears. But He still sought to arouse the careless, and impress truth upon their hearts, for that would lead to their salvation. Parable teaching was popular, and commanded the respect and attention, not only of the Jews, but of the people of other nations. No more effective method of instruction could He have employed. If His hearers had desired a knowledge of divine things, they might have understood His words, for He was always willing to explain them to the honest inquirer. Mark 4:33-34. Today, the Spirit continues that work. John 14:26.

    Again, Christ had new truths to present which the people were unprepared to accept or even to understand at that time. See Matthew 13:52. For this reason also He taught them in parables. By connecting His teaching with the scenes of life, experience, or nature, He got their attention and impressed their hearts for future understanding. Afterward, as they looked upon the objects that illustrated His lessons, they recalled the words of the divine Teacher. To minds that were open to the Holy Spirit, the significance of the Saviour's teaching unfolded more and more. Mysteries grew clear, and that which had been hard to grasp became evident.

    Jesus sought a way to reach every heart. By using a variety of illustrations, He not only presented truth in its different phases, but appealed to the different hearers. Farmers, shepherds, fishermen, kings and beggars, women in their houses, children in their play, all had their interest aroused by figures drawn from the surroundings of their daily life. None who listened to the Saviour could feel that they were neglected or forgotten. The humblest, the most sinful, heard in His teaching a voice that spoke to them in sympathy and tenderness.

    And He had yet another reason for teaching in parables. Among the multitudes that gathered about Him, there were priests and rabbis, scribes and elders, Herodians and rulers, world-loving, bigoted, ambitious men, who desired above all things to find some accusation against Him. Their spies followed His steps day after day, to catch from His lips something that would cause His condemnation, and forever silence the One who seemed to draw the world after Him. Luke 20:19-20.

    The Saviour understood the character of these men, and He presented truth in such a way that they could find nothing by which to bring His case before the Sanhedrim. In parables He rebuked the hypocrisy and wicked works of those who occupied high positions, and in figurative language clothed truth of so cutting a character that had it been spoken in direct denunciation, they would not have listened to His words, and would speedily have put an end to His ministry. But while He evaded the spies, He made truth so clear to the congregation that error was clearly shown, and the honest in heart were profited by His lessons. John 7:46. Divine wisdom, infinite grace, were made plain by the things of God's creation. Through nature, and the experiences of life, men and women were taught of God.

    Romans 1:20

  • "For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse."
  • In the Saviour's parable teaching is an indication of what constitutes the true "higher education." Christ might have opened to men and women the deepest truths of science. He might have unlocked mysteries which have required many centuries of toil and study to penetrate. He might have made suggestions in scientific lines that would have afforded food for thought and stimulus for invention to the close of time. But He did not do this. He said nothing to gratify curiosity, or to satisfy man's ambition by opening doors to worldly greatness.

    In all His teaching, Christ brought the mind of man in contact with the Infinite Mind. He did not direct the people to study men's theories about God, His word, or His works. He taught them to behold Him for themselves as shown in His works, in His word, and by His providences.

    Christ did not deal in abstract theories, but in that which is essential to the development of character, that which will enlarge our capacity for knowing God, and increase our efficiency to do good. He spoke to us of those truths that relate to the conduct of life, and that take hold upon eternity.

    It was Christ who directed the education of Israel of old. Concerning the commandments and ordinances of the LORD He told them,

    Deuteronomy 6:7-9

    "You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets [guides] between your eyes. And you shall write them upon the posts of your house, and on your gates."

    In His own teaching, Jesus showed how this command is to be fulfilled - how the laws and principles of God's kingdom can be so presented as to reveal their beauty and preciousness. When the LORD was training Israel to be the special representatives of Himself, He gave them homes among the hills and valleys away from the cities. That way, in their home life and their religious service they were brought in constant contact with nature and with the word of God.

    So Christ taught His disciples by the lake, on the mountainside, in the fields and groves, where they could look upon the things of nature by which He illustrated His teachings. And as they learned of Christ, they put their knowledge to use by co-operating with Him in His work.

    So through the creation we are to become acquainted with the Creator.

    look at a sunset - what do you see? A Creator with a sense of beauty;

    look at a giraffe - what do you see? A Creator with a sense of humour;

    look at a spider - what do you see? A Creator with the value of persistence;

    look at a mother - what do you see? A Creator with an emotion of love. Etc. etc.

    The book of nature is a great lesson book, which in connection with the Scriptures we are to use in teaching others of His character, and guiding lost sheep back to the fold of God, if they are willing. Psalm 119:176. As the works of God are studied, the Holy Spirit will flash conviction into the mind. It is not the conviction that logical reasoning produces; but unless the mind has become too dark to know God, the eye too dim to see Him, the ear too dull to hear His voice, a deeper meaning is grasped, and the sublime, spiritual truths of the written word are impressed on the heart.

    In these lessons direct from nature, there is a simplicity and purity that makes them of the highest value. We all need the teaching to be derived from this source. In itself the beauty of the countryside leads the soul away from sin and worldly attractions, and toward purity, peace, and God. There are those whose minds are occupied with men's theories and speculations, falsely called science and philosophy. They need to be brought into close contact with nature. We should teach them that creation and Christianity have one God. Let them be taught to see the harmony of the natural with the spiritual. Let everything which their eyes see or their hands handle be made a lesson in character building. Thus their mental powers will be strengthened, the character developed, the whole life ennobled.

    Christ's purpose in parable teaching was also in direct line with the purpose of the Sabbath. God gave to mankind the memorial of His creative power, that we might discern Him in the works of His hand, for the Sabbath is an opportunity for us to cease our work and behold in His created works the glory of the Creator. On the holy rest day, above all other days, we should study the messages that God has written for us in nature. We should study the Saviour's parables where He spoke them, in the fields and groves, under the open sky, among the grass and flowers. As we come close to the heart of nature, Christ will make His presence real to us, and speak to our hearts of His peace and love.

    And Christ has linked His teaching, not only with the day of rest, but also with the week of toil. He has wisdom for him who drives the plough and sows the seed. In the ploughing and sowing, the tilling and reaping, in the growth of all, He teaches us to see an illustration of His work of grace in the heart. Even today, in every line of useful labour and every association of life, He desires us to find a lesson of divine truth. Then our daily toil will no longer absorb our attention and lead us to forget God; it will continually remind us of our Creator and Redeemer. And the thought of God may run like a thread of gold also through all our home cares and occupations.

    Then for us the glory of His face will again rest upon the face of nature. We shall ever be learning new lessons of heavenly truth, and growing into the image of His purity. Thus shall we "be taught of the LORD"; and in the lot wherein we are called, we shall "abide with God." Isaiah 54:13; 1 Corinthians 7:24.

    Conclusion:

    Matthew 13:

  • 10 And the disciples came, and said to Him, "Why speak you to them in parables?" 11 He answered and said to them, "Because it is given to you to know the mysteries [uncomprehended truths] of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given [because they don’t want them]. 12 For whoever has [faith], to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance [of understanding]: but whoever has not [that desire], from him shall be taken away even that he has [because he doesn’t want it anymore]."
  • In His manner of teaching Jesus was making sure that everyone had absolute free choice to accept or reject. So today, when we read the Bible we have the ability to ignore the truths the Holy Spirit would so like us to know.

     


    Who wants to add (or subtract!) from these thoughts? I won't argue as I have stated, but I will publish your Scriptures so that we may review all the words of God on the subject.
    Next query. To be discussed from April 1st 2003.
    • 1 Peter 2:

      5 You also, as lively [living] stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. 6 Wherefore [for this reason] also it is contained in the scripture, "Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner Stone, elect, precious: and he that believes on Him shall not be confounded." [Isaiah 28:16.]

      7 To you therefore which believe He is precious: but to them which be disobedient, the Stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the Head of the corner, 8 and a Stone of stumbling, and a Rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.

      9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light: 10 which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

      What is this royal priesthood? And when did it begin?

       

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