I suspect that the disciples had been wondering for a while, but on this particular day the question presented itself stronger than ever - “Why do You speak to them in parables?” The crowd had been large, Jesus had got into a boat, and the people had gathered on the shore to hear Him speak. He’d started to talk to them with parables and the most significant story was about a man going out to sow seeds.
Perhaps it was Peter who started the questioning. Maybe he thought Jesus would make it all clearer by spelling out the issues of mankind in a more direct way, rather than wasting time telling stories. Anyway Jesus answered his question by explaining that the people needed to understand the mysteries of the kingdom and for this reason He spoke ‘to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear; nor do they understand’ (Matthew13:13). I can image Peter scratching his head and momentarily looking even more confused as he tried to resolve what seemed like a riddle!
But Jesus was trying to explain to them that parables are the best way for helping people to really understand the mysteries of the Kingdom. Stories are ‘heart’ language. They speak truths in a way that by-passes the rational reasoning, which we so readily rely on to give us understanding. This rational reasoning starts with hearing and seeing in the physical realm, but what’s needed is the hearing and seeing of the human spirit. For this reason parables can teach the deep truths of the Kingdom of God to anyone, of any age, of any educational background, from any culture. All can grasp profound truths through the story.
But it seems to me that there’s one other benefit of teaching through parables, and perhaps this is also something that Jesus was alluding to in His riddle-like response to the question. I’ve noticed that if someone, whose heart is not yet open to spiritual truth, is challenged directly it can have an undesirable effect. It can actually harden their heart against the truth. Just think how Pharaoh’s heart was hardened when Moses continually confronted him with God’s demands. Jesus clearly didn’t want this to happen to anyone who was listening to His teaching. So perhaps this is why He often explained truth with a parable, so that those who were open and did ‘get-it’ in their heart understood the deep meaning, but those who didn’t ‘get-it’ weren’t hardened in their heart, (because they didn’t realise they were being confronted).
Jesus still speaks clearly to us through His parables today if we allow the truths contained in them to sink deep into our human spirit.
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, thank You that we have the written record of Your teaching through parables. Help us to be open-hearted and allow the truths contained in these stories to touch us in a deeper way, in Jesus’ mighty name, Amen.
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