Home > Articles > Reflections

Why Jesus Spoke in Parables

Matthew 13 is the parables chapter. Not only does it contain seven of his parables, but he explains to his disciples why he taught the people using them. If we think parables are simply little stories with a good moral, then think again.
Read Time: 2 minutes

Matthew 13 is the parables chapter. Not only does it contain seven of his parables, but he explains to his disciples why he taught the people using them.

If we think parables are simply little stories with a good moral, then think again. Jesus used them to hide the truth. When his disciples asked, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” (v10) Jesus replied, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” (v11) and goes on to explain that there are certain people who Jesus chose to hide the truth from using parables.

All that might seem somewhat counter-productive to us because if Jesus’ mission was to teach the truth, then why would he choose to hide it? Why didn’t he openly tell his listeners, “this is the way, walk ye in it” with straightforward instruction? Take the most famous parable in the chapter, for instance, the Parable of the Sower. We know what it means in hindsight, but without Jesus’ explanation, would we understand it? Would we realize that the seed represents the word of God and the types of ground different responses to it? Perhaps we would, but the meaning is hidden away in a story that could if you think about it, mean anything we like if we use our imagination.

There’s a clue a couple of chapters earlier –

“I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children” (Matt. 11:25).

The wise and understanding are those who think they know it all. The little children are those who have humbled themselves to listen and ask questions, as the disciples do in Matthew 13.

There’s an interesting example of what Jesus is talking about in the Old Testament. When Nebuchadnezzar dreamed about the image in Daniel 2, the wise and understanding of his day – the wise men of Babylon – didn’t have a clue about the dream or its interpretation. But Daniel knew that God “reveals deep and hidden things” (v22) and told the king

“No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries” (v27-28).

Bible study can be like forcing a square peg into a round hole, seeking to validate our opinions and find scriptural backing for them. Instead, it should be like an archeological dig where we brush away at the surface to find the hidden gems underneath.God has hidden many things in His word for us to find out. For instance, the “mystery of Christ” (Eph. 3:4) is “that the Gentiles are fellow heirs” (v6) of the promises with the Jews. The Jews, puffed up with their own wisdom and understanding, were blind to this even though it was hidden away in plain sight in the Old Testament.

The lesson for us is not to think we’re so full of wisdom and understanding that we end up reading the Bible only at a surface level and dismiss its message is the same way. It’s easy to read into the Bible what we want it to say, rather than humbly listening as a little child, asking the right questions, and gleaning the truth.

Bible study can be like forcing a square peg into a round hole, seeking to validate our opinions and find scriptural backing for them. Instead, it should be like an archeological dig where we brush away at the surface to find the hidden gems underneath.

God isn’t looking for people puffed up with their knowledge. He’s looking for people who are humble enough to say “I don’t know the answer” and then seek those answers by approaching His word with the right attitude. It’s only when we genuinely seek that we’ll find the truth.

Richard Morgan,
Simi Hills, CA

View all events
Upcoming Events