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What’s the Point of Parables? Matt. 13:1-17


What’s the Point of Parables?

Text. Matthew 13:1-17. v10 And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”

Here’s a passage that includes an historical and geographical setting, and a story, a parable used to teach a gospel lesson, and the actual exegesis of the lesson, – and a question by the disciples concerning the teaching methods of Christ. So it’s a rich passage of Scripture indeed! Let’s look at the passage…

1. The Background. Matthew 13:1f,

Isn’t it interesting that there’s no sign of the Scribes and the Pharisees here? When Jesus was teaching, usually these religious people weren’t too far away, always waiting for an opportunity to find fault and make accusations. But then this wasn’t a grand meeting at some temple or synagogue, – this was an open air meeting on a beach. You never see too many religious people at an open air now, do you?

  • It was a long day of teaching. In chapter 12, Jesus has been teaching all day. Now the day must be well spent, and still the people come to hear the words of Christ. There really ought to be a morning service on the Sabbath, and an evening service to close the Lord’s day.
  • Great crowds of ordinary people. The Pharisees had done their best to drive the people away from Christ, yet great crowds were still coming to listen his teaching and be healed and witness great miracles. He will be glorified, despite all the opposition!
  • The pulpit was a boat! This incident takes place by the seaside and because of the crowds, Jesus stepped onto a boat that was moored near the shore, and he used the boat as a pulpit. Great preachers crave great surroundings when they step out on the stage, but the King of Kings preached from a simple boat. Humble in his birth, humble in his life, humble in his death.

This was an extraordinary meeting. It was in that setting where Jesus began to teach – he taught them ‘many things’ – probably much more than is preserved for us here, and he used a parable, a story about a man sowing seed. That made the disciples ask this question. Matthew 13:10-17.

2. The Method. Then He spoke many things to them in parables.

He told earthy stories, with a heavenly meaning.
Illustrations are really important in a sermon – you know those little stories, where the preacher stops making some really serious theological point, some vital doctrinal instruction, some life changing application, and suddenly the mood of the sermon changes? Jesus used stories too. Stories about everyday, commonplace items. Bread, fish, farming, sheep, wine, work. It was all to teach. But there’s something very different between modern sermon illustrations and the parables of Jesus. Modern sermon illustrations are to help everyone to understand. Jesus’ parables were told so that some people would NOT understand! Matt 13:34  We’ll come back to that.

3. The Reason. 11 He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.
Note the way the disciples phrased their question. ‘Why do you preach to THEM in parables.’ Not ‘why do you preach to US in parables. Up until then Jesus’ teaching had been quite plain, but now there’s this huge crowd and he’s talking in spiritual stories! Why not just preach plainly? There are very good reasons that Jesus is doing this.

  • Those who are his disciples can learn from him, and have his teachings explained. After all this is exactly what is happening here. Jesus has taught them a parable, in which he told them about a man who went out to sow seed. Matthew 13:4-8. But what did that all mean? In verse 18, Jesus sets out and explains the exact meaning of the parable for his disciples. They could learn directly from Jesus. – and so can we! When we are reading the word, we do so PRAYERFULLY – ASKING FOR HELP, ASKING THAT THE HOLY SPIRIT would enlighten our minds and apply the word to our lives. But there are many more reasons for this…
  • Because God opens the spiritual understanding of those who are His. “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. No-one will understand God’s Word if the Lord has not opened their heart and mind to receive the word. It’s something I had real trouble with at AB, where there were quite a few teachers in the church. Teachers are taught to word their lessons in a way that small children can understand. That’s good and proper. But then they wanted to dumb down the Bible to a great extent – to make it as simple as possible. I tried to get into their minds that it was pointless, because the word of God is like a foreign language to those who are lost! Romans 1:21 2 Corinthians 4:3
  • Because God rewards those who rightly use His Word by drawing them deeper into it! 13:2  I know it sounds simple, but the people who read the word of God and seek to understand it get more from it! The more then learn, the more they want to learn, and the more they want to learn, the more they learn! Want to understand the Word? read it!
  • Because people react to the word differently. Matthew 13:13  Let’s go back to that parable and its explanation. When the sower sowed the seed, it fell on different types of ground, men’s hearts are different. Some hearers did not understand it, some hear it but it doesn’t take root, some receive it and it is choked by the cares of the world. Some hear the word and receive it and it takes root and bears fruit.
  • Because God has so ordained it to be. Matthew 13:14 There will be some who will hear the word, and reject it, and their condemnation will be all the greater. Isaiah had already prophesied this. Matthew Henry, ‘He preached by parables, because…The same light directs the eyes of some, but dazzles the eyes of others.

So Jesus preaches in the most humble circumstances, uses parables, earthly stories with heavenly, spiritual meanings, so that those who are his, whose hearts had been prepared, would hear, understand and respond, and those who would reject him would have no excuse.

© BobMcEvoy January 2019

From → Bible Study, Matthew

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