Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “‘“You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
(Matthew 13:10-17 ESV)
Yesterday’s passage closed with Jesus challenging those who wished to understand His parable to explore its meaning. That is precisely what the disciples do in today’s passage. They came to Him and asked “Why do you speak in parables?“. Jesus always gives an answer to those who ask of Him [Matthew 7:7].
First, notice that parables reveal the secrets of the kingdom of heaven. When Jesus spoke He didn’t engage in unnecessary talk. His words were focused on giving useful knowledge. Secrets in this context simply refers to truth that was not previously explained but which always existed, specifically that in the Old Testament.
Secondly, notice that parables revealed meaning to some and hid meaning from others. Those who honestly and earnestly sought truth (such as the disciples) were given the ability to know that meaning. But to those who rejected Jesus (them) it was not given.
This is why Jesus says “to the one who has, more will be given… but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away“. To the one who has a desire to know more (a reference back to Matthew 13:9) God will give more knowledge. But those who don’t have that desire will lose the knowledge they do have. This is not a cruel tactic by God. It is a fundamental principle of life.
For example, suppose two kids are taking piano lessons. One kid enjoys playing the piano and the other does not. The one who enjoys it will desire to know more. As a result, she will know more as she continues to study. But the kid who does not enjoy it will stop taking lessons and whatever knowledge she had acquired to that point will be forgotten.
Christianity can only be understood from the inside because it is the Holy Spirit – God living in us – who reveals that truth [John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:10]. Unbelievers cannot understand nor should they try.
All an unbeliever needs to know is that he/she is a sinner in need of God’s forgiveness. Once they believe that and accept Christ’s death as complete and necessary to pay for their sins, then they become a member of God’s family [John 1:12]. Then God will teach them everything else.
Some critics of Christianity – those with dull hearts and closed eyes – want to understand all of it before committing. If they find anything in it they don’t understand (which, as today’s passage promises, they will) they reject it. Such people will indeed hear and see but will never understand or perceive. Therefore God cannot heal them.
But those whose eyes do see and whose ears do hear are blessed. We get to see and hear things that Old Testament prophets longed to see and hear but did not.
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