Most of Matthew 13 consists of eight parables Jesus spoke.
Matthew 13:34,35 comments with these words. “All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable.” Then Matthew tell us why. “This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet; ‘I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.’” (Psalm 78:2).
So, we see one reason Jesus spoke in parables was because of his intention to fulfill all that the Old Testament writers wrote of him.
But there is another important reason our Lord explained to his disciples. They came and asked him why he spoke to the crowds in parables, since they are not easily understood. (verse 10)
Jesus’ answer is also related to an Old Testament prophecy. In calling Isaiah to be His prophet to Judah, God gave Isaiah a vision of His glory (Isaiah 6:1ff). A summary of God’s message to Isaiah is found in vs. 9-13.
“Go and say to this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
Keep on seeing but do not perceive
Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts, and turn and be saved.’” (Isaiah 6:9,10)
In other words, like Jeremiah, Isaiah was to have an unfruitful ministry. Yet some of the clearest and sweetest prophecies of Messiah’s coming are found in Isaiah.
Jesus used Isaiah 6:9,10 in answering his disciples’ question about why he spoke in parable. It is fascinating but quite clear.
“To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For 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.” Then Jesus quoted Isaiah 6:9,10.
Jesus continued, “But blessed are your eyes, for they see and your ears, for they hear.”
Then he explained the parable he had spoken to the crowds, but only to his disciples.
Space does not allow a detailed explanation of how Jesus answered, but one thing is very clear. Some are given the ability to understand God’s Word and others who hear are not.
This explains a lot. Why does the Bible not make sense to so many? They have not been given hearts to understand it.
Paul picks up this theme in 1 Corinthians 2:14,15 (1 Cor 1:18-2:16 is well worth reading, especially for believers). Ponder this: “the natural person (unbeliever) does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to Him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person (true believer) judges all things, but he himself is to be judged by no one.” This means we have a solid foundation for understanding scripture and life.
This does not mean believers know or understand everything. Of all people, we know that. But it does mean by God’s grace we have a grasp of who God is, how lost we were by nature, what God has done in the person and work of Christ for us and in us, how we are to live, and what follows death. We also know we don’t deserve any of it.
As Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8,9, “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”