Matthew 13 is a compilation of wonderful parables. Before we dive into them in the coming weeks, I want to jump ahead to Jesus' explanation for His use of parables.
What is a Parable?
Literally, it means to “throw at” -- basically throwing to seemingly disconnected ideas together.
A parable takes something familiar and compares it to something unfamiliar.
It is the original “mashup!”
Why not simply explain everything literally and be done with it? Here are just a few potential reasons ...
Legal—in a literal sense, they aren’t specific enough to get Jesus in immediate trouble. Remember, the Pharisees are now out to get him.
Economical—Parables are the gobstoppers of education. A story can unfold a thousand times and still make a new connection. Just a little goes a very long way!
Memorable—It takes great attention to memorize even a simple speech. But a simple story lasts for a very long time.
Finally, Jesus’ Reason: To Hide Truth...from those who don’t want to hear it.
Huh? This seems like a poor teaching strategy!
But the truth is, like any good teacher, God does not spoon-feed us. He brings us into the process of discipleship by engaging our imaginations. He calls us to work out our faith so that we might cherish it more.
The truth is, we don't appreciate things that are given to us as much as the things we've earned. Note the law of atrophy (spiritually) at work in verse 12... "Use it or lose it." You will not get anything out of it if you bring nothing to Him. It requires loaves and fish to feed a multitude. It requires a mustard seed to move a mountain.
Parables either command our attention or they are ignored and cast aside.
“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2.12)
Are We Blind and Deaf?
It begs the question -- are we ready to receive what God wants to teach us? Or do we pass Him like a ship in the night? This is really between you and the Lord, but I would like to point out some potential stumbling blocks to hearing and seeing Him.
Constant noise distracts our hearing. What other sounds dominate your hearing? The television? The radio? The static of everyday life? Cut through the clutter and you will hear Him speaking softly and tenderly. He will not shout over the noise you invite in to overshadow him.
Plugged ears make hearing impossible. Has He spoken and you have ignored it because it wasn't what you wanted to hear?
A lens cap obscures the subject. Have you ever taken the perfect picture only to realize later you had the lens cover on? What lens cap is obscuring Christ in your life? Is it fear of "them"? Is it your pride? We all cover the lens from time to time. Be careful! You may miss Him right in front of you.
Personal darkness underexposes our image. It is also hard to see when there is darkness in the soul. This darkness can be regret over past sins, or a willful disobedience in the here and now. Don't let your personal darkeners obscure His light. Invite Him in, and whatever darkness haunts you will be driven away by the marvelous light of His forgiveness and mercy.
Constant motion blurs our vision. Ah, this is our grand problem today! "I would like to listen to you Jesus, but I simply haven't got the time." Isn't that illogical? If we were to think about it, we have only so much time in any given day to accomplish everything set before us. Some items on our agenda are of no consequence. Some of are little consequence. Others carry some weight, and therefore must be given priority. However, there is nothing of more lasting significance on your agenda than your relationship with God. Yet somehow, the dishes, Facebook, the job, even the trash seem to take higher priority than Christ. You cannot love in a hurry. You cannot see him if you are moving all the time. I am not saying you should neglect the items on your agenda, I am simply encouraging you to put the more important items into the jar first. You won't have room for them if you add all of the inconsequential things first.
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46.10)
May we go from here no longer blind and deaf, but with eyes wide open, ears unstopped, so that we may behold His glory and hear His words with perfect clarity.