To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. … 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. Matthew 13:11-13
As opposition against Him increased, Jesus spent more and more private time with His disciples. There was an growing polarization in the response to His ministry and teaching. As a result, Jesus turned to His favorite method of teaching, the parable. A parable is a simple story taken from daily life that illustrates a grander truth. At times, the details within the parable could be understood the allegorize a specific truth, but for the most part, parables should be understood as communicating one central ethical or religious truth. What a parable does is call upon the involvement of the hearer to make an interpretation. As such it is an effective way of both, teaching truth to “those with ears to hear,” while at the same time, veiling truth from those who are hard-hearted. The disciples, who have had the mystery revealed to them that Jesus is the Messiah, had the additional privilege of understanding Jesus’ parables; when they did not, they asked for and received an explanation of the parable. For those who are hardened to truth, everything they hear is obscured, and they become a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy (6:9-10) about a people whose spiritual faculties were dulled so that they could not understand.
In 2 Corinthians chapter 4, the apostle Paul explains that the Gospel message, which is preached openly and understood by those who have been enlightened by Jesus Christ, is at the same time, veiled to those who have been blinded (4:3-6). As such the Gospel is like a parable in that it can only be grasped by those who have ears to hear. In 2 Corinthians 2, Paul explains that Gospel ministers are, at the very same time, a pleasant fragrance to those who are being saved and a stench to those who are perishing (2:14-16), though their message is the same for both audiences.
Next Sunday we will begin to look at Jesus’ parables. We will consider the “husbandry parables,” which deal with agricultural practices of the time. We will begin with the prototype of all parables, “the parable of the sower” (13:1-23), then “the parable of the weeds” (13:24-30, 36-43) and “the parables of the mustard seed and leaven” (13:31-35).