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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Day 30: Matthew 13:1-17 & Psalm 30 - Why Did Jesus Tell Parables?

Today's reading: Matthew 13:1-17 & Psalm 30

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Why Did Jesus Tell Parables?

"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." - Matt. 13:11-13

Today, we read one of Jesus' most famous parables, the Parable of the Sower, or the Parable of the Four Soils. Tomorrow, we will look at this parable more closely as Jesus gives His disciples the explanation. But before Jesus explains this parable to His disciples, He first explains to them why He tells everything to the crowds in parables.

Jesus' teaching is perhaps most famous for His use of parables. You have probably heard Bible teachers claim that Jesus told parables to the crowds so that they could better understand Hs teaching. He used illustrations from their everyday life, so they could have relevant illustrations to make the meaning of His message clear.

This sounds nice, but the problem is that it's the opposite of the effect Jesus' parables actually had for people. More importantly, it's the opposite of the reason Jesus Himself gave for His use of parables. Jesus told His disciples that they alone were "given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven." The crowds were not given this knowledge, and so everything was presented to them in parables.

When Jesus teaches the crowds the moral law of God, He makes His meaning very plain and clear. He does not hide God's holy standard in the dark or keep people wondering what God requires. Just re-read chapter 5 of Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus doesn't use parables in His teaching of the law. But He does use them when He teaches about the nature of the kingdom or of salvation.

Why?

Very simply, Jesus' use of parables is a judgment against the Jews for their rejection of Him as Messiah.

The Jewish leaders - the scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the teachers of the law - were experts in the word of God and the ways of God. They should've been well studied and prepared for Jesus' arrival. They should've recognized the signs of His earthly ministry, which were all exactly as foretold in Isaiah and elsewhere. But their pride, their pretense, and their hunger for power and control all kept them from seeing what should have been plain. The mass of people had followed the teachings of these false teachers and were led astray into ignorance and spiritual blindness.

So Jesus chose a few and called them to follow Him, giving them salvation and the secrets of the kingdom. But for the rest, Jesus says, "from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away." The Lord has mercy on whom He has mercy and He hardens whom he hardens (Rom. 9:18). He saves those He chooses to save and gives the rest what they deserve. It's sobering and humbling, but it's clearly true and is exactly what Jesus tells His disciples here.

If you are saved, and you have been given the privilege of knowing the secrets of the kingdom of God, then praise God for His grace to you! For you are blessed far beyond what you deserve and it is grace alone that has been the source of your blessing.

Prayer Based on Psalm 30:


I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up    and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
    and you have healed me.


O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;    you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.
Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
    and give thanks to his holy name.


For his anger is but for a moment,
  a
nd his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.
As for me, I said in my prosperity,
    “I shall never be moved.”
By your favor, O Lord,    you made my mountain stand strong;you hid your face;    I was dismayed.
To you, O Lord, I cry,
    and to the Lord I plead for mercy:“What profit is there in my death,    if I go down to the pit?Will the dust praise you?    Will it tell of your faithfulness?
Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me!    O Lord, be my helper!”
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;    you have loosed my sackcloth    and clothed me with gladness,that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
    O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

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