When I first came to know the Lord and was reading the gospels, one thing bugged me—for years. Maybe it bugs you too. The parables. If Jesus wanted folks to know Him, why did He speak in parables? If you were trying to communicate something important, wouldn’t you want to use the plainest, simplest explanation? Why enshroud your message in mysterious parables?
His disciples wondered the same thing, and after Jesus spoke in parables to the multitudes from a ship, they asked Him privately, “Why speakest thou unto them in parables?”
Even after reading Christ’s response, I didn’t get it as a new Christian, and for many years. He said, “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them, it is not given.” (Matt. 13:11) Could you explain that to someone? Why did He make His message a mystery to some and not to others?
For the answer to that, you don’t need to go to the original Greek and Hebrew. You don’t even need a pastor to explain it. The Bible explains it. I found the answer by looking up cross references from the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (TSK). But first, tuck this truth away: God chose to hide and reveal secrets in what has been called progressive revelation. That is, God has a master plan that He didn’t choose to reveal to all of humanity in one period of time. Much of what the prophets wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they didn’t understand. It was for future generations to grasp. We’re talking about the birth, life, death and second coming of Christ. That plan unfolded over time through the pages of Scriptures. So we understand it now. The revelation of that plan of God was progressive.
The reason for parables ties into this, and you can see it by following the cross references found easily in the TSK. So let’s go on that journey quickly here, starting with something repeated many times in the Bible that starts in Isaiah:
“And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.” (Isa 6:9-10).
For context, Isaiah is a book of prophecy in the Old Testament written to the Jews, You must always ask yourself when studying a passage, “who was it written to?” God wanted the Jews blind to the clear truth of the kingdom of God. Note, hiding this mystery from them was so important that Jesus spoke in parables so the average listener wouldn’t get it. He wanted that blindness to continue. Might seem odd, but God’s ways aren’t ours, and He has a grand plan we will see as we progress through Scriptures.
God, through Isaiah, reiterated the fact that He wanted to hide the kingdom truth from the Jews by actively shutting their eyes to it in Isa. 44:18 “They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.”
Don’t stop studying and get mad just yet. Let’s jump ahead from Isaiah to what Jesus said further when He explained to his disciples why He spoke in parables. “And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” (Matt 13:14-15)
He was deliberately perpetuating this blindness the Jews had to the kingdom truth.
You’re a curious person, and you want to know why. Keep following the cross references.
Later, after Jesus had performed many miracles and was wrapping up his time on earth, before his death approached, we read this: “But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.” (John 12:37-41)
National restoration for Israel wasn’t due yet. It was a future thing, so He shut them off through unbelief for the time being until His greater purpose was accomplished. What was that master purpose? He gave the Apostle Paul that information, which he passed along as he was seeking to be released from prison at Rome.
“And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not. And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.” (Acts 28:23-28)
Now we’re getting somewhere. That national blindness was to flip a switch eventually to allow the kingdom to open to the Gentiles. They would hear it, believe it and receive it while the Jews continued to be blind to it and reject it.
Later, to the church in Rome, Paul explained further the mystery of the kingdom of God and the Gentiles’ ability to be part of that, “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” (Rom. 11:25) We’re in that time period right now, waiting for the fullness of the Gentiles to be complete. That is the church age we’re in. God is dealing with us Gentiles now. The Jews are on hold during this dispensation with a vail to the truth over their eyes that remains to this day.
Paul later revealed more of this. “But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.” (2 Cor. 3:14-16)
Later, God will deal with the Jews in a different way, and that’s a topic of discussion for another time. But here we see why blindness was perpetuated. It was so the message could go beyond the Jews to the Gentiles—to give us a chance.
I’ll conclude here: “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1 Cor. 2:7-8) I’ll leave you to your thoughts on this.