"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Matthew 13 -- Why Parables? And Jesus' Puzzling "Answer"

Matthew 13 is mostly a collection of parables that Jesus tells the crowd gathered to hear him.  Why parables? 

First we should answer the question:  what is a parable?

parable n. A simple story illustrating a moral or religious lesson.

Before reading through a few of these stories, I want to focus on verses ten through seventeen.

 10The disciples came to him and asked, "Why do you speak to the people in parables?"

From my own point of view, I recall how fables with morals or lessons have often stood out in my head. If my mom or dad told me a simple tale often the importance of the life lesson would stick in my mind more than if I merely heard a "No, Susanne, don't do that!" command.  Stories just have a way of helping us visualize things, right? And for some of us, this translates to staying-power..as in the life lesson stays with you better.

An answer like that would have worked for me, but Jesus...wow.  Sometimes I find his answers even more puzzling. It's as if instead of answering the question, he raises more! (Which is great if you are one of those people who love questions more than answers.  Right, Sarah?) 

11He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.

I can picture the disciples nodding their heads, "Uh huh...yeah."   And Jesus keeps going:

13This is why I speak to them in parables:
   "Though seeing, they do not see;
      though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
   " 'You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
      you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.

 15For this people's heart has become calloused;
      they hardly hear with their ears,
      and they have closed their eyes.
   Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
      hear with their ears,
      understand with their hearts
   and turn, and I would heal them.'

But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

Did you get all that?  It has something to do with ears that barely hear, eyes that are closed, calloused hearts and a prophecy of Isaiah.

Does this mean some people want to hear the truth so they do whereas others are biased against it, so they miss out?  Does this have anything to do with coming to God with child-like faith as opposed to "wise and learned" ideas of what God should be like based on our expertise and refusing to budge if God, in fact, reveals Himself to be different from our preconceived ideas?

I found verse 17 interesting as well.  What did many prophets and righteous men long to see and hear that the disciples were now seeing and hearing?  Surely Jesus would not have called them "righteous" if they were purposefully closing their eyes and refusing to hear the truth because of calloused hearts.

What do you think?


Wafa' said...

first of all, loved your new look, it's very calm :)

You know what ? I hate parables. Most of times i was treated as if i am a kid. i just wish that you tell me this or that and not deliver it through a story, did you get what i mean here ?

Now let's agree on the parables here. You said that (parable n. A simple story illustrating a moral or religious lesson.), are these simple story tend to be true or false? cuz some use true stories as a moral lesson, but some tend to make up stories to give moral lessons.
If you meant that these parables are not true ones then read the following. if they true go ahead and read the below also, but it's only meant for the false parables.

Remember that time when you were discussing the verses of the Quran and you mentioned the story of the "Cave" and how some believed it's parables, and Myth. I still believed that all the stories in the Quran are true and nothing is a myth. Yes, they were told to the prophet as examples of how others lived and as previous people's stories. But not parables. You know why? cuz if it turn to be only parables and not true then i would lose my faith. As simple as that.

Suroor said...

Love the new theme! Beautiful!

I love parables. Being a teacher I find ways to teach a point through anecdotes and parables. It makes teaching so much more fun and easier to understand as well. Plus, parables are an integral part of the Middle Eastern and Arab culture. Jesus was an amazing teacher and I completely understand and admire his manner of teaching.

Sarah said...

Right! :o)

I think just about anyone could relate to those sentiments from Isaiah. It's always so easy to see bias in others.

sanil said...

Oh, you changed your site. :D I thought the color was different and at first thought my computer had a problem or something, then I looked closer. Very pretty!

I don't think it makes sense that people who wanted to hear the truth heard it and people who are biased and don't really want to don't hear it in the parables. In part of what you quoted, Jesus said many longed to hear what they had but didn't. And also, if those are the two groups, then speaking in parables seems unnecessary. Generally, churches don't speak in parables today, and Christians trying to spread God's message as they understand it likewise don't repeat Jesus' parables but present the literal understanding, and people who aren't interested in hearing that message dismiss it anyway.

It seems to me that Jesus is saying that even in literal language, a lot of people don't understand. They are the ones who have nothing and so what little they have will be taken away. The disciples understood the straight-forward language and followed Jesus, so he spoke the deeper messages in parables that only those who had already believed the simple, literal message would understand, and that would be completely unnoticed by those who had rejected the simple message.

Lat said...

Love your new look! it presents a more comfortable setting.

I like parables....if only people know exactly what it means as uttered by the peron.If not different people will give different views.And they'll all believe that they're right.

Amber said...

I like parables. I think, perhaps, Jesus taught in parables because they work on different levels. People will get different meanings and understandings from them every time they read, and as they themselves grow.

Plus, it's how humans learn, when they're children. Like you said, we tend to retain things taught in story form rather than just a plain, 'NO!'.

'What did many prophets and righteous men long to see and hear that the disciples were now seeing and hearing?'


Susanne said...

Wafa', thank you! I decided the other day to check out that tab that said "new designs" or something like that. I finally took the time to explore. :)

So you are one who likes direct orders rather than stories or examples...hey, that's fine with me! :) It takes all kinds and I know some hate when people beat around the bush. They just want you to talk to them straight. I'm glad you told me that.

I think most parables are fictitious stories, but maybe some are true. That small definition doesn't designate them as strictly made up so some may be true stories told to convey lessons to the hearers. Good question.

I DO remember "The Cave" story from the Quran. The reason I thought it was a parable is because the translation I was reading said that particular sura contained parables so I assumed that was. But maybe the translator was wrong on that.

I'm used to parables because there are so many in the Gospels...I basically grew up on them so I don't mind them. I'll have to share a few of my favorites sometime. My absolute favorite is in Luke 15.

Thanks for your comment!

Susanne said...

Suroor, thank you! Glad to hear how parables (stories/anecdotes) are helpful. Yes, I was wondering if telling stories were a Middle Eastern cultural thing. :) I appreciate your feedback.

Sarah, glad you saw I mentioned you here, my questioning friend! :) Yes, it's amazing how good I can see bias in others as opposed to myself! Blah!

Sanil, ha, ha...sorry to make you doubt your computer color! I guess you were used to my blog being *the exact same* for, ohhhhh, the beginning of time so ... it's understandable why you wondered. :)

So you think the parables were actually a deeper "way" to share the truth. Not straightforward/literal, but making that into application. Yes, I agree that we often don't teach in parables although sermon illustrations at times can be a bit like parables, I think. I know we use the biblical parables to share how we are to live and forgive and repent and so forth. Thanks for your interesting comment!

Susanne said...

Lat, thank you!

Yes, parables could be subject to interpretation...that's so true. I should study the parables and see how many of them Jesus gave interpretation to and how many were left open to interpretation. That would be an interesting Bible study. As I continue reading in Matthew, I'll have to keep track as I write my notes! I appreciate your comment.

Amber, yay...Jesus! Yes, I'm glad you answered that question. That was what I was taught too.

I enjoyed what you had to say about parables and why they were and are good.

Thanks everyone for your replies! I enjoyed them all!