Far too often, life is taken for granted. Whether it be the simple joy of seeing the beauty of creation in the leaves dancing in the trees courtesy of the afternoon breeze, or the embrace of one we love. You and I have been given so many wonderful gifts by our God; both in everyday life and especially in Christ. Christ has given to His Church some of the most remarkable privileges. I pray that as we consider the purpose of Jesus’ parables that the privilege of knowing Christ would be a great treasure to you.
Looking at Matthew 13:10-17 we see that the entirety of our passage stems from an honest question by the disciples. They ask the Lord Jesus, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” (Matt. 13:10 ESV) Earlier in this very chapter, Matthew noted that Christ taught the crowds many things through parables. We must remember that a parable is a story meant to teach one big idea. Often the imagery used in parables comes from everyday life. Much like the rabbis of Christ’s day, these parables had a deeper meaning that was reserved for the students alone.
Jesus’ answer to His disciples is rather revealing. He says, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” (Matt. 13:11 ESV) Following this verse, the remaining passage expounds this statement. Jesus is revealing to His disciples that the parables serve as a sign of judgment to those who have hardened their hearts against God. The truth of God is veiled for them because of their sin.
The Apostle Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” The parable keeps the things of God from those who care nothing for God. God leaves the hardened and unrepentant heart right where they stand. Hence Jesus’ immediate explanation in verse 12, “the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
However, these hard words of Christ must be seen in light of the totality of God’s work of salvation in the history of redemption. In Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve fell, God extended His grace by establishing a covenant between Himself and them. Theologians often refer to this covenant as the covenant of grace. God mercifully made a covenant with Abraham, that one day Abraham’s seed (who we know to be Christ) would bless the world. God saved Israel over and over again, from her internal and external enemies. God had been patient with His people for millennia, but the pattern continued, a pattern of negligence towards the great privileges God extended to them.
Therefore, when we examine the words of Christ we find no injustice in the part of God in giving to rebels a rebel’s reward. The passage of Isaiah that Jesus quotes is ripe in the language of God’s justice and judgment against hard-hearted people. We must know that God is a debtor to no man. God owes us nothing. Even the lungs which people use to curse God, are an evidence of His mercy; He formed their lungs; He sustains their life; He gave them the ability to speak. For many, these privileges are daily forgotten. The thing that ought to surprise us is not the justice of God (that makes sense). The thing which ought to surprise us is the unmerited mercy of God; which we call grace.
Jesus’ disciples did not earn their positions. Quite the contrary! Most of them demonstrated in various ways how Christ could and should have abandoned them and revoked their extraordinary office as apostles. However, these men were the recipients of God’s blessing for no reason found in themselves. God’s unique particular grace sovereignly administered to them has made them alive in Christ. They did not choose God, God choose them. This is called unconditional election and is taught most clearly in Ephesians 1 and Romans 9.
Have you contemplated the great privilege God has given you today? Think, reflect and thank God for what He has given you in Christ. Show your thankfulness this week in words of praise and prayer, but also in how you live this week. Live as one, who has the full rights in the family of God as a precious son to God. But in addition to all these things, start with the obvious: worship the triune God of Scripture with His people in a service of public worship on the Lord’s Day.
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