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Theology > Jesus > Life and Teaching > The Kingdom > Parables of the Kingdom      


Regarding the parables and a question asked by His disciples—“Why do You speak to them in parables?”—Jesus responded: “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given” (Matt. 13:10-11). Thus the purpose of the parables can be stated as follows: they were utilized so some hearers would understand what was being taught but most would not understand and would, therefore, remain in ignorance. Parables were spoken in order to reveal and also to conceal (see: Mystery of the Kingdom). Only those who were chosen to understand would understand.

For instance, Jesus gave the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:3-9, and then later He explains the parable (vs. 18-23). The interpretation is intricately related to the story and the points made from the story are consistent with the story, but it is obvious that the interpretation given by Jesus would not have been deduced by human reflection. It could only come by Revelation.

The interpretation is given to the disciples, to the ones chosen by God to receive the interpretation; and to them Jesus says: “Blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear” (Matt. 13:16). But this interpretation is not made known to those on the “outside” (Mk. 4:11; they have no comprehension of the meaning of the parable. A great multitude heard the initial parable but only the disciples were given the meaning.

The parables of Matthew 13 are related to the Kingdom of heaven; repeatedly the phrase is used which states that “the kingdom of heaven is like” (it is used in vs. 31, 33, 44, 45, 47: also see: 13:24, 51; 18:23; 20:1; 22:1; 25:1; the same is true of the parables in Mk. 4 and Lu. 8). The parables are parables of the Kingdom.

Through His use of parables Jesus is communicating that the Kingdom is coming through Him—He is the One explaining the nature of the Kingdom. It is His choice to use this medium to teach them eternal verities. And the medium allows the crowd to hear Him but only those who are enlightened are able to comprehend the true teaching. The Lord is Sovereign in His teaching (see God is Sovereign).

Christ informs the people that the Kingdom is like seed that is sown in the earth, like a mustard seed, like leaven in dough; it is a hidden treasure and a pearl of great price. The Kingdom was without outward glory and force, but was of great value; it would attract many, with some persons being classified as wheat and some as tares, and the tares would be removed at the time of judgment. Through numerous images the concept of the Kingdom is communicated, but all the concepts are in the form of parables.

Essentially the meaning of the parables is that the Kingdom would begin slowly but would surely increase—the very opposite of what the nation expected and desired (see: Misunderstanding by the Nation of Israel). According to Christ the Kingdom would begin in an insignificant and unseen manner and would expand slowly, becoming exceedingly great, destined to fill the earth.

A seed produces a Kingdom.

Return to: The Kingdom; Next Article: Nature of the Kingdom

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