Jesus spoke many parables. Some, He explained to His disciples, but He always spoke to the multitudes in parables. So before we get into any of His parables, let’s find out what a parable is, and why Jesus preferred to speak them. Why did He only explain these parables to His disciples?
The Greek word for parable (G3850) is parabolē which means:
1. a placing of one thing by the side of another, juxtaposition, as of ships in battle
2. metaphorically a. a comparing, comparison of one thing with another, likeness, similitude b. an example by which a doctrine or precept is illustrated c. a narrative, fictitious but agreeable to the laws and usages of human life, by which either the duties of men or the things of God, particularly the nature and history of God’s kingdom are figuratively portrayed d. a parable: an earthly story with heavenly meaning
3. a pithy and instructive saying, involving some likeness or comparison and having perceptive or admonitory force a. an aphorism, a maxim
4. a proverb
5. an act by which one exposes himself or his possessions to danger, a venture, a risk
In using parables, Jesus is speaking metaphorically. He is comparing worldly things to heavenly things. He is giving us examples of doctrines and precepts through illustration, through
stories of earthly things. He is giving us instruction by setting a narrative and figuratively portraying God’s kingdom through comparisons and likenesses.
His disciples asked Him, “Why do you speak to us in parables?”
Matthew 13:11 “It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.”
Mark 4:11 “Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God, but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables.”
Luke 8:9 “Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.”
Matthew 13:34-35 All these things spoke Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spoke he not unto them: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.
Jesus spoke only parables to the multitudes for the fulfillment of prophecy. He uttered secret things, mysteries that had been kept hidden from the foundation of the world. So this goes to show just how important these parables must be, along with every Word that He spoke.
He said, “If you love me, you will keep my commands.”
So these hidden mysteries must be important to our everyday lives. There is more to the answer that Jesus gave them as to why He spoke in parables and why it wasn’t given for everyone to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but first, let’s look at the multitude.
Who are the multitude?
The Greek word for multitude (G3793) is ochlos, which means: 1. a crowd a. a casual collection of people 1. a multitude of men who have flocked together in some place 2. a throng b. a multitude 1. the common people, as opposed to the rulers & leading men 2. without contempt: the ignorant multitude, the populace c. a multitude 1. the multitudes, seems to denote troops of people gathered together without order
What does scripture say about them?
Matthew 9:8 The multitudes marveled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.
Matthew 9:33 The multitudes marveled, saying, “It was never so seen in Israel.”
Matthew 9:36 But when He saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.
The multitudes followed Jesus, and He had compassion on them, but He often would slip away, out of their presence, to a quiet place. They marveled at the power, but Jesus knew what was in their hearts. In Matthew 11:7 Jesus began to say unto the multitudes, “What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?” They were interested in the power & miracles, but repented not, nor changed their ways. No application of His Word.
Jesus had compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered, with no shepherd, but they were always seeking to see signs, wonders, miracles and power. He began to upbraid the cities where most of His mighty works were done, because they repented not.
Jesus said, “If the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.”
The crowds were amazed at His power, that such a power had been given to a man. They had never seen anything like it in all Israel, but there must have been a reason that Jesus always seemed to be slipping away from them when they weren’t looking, getting away to a private place. It was not given for them to know the mysteries of God because they weren’t interested in living it and applying it, they were interested only in the power that Jesus was showing through healing and teaching with such authority. This had to be exhausting to the point of needing to get away to a private place to get away from those who were ever hearing but never perceiving.
There are many like this in our world today. People who flock to the churches, gathering together without order, ignorant of the Truth, not willing to repent and be transformed by abiding in Jesus. They are in it for their own glory, for their own gain, and maybe their own little piece of ‘power’ by position or reputation status. The mysteries of the kingdom are not for the unrepentant, but for His true disciples, those who are diligently seeking Him and studying to show themselves approved. Jesus goes on, about speaking in parables (Matthew 13:12-15), to say “Whoever has, to him shall be given, and he shall have more
abundance: but whoever does not have, from him shall be taken away even that which he has. Therefore I speak to them in parables: because seeing, they see not, and hearing, they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which says, By hearing you shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing you 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.”
He spoke in parables to keep secrets hidden from those it was not given to hear. There are children of God, and children of the devil, just like Jesus explains in the parable of the wheat and the tares, as well as the sheep and the goats. He also explained this in His prayer, in John 17,
“I pray not for the world, but for them which you have given me; for they are Yours.”
At the same time, the parable of the ten virgins (Mat. 25) shows us that even those who are awaiting the return of the bridegroom, and call Him Master, can be caught unprepared, having not sought Him diligently, studied to show themselves approved, or store up for themselves the oil of Truth. This, and the fact that the multitudes followed Him & marveled, tells us that just because you are a proclaiming to be a follower of Jesus, it is not a guarantee to make it into the kingdom of heaven. Five of the virgins were foolish, unprepared, and as a result, were left without.
In the parable of the ten servants (Mat. 25), Jesus explains that we reap what we sow, and that he who did nothing with what was given to him, the little he had was taken from him, and given to him who had much. Jesus called him who had done nothing with what he was given a “wicked and slothful servant.” “Every one that has shall
be given, and he shall have in abundance: but from him that has not, that which he has shall be taken away.” The Way is narrow, and few find it, so we all need to make our election sure, with repentant heart, and endure with constancy till the end, working out our salvation with fear and trembling. Keep your lanterns filled with the oil of Truth. The only way to do this is to get into His Word, and allow the Holy Spirit to lead you and guide you into all understanding, then apply, apply, apply. Let’s all strive to be a true, diligent, obedient disciple of (a learner of, a pupil of) Jesus. Let’s show forth praises unto God, and not hide away that light He has given us, and not hide away that which He has entrusted to us for safe-keeping, but use it for the edification and multiplying of the body of Christ, sowing into the spirit, and storing up our treasures in heaven.
“Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which you see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which you hear, and have not heard them.” Matthew 13:16-17