Matthew 13:10-17 (NIV) The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”
He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This 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. For 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. For 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.”
Jesus’ parables were not designed to make the truths of God’s kingdom accessible to all through the use of simple imagery, as some teach. Instead, they were designed to make those truths come alive for those who had eyes to see and ears to hear; those in whom the Spirit of God was already at work because they were earnestly seeking God and His kingdom.
There were many in the crowds that Jesus regularly spoke to who did not get the parables. To them they were simple stories that couldn’t possibly have any deep meaning. Among those were the Pharisees and teachers of the law, who were so sure that they had a lock on God’s truth that they felt no need for additional light, especially when that light came through someone the considered a mere itinerant preacher and sorcerer, who amazed the crowds with his “parlor tricks.”
These men really did fulfill Isaiah’s prophecies. They had eyes but they couldn’t see what was going on right in front of them, because they willfully closed their eyes to anything that didn’t fit their own preconceptions about God (and about them!). They had ears, but their ears had grown hard of hearing through listening to their own prayers and their own arguments.
But they weren’t the only ones in the crowds who saw and heard, but who didn’t really see or hear. Many in the crowd were there just to get close to Jesus. While He was teaching, their minds were focused on the miracles that they had seen, or that they hoped to see, and on who they would tell about them. Their whole focus was on themselves. They came away from their time with Jesus with stories of their experience.
But those who had eyes that could really see because they were seeking first God’s kingdom came away with so much more. They came away changed by their encounter with Jesus, the Truth. And those who had ears that could really hear because their hearts were open, came away with the true meaning behind the parables that Jesus told.
Father, give me eyes that always see, because they are connected to a heart that longs for Your kingdom to become real in my life and in the world around me. Give me ears that always hear because they are connected to a heart that wants to grow more and more close to You every day. Amen.