Setting Our Hearts To Understand (Matthew 13:10-17)

By Ryan Shaw

In Matthew 13:10-17, Jesus lays out His reasoning for using parables among the people. After He had taught the parable of the Sower, Jesus’ disciples ask Him, “why do You speak to them in parables? (10)” The following verses (11-17) are Jesus’ answer.

These verses are some of the most misunderstood in the Bible. On the surface they appear a bit strange and even startling. They need clarity if we are to grasp His purpose in parables and carry His heart effectively.

Many believers have been taught that Jesus instructed in parables to make concepts simple so they are easily understood through logic. This is exactly the opposite of what Jesus Himself teaches about His use of parables.

Prior to Matthew 13 Jesus used parables sparingly. An important shift was taking place in Matthew 13. Criticism and open hostility had been building and a hardening of hearts was setting over the people.

As a result, Jesus is motivated to teach primarily in parables. The multitudes, possessing growing hardness toward Jesus, could not receive the profound revelation of the Kingdom of God.

The truth of parables is not apparent on the surface. It must be mined for, as we engage the Holy Spirit to teach us, expanding spiritual understanding.

Jesus’ purpose is to enable people, “to know the mysteries (hidden truths) of the Kingdom.” He wants them to walk according to truth that is revealed. To those unwilling to do so, He withholds understanding.

It’s the same with general spiritual understanding in the Bible. It doesn’t come to the casual observer but to the one seeking the Lord, genuinely asking Him to reveal truth and bring clarity.

Jesus is not deliberately hiding truth. Instead He wants to whet our appetite to ask, “Why is He speaking like this? Let me set my heart to grasp the intent He is bringing forth. There is something important about these things and I want to spiritually understand them!”

This is true of the Bible as a whole. Many read the Bible gaining little more than superficial understanding. To those with the right heart attitude, asking God for spiritual understanding, God reveals truth, layer by layer.

Life in the Kingdom requires increased seeing, hearing and understanding (vs. 12). Those who do not see have closed their eyes to the light of Jesus’ preaching. They fall in line with the Isaiah 6:9-10 passage as those choosing darkness instead of light.

God knew the multitudes had already responded negatively to Jesus and as a result, God says they cannot see. The disciples were recipients of the “mysteries (hidden truths) of the Kingdom” because they had made Jesus their King and had submitted their lives to His full fledged Kingdom.

The parables do not operate according to logic, which human reason can grasp and understand. There are many layers to these “hidden truths” that can only be understood as we set our hearts toward the Lord to understand.

Jesus’ true disciples are those He trusts with the secrets of His Kingdom. Being a disciple means we are in the “school of revelation,” continually seeking and asking Him for more understanding of spiritual things then we possessed yesterday.

The point of verse 12 is those who “see and hear” continue to receive more spiritual revelation and understanding. Spiritual abundance follows those who keep seeking the Lord for more. They are not content with their current spiritual understanding and are ever seeking God to grow in revelation of truth. They will receive it.

The others would not pursue deeper meaning simply shrugging these things off as nonsense. Throughout His use of parables Jesus is getting at the level of heart hunger and sincerity.

Those failing to build on their present understanding will actually start to lose ground in their spiritual understanding. Becoming stagnant and failing to grow in spiritual understanding equals losing the measure of understanding we might have previously enjoyed.

This is a law in Christ’s Kingdom – if you’re not moving forward, you are actually moving backward in spiritual understanding. This is true of an individual, a family, a ministry, a church, a business, etc.

Jesus knows the hearts of every human being – those who are sincere and those who are not. All these heard were stories and riddles as spiritual blindness and hardness of heart kept them from turning to Jesus in repentance and faith.

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