Mathew 13:10 “And the disciples came, and said unto him, why speakest thou unto them in parables?”
Do you like questions? I really like questions. Asking questions is part of healthy learning. I’m sure you’ve been in a classroom setting where a teacher reminded you that you should ask your question because it is very likely that others have the exact same question in their minds as well. Sometimes questions are problems or contradictions in our understanding that surface because we are far too uncomfortable to remain silent and continue without an answer or an explanation. I think this question was definitely a question that arose out of an uncomfortable lack of understanding that probably felt like a contradiction.
In context of Matthew 13:10, the parable of the sower is the specific parable that the disciples just listened to Jesus teach to a very large crowd. As we read the account of Jesus’ teaching of that parable to this crowd in Matthew 13, it is evident that Jesus taught but did not thoroughly explain his teaching. This seems strange to us doesn’t it? It certainly seemed strange to Jesus’ closest followers. We might wonder to ourselves, “Doesn’t Jesus want us all to understand His teaching?” or “Why would Jesus purposefully make believing Him harder?” It feels like a contradiction to think that Jesus might speak less than perfectly clear to anyone listening. Yet, that is exactly what Jesus did here.
Was Jesus contradicting himself? No. Was Jesus contradicting the image of Jesus that the disciples had formed in their heads? I think so.
Matthew 13:11-12 “He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.”
Jesus places the crowd into two groups. First, those, “you” or Jesus’ disciples, who have received grace from God. Second, those, “them” or the rest of the multitude, who’s hearts have “waxed gross” or “become dull” and are not receiving the same grace. It is good to recognize that Jesus teaches both divine soverignty and human responsibility at the same time and without contradiction. On one hand, Jesus speaks of God’s grace being extended to one group more than the other, yet on the other hand, Jesus expresses the listener has an important responsibility.
Jesus said, “For whosoever hath (human responsibility: belief), to him shall be given (divine sovereignty: grace), and he shall have more abundance…”, and this is in reference to the disciples who have received God’s grace in a way that the rest of the crowd had not. The disciples received more grace than the rest. Then Jesus continued, “…but whosoever hath not (human responsibility: rejection), from him shall be taken away (therefore, the grace of God had already been given to them but rejected) even that he hath (a removal of grace)”. That was in reference to the rest of the crowd who did not receive the same amount of grace, and the grace they were given at first had been taken away.
To help us understand this passage, we need to consider the larger context of the book of Matthew. If we are a little confused about Jesus’ words in Matthew 13:11-12, because we don’t remember him talking like that before, we would be right for thinking that. Jesus had always used parables in His teaching, but now in Matthew 13 Jesus used parables in a different way than he had before. The question is, what changed?
In Matthew 12, Jesus was accused of being in league with Satan. This was blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. The Pharisee’s had attributed Jesus’ life, teaching, and miracles not to God but to Satan and therefore had rejected Jesus completely.
So, when we read Jesus saying, “whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath”, it seems abundantly clear that Jesus is referring to those who rejected Jesus as being the Messiah he continually claimed to be.
Our own belief of who Jesus really is will determine which of those two groups we find ourselves in. Are we in the group who has abundant grace or the group who had grace taken away?
The larger context also helps us to see in Jesus’ answer the reason why He didn’t speak clearly that day. His ambiguous teaching was due to the irresponsibility of the listeners who already rejected His true identity. However, Jesus spoke clearly enough for those who accepted his true identity to come to Him for a more thorough understanding.
This leads me to believe that if I accept Jesus’ true identity as Saviour, Redeemer, only begotten Son of God, etc., that will cause me to do more than listen to some truth and be done, but I should seek for Him to explain and apply that truth to me as His disciple. Understanding Jesus and living for Jesus has always been by God’s grace through faith in Him.