Description / Transcription
I invite you to turn this morning in your Bibles to Matthew 12 as we continue our study of the parables of the kingdom. Matthew 13, verses 10 through 17. We began last week thinking about the parable of the soils, with what question where is our heart, as we prepare to think about these parables over the summer. So again Matthew 13, verses 10 to 17.
Before we read this together, let’s pray and ask for God to do what we just sang.
We do pray this morning, Lord, speak, for Your servants are listening. We plead with You to soften our hearts, to open our ears, to enlighten our eyes, so that we may hear and see Jesus this morning. Father, if our hearts are more like that hard soil than the soft, fertile soil, we pray that You’d do a great work in us. We plead that our eyes and our ears would not be closed to Christ. So do a mighty work by Your Spirit this morning. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Matthew 13, 10 to 17, as we read, listen to God’s Word.
“Then the disciples came and said to Him, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’ And He answered them, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:
You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’
But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.'”
Dear people of God, I wonder if any of you can relate to an experience that Sheri and I have off and on. It’s not uncommon for Sheri and I to have a debate about something that she has told me or said to me and I say to her, “Nah, you didn’t say that,” or “I didn’t hear that.” It happened just this last week and like I said, it’s not all that uncommon. It happens far too often, I suppose, but I said to her I didn’t know that she had an appointment coming up on Tuesday. She said, “Yes, you did.” She said, “I told you.” And I said, “No, no, you didn’t tell me. I would have remembered something like that. If you’d told me you had an appointment, there’s no way that I would have forgotten that. You didn’t tell me.”
Now she’ll maybe say something like this to me. She says, “Yeah, I told you right at the kitchen table.” And I start shaking my head, say to myself, not to her, “No, she didn’t say that.”
Has that ever happened to you? Um, in your marriage, maybe you’re speaking to your children and they come across the same way, or maybe even talking to your parents and they say, “I didn’t hear you say that.”
The point simply is this: I didn’t hear.
And there might be a whole bunch of reasons for that. The first might be I just didn’t hear, that happens more and more as these ears get a little older and older. I just didn’t hear it, but there might be the reason that I heard it but I was distracted. I really wasn’t listening. My mind was on something else, there was something else going on. Heard the words, just didn’t take in the message. Or I might not have heard her because my heart is sometimes hard. It’s hard to what she has to say. She comes with a suggestion, she offers something to me that I really need to hear and I’m like I really don’t want to hear that, and so I don’t hear.
Last week we began to study the parables of the kingdom and we looked at the parables of the soil and remember what that parable was all about? When the seed of God’s Word doesn’t grow, the problem is not the sower, the problem is not the seed, the problem is with the soils. The problem is with our hearts. We can hear the Word of God and not hear the Word of God. Our hearts might be distracted, they might be bound up with all kinds of cares or worries. Our heart sometimes is just simply plain hard. In each case, the Word does not bear fruit because our hearts are not receptive to God’s Word.
And Jesus said in that parable, “He who has ears, let him hear.” Hear, listen, tune in to what Christ is saying, let it sink in, respond, hear, and may the soil of our hearts be fertile to the Word of God.
And what Jesus illustrated in the parable of the soils, as we move on this morning in Matthew 13, Jesus now teaches in principle, and it was prompted by a question. The disciples came to Him and they said, “Jesus, why do You teach them…” Just think about that word for a minute and we’ll come back to it, but “Why do You teach them in parables?” Why don’t You just say the main point? Why do You go about teaching a story like this? And Jesus answered, and He said based on the soil of our hearts, the parables either help us hear Jesus or they hide him from us. The parables either reveal Christ and His kingdom or they conceal Christ and His kingdom.
Now Jesus opened this teaching speaking to the disciples about the secrets of the kingdom. You see this in Jesus’ answer to their question, “why parables?” and here’s our Jesus answered.
Verse 11. He said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom.”
The word “secrets” there is the Greek word “mysterion,” which simply means mysteries. And here mysteries are not deep, dark secrets that you can’t share with someone. That’s how we often think about secrets, right? It’s something that you know that you’re not supposed to tell anybody else. That’s not how the word is used here. Mysteries, or secrets, here is simply truths about the kingdom of God that at one time were hidden but now are being revealed.
So things that, about the kingdom of God that at one time were hidden, concealed, people didn’t see them, but now with the coming of Christ they’re being revealed, and what some of those mysteries?
Well, we looked at last week that the kingdom grows in our hearts. And whether our heart is soft or hard is critical to receiving God’s Word.
There’s the mystery of how the kingdom grows. There’s the mystery of the size and power of Jesus’ kingdom. There’s the mystery of who belongs to the kingdom.
All these mysteries that we’re going to be learning about here in Matthew 13.
And you remember the kingdom is the present and coming rule and reign of Christ in the world. And parables explain the mysteries of what the kingdom of Jesus is all about.
Now some of those mysteries were already beginning to become clear, because Jesus had already been teaching and Jesus had been performing miracles, signs of His present and coming kingdom, John the Baptist had declared before the coming of Christ and His ministry that the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
And as the word had been going out and miracles being performed, there were many who heard what Jesus was saying and they were seeing what Jesus was doing, but we find here in Matthew’s Gospel that there was an increasing opposition to Christ. So people were hearing it, people were seeing it, and their hearts were glazed over against Jesus and what He had been saying and doing.
So earlier on in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus, for example, says to the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida and Capernaum, cities that founded the gospel triangle as it’s called, where Jesus spent much of His ministry, and Jesus says to those cities who had been blessed so much by Christ’s being there, if the mighty works that were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. Jesus is basically saying Sodom would have repented, but you won’t.
Teachers, leaders, came to Jesus, and they said, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you. We need to see more than what you’ve been doing.” And Jesus says, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given except the sign of the prophet Jonah. You have what you need,” Jesus says, “in the miracles that I’ve been performing and the teaching that I’ve been giving.”
There was even opposition in Jesus’ own family. In the text just before the opening of Matthew 13, at the very end of chapter 12, while Jesus was speaking, his mother and brother stood outside, asking to speak to Him. Jesus comes with this response: He says, “Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is my brother, sister, and mother.” Jesus’ own family was outside, outside the house and outside the kingdom at this point, not yet believing in Christ.
And friends, there’s a growing divide in Matthew’s Gospel, between those who really hear Jesus and those who only hear with their ears but don’t really receive the message of Christ. It’s because of that growing divide this is why Jesus taught in parables. There are two purposes for the parables for two kinds of people. One purpose for those who really hear Christ, and another purpose for those who are hardened to Him.
Purpose number one: In mercy, the parables reveal the mysteries of Jesus’ kingdom.
In mercy, the parables reveal the mysteries of Jesus’ kingdom.
That’s why we love the parables. Parables, simple lessons that tell spiritual truths. And we love them because we can relate to them, right?
Parables. We take our children to them. Listen, kids, hear what Jesus is saying here and the vivid images and pictures that are created, our hearts are drawn to them. We can relate, can’t we? We can relate to scattering seed in our yards or gardens. We can relate to the presence of weeds among our good vegetables.
And Jesus, He lifted the parables right out of the immediate context of His own time. As He and the disciples are walking along and they’re looking at the fields, and Jesus as it were says, “Hey, guys, look over there. Look at the plants. Look at the fields. Touch the seeds. Imagine a hidden treasure.” And Jesus says, “This is what the kingdom of heaven is like.” And we can see it as well as hear it. We grasp hold of those word pictures that teach truth. They illustrate, they reveal, they uncover, they show us what God’s kingdom is like.
Think about a favorite teacher that you’ve had in school in the past. I suspect that whoever comes to your mind probably was the kind of teacher who not only told you things in class, but they showed you things in class. By their teaching, you not only heard what they were saying, but you could begin to see it, see it with your eyes or really hear it with your ears or see it with your heart, and that’s what made their lessons and their teaching so powerful.
And that’s what Jesus does for us using parables.
Now, people of God, that’s true if your heart is soft and your ears are open to Jesus and His teaching. If your heart is soft and your ears are open, you hear the parables and you say, “That’s right, Jesus.”
Why did disciples believe when so many didn’t? And the answer we’re given here is all the mercy of God.
So verse 11, Jesus says to the disciples, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven.” To you it’s been given. It is a gift. Jesus is saying that when we grasp spiritual truth, it is a gift of God. It is not because we are brighter, it is not because we are smarter, we are more discerning, more intelligent, any of those things. When your heart resonates with what Jesus says, it is because the Holy Spirit has opened your heart to grab hold of it to believe.
Jesus is saying to the disciples and to us, it is a work of God, it is a work of the Holy Spirit, when you hear Christ. There is nothing to brag about, there is nothing to boast about in that.
This is why the disciples heard Christ when so many were deaf to the words of Jesus.
Paul reminds us of this in 1 Corinthians 2:14 when he says the natural person does not accept the things of God because they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. Cannot accept the things of God unless the Holy Spirit opens our heart to do so. It has to be given to us to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven.
Maybe you’ve wondered sometime why as a follower of Jesus you might see forgiveness at the cross while so many others see foolishness. Why do you see forgiveness when others see the cross as utter folly?
Well, it’s not you. It’s not me, ultimately, right? It’s mercy. It’s grace. The sovereignty of God in opening our ears and our hearts.
People of God, when your ears have been opened, what a blessing the parables are.
And that’s what we’re praying for, isn’t it? Over this next six, eight weeks of the parables, God, open my heart because I want to see You. I want to grow to see what Your kingdom is like. Jesus Himself says it here: Blessed are your eyes for they see and your ears for they hear, talking directly to the disciples.
The parables, you see, give more insight into the kingdom, more understanding about what Jesus’ reign is like now and what the coming of His kingdom means. This was why Jesus can say for the one who has, more will be given. If your ears are open to Christ, whatever you have now you will get more, Jesus says, over these next weeks of studying His Word, diving into what these parables teach. You will see more of Christ through them.
But there’s a second purpose behind the parables. If the first is in mercy the parables reveal the mysteries of Jesus’ kingdom, Jesus teaches here that the second is that in judgment the parables conceal the mysteries of the kingdom. In judgment they conceal the mysteries.
Look again what Jesus says here, verses 11 to 13, as He makes this contrast between His disciples and the crowds. “He answered them, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away, and this is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, and nor do they understand.'”
We know this truth, that the secrets of the kingdom while in mercy have been given to some, the secrets of the kingdom have not been given to all. Not everyone receives the grace of God to believe. Not everyone receives the gift of the Spirit to open a heart and eyes and ears. And what do the parables do for such people, Jesus asks. Well, they reveal a hardness of heart, don’t they? They show the conditions of our heart in how we respond to Christ.
That’s what we received last week. The seed of the Word of God falls and it shows, whether there’s fruit or not, it shows is our heart hard? Is our heart soft? Is our heart distracted? Is our heart fair weather?
The parables reveal the condition of our hearts. You can’t hide it. Whether fruit is borne or not says where are our hearts are at.
But the parables do something more than that. They not only reveal our hearts, they also conceal the truth. And this is the hard part of what Jesus says here. Jesus is hidden from unbelieving eyes and hard hearts by the parables. They are plain and simple to those who believe, but they are stumpers for those who don’t. If your heart is hard, you come to the parables and you hear the stories and you say, “I just don’t get it. What’s Jesus trying to say? This is a mystery. This is a secret. I don’t get the story about weeds and wheat. Oh, yeah, I know about what weeds and wheat are, but what is the spiritual truth that Christ is trying to convey here?”
When your heart is not open to Christ, you see, the parables don’t show truth, they have a way of hiding truth. They open eyes to those who the mysteries of the kingdom have been given to and they veil the eyes of those to whom it hasn’t, so that as Jesus says what little they have, even that is taken away.
Another way of saying it, I think, is this: That repeated exposure to the Word of God when you do not believe can actually harden you to Christ. When you hear God’s Word and your heart is not soft to Jesus and you hear it and you hear it but you do not respond in faith to Christ, your heart can actually become more hard to Jesus than soft.
Jesus teaches this, the New Testament teaches this, in a number of other places. On the heels of Jesus’ woes to Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, He says in Matthew 11:25, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise, but You have revealed them to little children.”
In judgment, God sometimes hides truth from those who think they are wise, to those who think they are smart, to the self-righteous, to the arrogant, to those who do not need Jesus. But who does He reveal it to? He reveals it to those who are humble and have a childlike faith and say “I need You, Christ.”
John 9:39, Jesus heals a man born blind. The religious leaders cast Him out of the synagogue, and Jesus says for judgment I came into this world that those who do not see may see, but those who do see become blind.
His Word softens and His Word hardens.
This is what that passage from Hebrews is saying that we opened the service with this morning, that the Word of God is a double-edge sword. It is not a single-edged sword. The Word of God doesn’t just cut in one way, the Word of God cuts in two ways. It cuts on this side and it cuts on this side, and sometimes it cuts into the heart and softens a heart and reveals Christ, but sometimes the Word of God cuts this way and hearts become even harder to Christ and eyes become more blind to Christ.
And what Jesus is saying then this morning is that the parables are sovereignly used to open eyes and ears of those who humbly come to Christ. He also uses them to shut the eyes and ears of those who are spiritually proud and have hard hearts.
All of this a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. Jesus quotes it here. He says, indeed, “In their case,” talking about the crowds now, “in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says ‘You will indeed hear but never understand, you will indeed see but never perceive, for this people’s heart has grown dull and with their ears they can barely hear and their eyes they have closed lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn and I would heal them.'”
This is a quote from Isaiah’s commission, Isaiah chapter 6. He has this wonderful, majestic view of God in all of His holiness, holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, and Isaiah says “woe, I am undone.” And the Lord asks this question: “Whom shall I send and who will go for us?” and Isaiah immediately says, “Here I am, send me.” It’s a great response, isn’t it? You’d say, “Lord, I’m willing to go. I will speak.” And then the Lord dropped on him his calling, because God says to him after that, “go and say to this people, ‘Keep on hearing but do not understand, keep on seeing but do not perceive, make the heart of this people dull.'”
How would you like that kind of call to ministry? Or call to service? “Here I am, Lord, send me.” “I’ll send you. I’m going to send you, and when you preach, the people aren’t going to listen to you. And when you preach, their hearts actually are going to become dull and hard.” You want that job?
And Jesus says the prophecy of Isaiah was coming true in his own time and day. Why was Jesus’ teaching rejected and why doesn’t the seed of God’s Word always bear fruit? Because hearts are dull and ears are deaf. And eyes have become blind. That very thing, happening right on the heels of Jesus’ ministry.
People of God, let me close this morning by giving application to three groups of people that are here this morning, no doubt. Three groups of people that may be listening somewhere else.
First, for some of you, Jesus’ Word even this morning is just rolling off your back. You may be hearing everything that is being said but it’s landing on a heart that maybe is hard as this floor. God’s Word is going out but to you it’s dull, it’s boring, it’s archaic, it’s irrelevant. You may be even like someone…
I did a wedding once and I was giving the wedding message to the couple that was standing in front of me and the young lady, she scoffed at God’s Word. It’s the only time I’ve ever visibly seen somebody just scoff at the Word of God. That may be you this morning.
And there’s a warning here for you, and the warning is this: Do not keep resisting, but listen to what Jesus is saying. Hear Him this morning. Listen to Him this morning. Open your heart to Christ this morning. There is no hope of eternal life outside the kingdom of God and a saving relationship with Jesus and He wants to teach you about life in His kingdom, not only this morning but for the coming weeks. He is going to be speaking, He is going to be calling, but if you keep resisting, the eyes and ears of your heart may get so calloused that you cannot hear Christ.
And this morning is an opportunity for you to respond to Jesus. You know how a callus is formed: Something rubbing, rubbing, rubbing and you resist and it doesn’t penetrate. And people of God, that may be you this morning and God’s Word is rubbing one more time but receive what Christ is saying so that a crust doesn’t develop on your heart and your eyes and year ears where you can no longer hear Christ.
Jesus is calling you this morning. You might say, “well, you know, it hasn’t been given to me the mysteries of the kingdom. What can I do? It’s God’s fault. He, He just hasn’t opened my heart.”
God would say to you today do not worry about His sovereignty; you worry this morning about your responsibility and your need to respond to Christ.
And remember, this teaching is surrounded by this parable of the soils. Where is your heart? Is it soft? Is it hard? Are you being distracted? Where is it? The seed of God’s Word right now, at this very moment, is being scattered. Where is your heart to receive it? Hear Jesus’ warning. Do not go away from Him or your heart may become so hard you cannot hear.
For some others, Jesus is pricking your heart. Your conscience is tender. You know that you have listened to Christ and His Word. Other times you have read God’s Word and it’s just dribbled off your back. You might even feel like the disciples – you’re understanding but not always understanding. Maybe you even worry that your failure to hear might mean that you are on the outside. And there is an urging here for you, and that is to repent and ask God for a soft heart once again, for open ears, for open eyes, so that you can hear Christ. And you know what? God will hear that prayer if you call out to Him and cry out to Him in that way.
He will soften your heart. He will give you ears to hear and eyes to see.
And let these parables over the next weeks be like a glaring light that wakes you up and reminds you that the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
If you’re of that tender conscience this morning, call out to Christ so that you might hear Him and see Him.
And then, finally, for others, you have been feeding on the Word of God. You’re like one of the new members that I interviewed just a few weeks ago. She said to me, “I enjoy such sweet times with Jesus when I meet Him in His Word.” Maybe that’s you. You open God’s Word and you meet Christ there and He speaks to you. And if that’s true, there’s an encouragement here for you, and that encouragement is to humbly thank God for His grace, which has helped you to see Jesus, which helps you to hear Jesus, which has opened up your heart so that you know Jesus. There is nothing to brag about, nothing to boast about, just humbly thank God and praise Him and know that you’re blessed.
That’s how Jesus ends here, doesn’t He? Blessed are your eyes, for they see; your ears, for they hear; for truly I say to you, many prophets and righteous people long to see what you see and did not see it and to hear what you hear and did not hear it.
What a privilege when God opens your heart to believe and your eyes to see and your ears to hear because then you are able to hear and see things that Abraham and Moses and David and the prophets, they longed to see, to hear, to know when is the Messiah coming, and here we are this morning and you get to know Him because you’ve seen Him. What a privilege, what a blessing.
And go on listening then to what Jesus teaches us over these next weeks.
So I’d ask you this morning how well do you hear? Don’t be like that so common thing that happens with Sheri and I – “Did you say that? No, I didn’t hear you say that.” Don’t say that to Christ.
How well do you hear? You hear Him this morning and in His words, “He who has ears, let him hear.”
Let’s pray. So Father, we do plead with you this morning that you’d give us hearts, give it to us to know the secrets of Your kingdom. Father, if we’ve been hard-hearted towards You, we pray that you’ll give us a heart of repentance and would turn from our sin, we’d turn from our obstinacy, and we would turn to Christ lest we cannot hear You or cannot see You. May today, God, be a day of turning and a day of believing and a day of listening and a day of hearing. We pray that You would grant this to us, O God, and we pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.