The question is why Jesus would let most people wonder about the meaning of His parables. The first instance of this is in His telling the parable of the seed and the soils. Before He interpreted this parable, He drew His disciples away from the crowd. They said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?" Jesus answered them, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says,
‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it" (Matthew 13:10-17).
From this point on in Jesus’ ministry, when He spoke in parables, He explained them only to His disciples. But those who had continually rejected His message were left in their spiritual blindness to wonder as to His meaning. He made a clear distinction between those who had been given “ears to hear” and those who persisted in unbelief—ever hearing, but never actually perceiving and “always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7). The disciples had been given the gift of spiritual discernment by which things of the spirit were made clear to them. Because they accepted truth from Jesus, they were given more and more truth. The same is true today of believers who have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit who guides us into all truth (John 16:13). He has opened our eyes to the light of truth and our ears to the sweet words of eternal life.
Our Lord Jesus understood that truth is not sweet music to all ears. Simply put, there are those who have neither interest in nor regard for the deep things of God. So why, then, did He speak in parables? To those with a genuine hunger for God, the parable is both an effective and memorable vehicle for the conveyance of divine truths. Our Lord’s parables contain great volumes of truth in very few words—and His parables, rich in imagery, are not easily forgotten. So, then, the parable is a blessing to those with willing ears. But to those with dull hearts and ears that are slow to hear, the parable is also an instrument of both judgment and mercy.
In the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, Jesus is presenting a new principle that is similar to the basis of the forgiveness command for believers found in Ephesians 4:32, "And be ye kind to one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you." Jesus is teaching His disciples pre-cross, and therefore in the pre-church age, but the basis for forgiveness is the same. Because God has forgiven us, we are to forgive each other. Therefore, because we have received much grace, "while we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8), we are commanded to give that same grace to others. In the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, the first servant’s debt was forgiven, and he was not required to repay until his unforgiving nature was discovered. In contrast, our sin debt was paid in full by Christ and is the only basis for God’s forgiveness. We cannot repay our debt to God or earn our salvation. It is a gift of grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Therefore, in the Parable of the Unforgiving / Unmerciful / Unjust Servant, Jesus is teaching His disciples, and us by extension, that forgiveness should be in like proportion to the amount forgiven. The first servant had been forgiven all, and he then should have forgiven all. In like manner, a child of God by faith through Christ has had all sins forgiven. Therefore, when someone offends or sins against us we should be willing to forgive him from a heart of gratitude for the grace to which we ourselves are debtors.
Jesus had just finished explaining to the disciples the meaning of the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, and these two short parables are a continuance of His discussion of the “kingdom of heaven.” He expressed truths about the kingdom in three pairs of parables in Matthew 13: the seed and the sower (vv. 3-23) and the weeds in the field (vv. 24-30); the mustard seed (vv. 31-32) and the leaven (v. 33); and the hidden treasure (v. 44) and the pearl of great price (vv. 45-46).
The similarities of these two short parables make it clear they teach the same lesson—the kingdom of heaven is of inestimable value. Both parables involve a man who sold all he had to possess the kingdom. The treasure and the pearl represent Jesus Christ and the salvation He offers. And while we cannot pay for salvation by selling all our worldly goods, once we have found the prize, we are willing to give up everything to possess it. But what is attained in exchange is so much more valuable that it is comparable to trading an ounce of trash for a ton of diamonds (Philippians 3:7-9).
In both parables, the treasures are hidden, indicating that spiritual truth is missed by many and cannot be found by intelligence or power or worldly wisdom. Matthew 13:11-17 and 1 Corinthians 2:7-8, 14 make it clear that the mysteries of the kingdom are hidden from some who are unable to hear, see, and comprehend these truths. The disobedient reap the natural consequences of their unbelief—spiritual blindness. Those whose eyes are opened by the Spirit do discern spiritual truth, and they, like the men in the parable, understand its great value.
Notice that the merchant stopped seeking pearls when he found the pearl of great price. Eternal life, the incorruptible inheritance, and the love of God through Christ constitute the pearl which, once found, makes further searching unnecessary. Christ fulfills our greatest needs, satisfies our longings, makes us whole and clean before God, calms and quiets our hearts, and gives us hope for the future. The “great price,” of course, is that which was paid by Christ for our redemption. He emptied Himself of His glory, came to earth in the form of a lowly man and shed His precious blood on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins.
Through the Spirit, we are connected to ultimate Truth as found in Christ (John 16:12-15).
Whatever the communication may be, it has to be connected to Christ in some way. Jesus taught that the Spirit of God would continue His work, communicate Jesus’ teachings, and convict people to return and follow Jesus.
Truth is one of the most profound forms of communication. Truth brings clarity, comfort, helps us understand what’s real and what’s not, draws us closer to God, and brings freedom. However God communicates to us, He always communicates Truth. It may not be what we want to hear, but it’s always what we need to hear.
Through the Spirit, we can understand God, the world, and who we are in Christ (1 Corinthians 2:10b-16).
The Apostle Paul makes it clear that Christians have the “mind of Christ” which is enabled by the Holy Spirit. We do not think like, seek the wisdom of, or go after the things and ways of this world. And the only reason this is possible is because we have God’s Spirit. This form of God’s communication could be discernment, wisdom, the aptitude to not participate in worldly things, or God’s communication to us to look and act differently — and all of these inevitably will help remind us of who we are in Christ through the Spirit.
Through the Spirit, scripture was written, is understood, and equips us to continue to follow Christ (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
You can only understand so much of the Bible without the Spirit of God. A person without God’s Spirit can read and get some benefit from scripture, but only a person with the Spirit can accept it, understand it, put it in to practice, and glorify God through reading it. The Spirit in your life is that impactful!
With these in mind, let’s look at how God communicates.
Ways God Communicates- Through Scripture.
We already covered this one above but, it’s worth noting that this one is the most important. For most of the world, it’s the most accessible and direct form of communication from God we can access at any time and anywhere. Scripture is the primary way God has communicated to us and still does. The Spirit inspired the writers to capture the works, words, will, warnings, and wonders of God in history. If you’re a Christian, every time you open scripture and read it with the willingness to live your life by the ways of Christ, God is communicating to you.
Prayer is one of the places that we can absolutely “hear” from God. This doesn’t mean God will speak audibly to us or even say words in some other way, but we are encouraged to spend intentional time in God’s presence through prayer. Jesus often went alone to be with God, and many of the OT heroes heard from and benefitted from getting to be alone with God. In your prayer time, God could bring a scripture to mind, put someone’s name on your heart to pray for, give you profound peace, or direct you in prayer through “wordless groans.” (Romans 8:26) While prayer is certainly a time to “talk to God,” it can and is absolutely a time to hear from Him in some way as well.
Through visions, and audible or internal words and ideas.
Admittedly, this form of communication is rare, especially in the New Testament, and especially in the book of Acts, but it does happen: Jesus appears to Saul, and Ananias in a vision to set Paul on His missionary path (Acts 9). The Spirit speaks to the church in Antioch to set apart Paul and Barnabas. (Acts 13:1-3). And the Spirit directed Philip to minister to an Ethiopian official (Acts 8:26-29), just to name a few.
Today, people may be communicated to in this way in order to confirm something from God, go in a new direction they wouldn’t choose themselves, introduce us to God for the first time, keep us from something we shouldn’t do, or confirm an action we were thinking about taking. A modern-day example of visions are Muslims in the Middle East claiming to see someone resembling Jesus speaking to them in a dream or vision. It’s a dramatic way of communication for sure, but for some places without scripture, a church, or a way to learn about God, God may use this form of communication.
Through other people.
We already highlighted a few of these above, but God confirmed the calling of Paul through Ananias; and Barnabas convinces the church in Jerusalem to accept Paul despite His former past of persecution and death Paul even opposes Peter to his face about his wrongful treatment of the Gentiles.
God can and does use other people to help us if we have lost our way, to confront us of sin, to bring us back to Christ, to help us understand scripture, or simply to be a guide when we are inexperienced or new in our relationship with Christ. The Spirit working in other people can work on us as it works through them.