Parables of the Kingdom

His disciples are confused. Why do you speak in parables? Why are you telling stories? Why don’t you just spill the beans — tell the people what they need to hear?

Jesus answers them saying, in essence, “You were chosen from among all people to hear the truth as it is. You are to be the teachers and the ministers to the entire world and I can speak these truths to you. But these others, poor people, they do not have the ability to understand, to see into the depths. You must help them.”

It would be possible to interpret Jesus’ reply as meaning that He speaks clearly to His disciples but to the people in riddles because they are outsiders. This would seem to contradict the purpose of speaking in parables which is to use helpful and familiar images in order to lead towards a better understanding of a deeper message.

In contrast with the closed attitude of many Jews who witnessed Jesus’ life but did not believe in Him, the disciples are praised by our Lord for their docility to grace, their openness to recognizing Him as the Messiah and to accepting His teaching. Jesus was not deliberately confusing his listeners but He was aware that some who heard His parables refused to understand them. It was not that they could not intellectually understand them, but rather, their hearts were closed to what Jesus was saying. They had already made up their minds to not believe.

Besides, parables–as indeed any type of comparison or analogy–are used to reveal or explain something which is not easy to understand, as was the case with the supernatural things Jesus was explaining.  One has to shade one’s eyes to see things if the sun is too bright; otherwise, one is blinded and sees nothing.

Similarly, parables help to shade supernatural brightness to allow the listener to grasp meaning without being blinded by it. God can only reveal the secrets of His kingdom to the humble and trusting person who acknowledges the need for God and for His truth. The parables of Jesus will enlighten us if we approach them with an open mind and heart, ready to let them challenge us. If we approach them with the conviction that we already know the answer, then we, too, may look but not see, listen but not hear or understand.  God’s word can only take root in a receptive heart that is ready to believe and willing to submit.  If we want to hear and to understand God’s word, we must listen with godly fear and reverence.


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