“Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet, “ ‘I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.'”
Matt. 13: 34-35
I will be honest; I was having a difficult time trying to figure out what to write about this chapter. It contains six parables that Jesus told the people about the kingdom of heaven. It didn’t seem practical to go through all six parables and speak about what Jesus said in each. But it didn’t seem that it would do justice to the chapter to take only one parable and write about it. I was asking God for direction when my eyes fell on verses 10 and 11: “The disciples came to him and asked, ‘Why do you speak to the people in parables?’ He replied, ‘The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.’ “
By this time, Jesus had performed quite a number of miracles and had attracted large crowds. People knew there was something different and special about this man, and they were curious. By chapter 13, it said that such large crowds gathered that he stepped into a boat in order to teach them. Here’s what is interesting; only the disciples asked him to explain the parables. There is no indication the crowds asked about them. I don’t know at what point in respect to Matthew 13 Jesus fed the 5,000, but after that, there is an indicative statement made by Jesus in John 6:26: “Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.’ “
In other words, they weren’t interested in the gospel; they wanted the benefits of following this miracle worker. The reason the crowds didn’t ask Jesus to explain what the parables meant is they simply weren’t interested. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:18:“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.” But people will always come for the free food.
So it appears that the distinction between the people and the disciples is that the disciples wanted to understand what Jesus was saying. So when he spoke in a parable, they asked him what it meant. Jesus said in Matthew 5:6: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.” It was their hunger for righteousness that set the disciples apart from the crowds. The crowds were simply interested insofar as there was a benefit to them.
Today, the religious (I hesitate to call it, “Christian”) landscape is being ravaged by the “prosperity gospel” which makes promises that if you commit your life to Christ, he will fix all of your problems. The entire message focuses on ‘benefits’. And these are benefits that appeal to carnal people who are not actually being saved. After all, who doesn’t want to follow a savior who is going to fix all of your problems? But it’s a false gospel.
Just like in Jesus’ day, it is easy to draw a crowd when the message is “free food” and a solution to all of your problems; financial, relational, health, etc. But that’s not what Jesus came to preach — he preached the message of the cross. Ironically, the message of the cross is the solution to our ultimate problem. But that is foolishness to the unsaved.
So here’s the question for each of us to ask ourselves: Am I seeking only to benefit myself, or am I really seeking Christ? The prophet Jeremiah said in chapter 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
May it be said of us that we are people who truly seek him — not just the free food.