Jesus has just spent the day teaching the people using stories/parables. His last remark to them was, “He who has ears, let him hear” (verse 9). I wonder what the people thought of that statement. “Of course we have ears; they’re on the sides of our heads, just like Yours!” But Jesus wasn’t talking about physical ears. He was talking about spiritual ears. The Pharisees probably thought they had both kinds of ears, but they were wrong.
The disciples came and asked Jesus about His teaching method. They were curious as to why He had ONLY taught in parables this day. He had used stories on previous occasions, but today He used parables exclusively. Why was that? They knew Jesus had some hidden meaning in His stories. Wouldn’t it have been easier on the people listening if He would have explained it to them afterward? The disciples were probably wondering at a lot of the meanings too, but they didn’t come right out and ask Him, yet.
When asked about His teaching methods, Jesus says that the majority of the people are not meant to understand His message. Jesus said that knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven had not been given to the people, but that it was given to His disciples. He also told them that because they had been given this gift, they would also be given even more understanding.
Having eyes that see and ears that hear was a gift. It was an exclusive gift, for a time, and had been bestowed on a very unlikely cast of characters; or so they appear to us. What was it that set these men apart to receive that gift? Were they actively seeking the Messiah before meeting Jesus? Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was originally one of John the Baptist’s disciples before he left John to follow Jesus. John had pointed Jesus out to him and that was all it took. Philip was also looking for the Messiah when he first met Jesus. He ran right out and told his brother Nathaniel that he had found the One Moses and the prophets talked about. So were the others looking or longing for the Messiah too when they met Jesus? What heart condition did they possess that prompted Jesus to bestow this gift upon them?
In verse 17 Jesus says that many righteous people and prophets longed to hear what the disciples got to hear. They didn’t get the gift Jesus gave to His disciples. Did they not get to hear because of a timing issue or because Jesus wanted to use those who were, in the world’s eyes, least likely of all to become leaders? I think for the prophets it must have been because of when God chose to send Jesus into the world. God had been silent for over 500 years before Jesus’ birth, so the official prophets were probably long dead. Were any of the current righteous people willing to come to where He was ministering?
I wonder if in the earlier days of Jesus’ ministry the gift of understanding wasn’t more readily available. When Jesus first started His ministry He spoke more directly and used parables sparingly. While He taught on the beatitudes and the rest of the lesson on the mountain top, He didn’t use any parables. There was still a need for the listener to get in and dig for the full meaning of His message, but it wasn’t hidden in stories. Was this because He was still gathering disciples at the time? Did He resort to parables after all the ‘open positions’ in Jesus’ ‘roster’ were filled? Did any others join Jesus’ group after hearing only parables? Did some of those listening to the parables actually have ears to hear?
Jesus had to give His disciples the meaning to His stories personally. They didn’t really understand what He was talking about in His stories either. They would miss a lot of things while Jesus was with them, but He always explained when they asked. Jesus made a few frustrated statements along the way like, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith” (Mark 4:40 NKJV), and “Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember…” (Matt. 16:9 NKJV). Jesus was patient but He was also human.
The group of people that should have had ears was the deafest of all. They chose to be deaf. The religious leaders had so many opportunities to hear and see the truth, but they refused to accept it. They had all the writings available to them, including every prophecy Jesus ever fulfilled. They also had the best training and teaching available. I believe Jesus believed they even knew the truth, but they flatly refused to acknowledge it. This, however, was part of God’s plan.
God’s plan actually hinged on the majority of the people NOT understanding Jesus’ words. Satan was in the dark about the plan too. In fact no one but God and Jesus understood the full plan. If everyone would have understood who Jesus really was, He would never have made it to the cross to do His atoning work. Jesus had to be completely rejected by Israel, especially the religious leaders, in order for God’s plan to work. THIS was why so few were given the gift of understanding.
Father God, I want to thank You again for letting me be on this side of Your fulfilled plan and promise. I probably wouldn’t have “had ears.” I also feel sorry for those who were right there with Jesus but were not given the gift of understanding. If they would have walked up to Jesus personally, would He have explained the stories to them too? Did they not receive the gift because they didn’t ask? That to me would have been the saddest reason of all. Not having understanding because of it being part of Your plan, to me, lets the person off the hook to some degree. But not having understanding because of not asking, puts it squarely back on the individual’s shoulders.
Jesus didn’t let the people off the hook for their ignorance or unbelief. He said that if the people in Sodom would have seen the signs the people were privy to in His time, they would have believed and been spared. Jesus’ works alone would have been enough. He didn’t even mention a need for His words to effect that transformation of history. I wondered about Jesus’ comment about the people of Nineveh listening to Jonah’s words. Jonah’s words were very straight forward. The people repented right away, but many of Jesus’ words were hidden. When the people of Nineveh rise up in judgment against Jesus’ contemporaries, will this be taken into account? The massive amount of people who did repent AFTER Jesus’ resurrection, would lend credence to the idea that many didn’t repent because of how the message was presented. Maybe they just needed to know the rest of the story before they got on board. Even then, however, the religious leaders still refused to believe. THEY will certainly have to stand and account for this at the Judgement Seat.
Thank You for letting me see and hear. I pray I am speaking as You want me to too. I NEVER want to bring confusion to what You have given us all. Please help me listen to Your Holy Spirit as I read Your word and speak only what HE puts in me.