This study represents the first in a series of studies, which I hope to do on Jesus’ parables. However, I don’t intend to do an in-depth study of any. What I want to show is how Jesus’ parables affect our eschatology. Moreover, this study is not a study on eschatology itself, but it will set the stage for what is to follow. Lord bless you as you consider what the word of God says.
The parables of Jesus are rich with knowledge about the Kingdom of God. At times that knowledge will bring perplexing problems for us to consider, and we must address those problems, if we are to fully understand what Jesus intends for us to know. So, if the parables seem to put God in a bad light, so to speak, we need to consider what they’re saying, until the light breaks through. We know the rabbis taught the people using stories, perhaps they were called parables, too. I don’t know, but we do have recorded in the New Testament at least two “stories” that the rabbis used to establish their own teaching, while debunking the teaching of their opponents. One is recorded in Matthew 22:23-28 (sea also Mark 12:18-23 and Luke 20:27-33).
Jesus’ first parable is recorded in Matthew 13, and it is called the Parable of the Sower. In it the sower cast his seed, as he walked through the field. Some seed fell by the wayside, and the birds ate them. Some fell among the rocks, but the sun burned the new plants, because they had no root. Other seed fell among the weeds, but they weren’t able to compete well with the weeds, so the life of the plant was choked out. Finally, other seed fell on good ground, and fruit was produced 30, 60 and 100 fold. This, in essence, is the parable that Jesus taught the people (Matthew 13:1-9).
Later, the Apostles went to Jesus to ask him, why he began to teach the people in parables (Matthew 13:10). Jesus’ reply is both interesting and perplexing to a degree. It is an answer, which, at first glance, puts God in a bad light, but as I said above, we need to continue to think about Jesus’ words, and let them bring forth the light they are intended to produce.
Jesus told his disciples that it was given to them, that is, it is given that Jesus’ disciples should know and understand the word of God, but it was not given for the people to know and understand (Matthew 13:11). What? Does this mean God opens the minds of the Apostles to know and understand Jesus’ words, but he doesn’t open the minds of the general public? Yes, that is exactly what that says. But—you may say, if the people don’t understand, they really wouldn’t be able to accept Jesus as their Messiah. If that is true, their rejection to Jesus and his subsequent crucifixion could have been prevented, had they understood (cf. Acts 3:14-15, 17).
That conclusion is true. Again you may ask, “Why does he, then, find fault?” After, all if God chooses to have mercy on some, but he hardens the hearts of others, isn’t he producing the result he wants, and if so, how could he blame anyone for bringing about his will (Romans 9:18-19). While the conclusion drawn from the previous paragraph is true, how we come to that conclusion is more complex, than the question in Romans 9:19 infers.
God values our freedom of choice, and he won’t impose himself upon our will, i.e. to force us to do as he desires. Without the freedom to do evil, we cannot choose responsibly to do good. Without the freedom to choose, we could never really love anyone. So, yes, God did not disturb the ignorance of the general public, nor did he force their hard hearts to change. Jesus’ words were for only those who had “ears to hear” (Matthew 13:9). Consider Jesus’ own words:
For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. (Matthew 13:15)
Jesus was drawing from Isaiah 6:8-11. Through his own freedom of choice, man had rebelled from God, and when God drew Israel out of the nations, they rebelled likewise—of their own freewill. None of that was forced, and God didn’t intervene to prevent it. Likewise, in the above citation, the people, themselves, have closed their eyes to the truth. Jesus preached to them, and, if they would open their own eyes by choice, they would have understood, but they didn’t, and Jesus refused to impose himself upon their decision (cf. John 12:34-35). Was God at fault under such circumstances? It was because man chose to rebel from God, that Jesus had to die on the cross (Matthew 20:28). Therefore, the ignorance of the people couldn’t be disturbed, so that the word of God through the prophets could be fulfilled (cf. Acts 3:18).