MATTHEW 13:10-17, 34-35 (Pp Is 6:9-10, Ps 78:2)

A background explanation of the web pages that contain the Hamster stories

a. The veiling of Truth
b. From open teaching to hidden meaning
    i. Eyes
    ii. Ears
c. Unperceptive disciples

Well, you wouldn’t believe some of the comments that I used to get when I first started writing the hamster stories (found here)! It was as if I’d suddenly invented a new medium that was so diametrically opposed to a Scriptural principle that it proved categorically that I must have become a heretic - or mystic - or both!

But the style of the stories are parables - in the beginning, they were written with explanations attached but I began feeling uneasy about including short appendices so, by the time the hamster history series was finished, I decided only to include a word of explanation where it seemed conducive and necessary.

That endeared me even less to my ‘superiors’!

But parables were an integral part of Jesus’ ministry as the following very brief notes will hopefully show. He used them - sometimes on their own with no explanations - to reveal or conceal Truth when the crowds pressed upon Him to hear some teaching from His lips.

True - He never once mentioned hamsters. Perhaps this was the reason for the criticisms levelled at the stories?

Dang! Now I see clearly - I should have confined my stories to seeds and dragnets and things.

Well, maybe one day...

a. The veiling of Truth

Notice that the parables in chapter 13 of Matthew were all that the people got (13:3a). They didn’t serve as illustrations to back up what Jesus was teaching them but were the sum total of what He said to the crowds. The passage above says plainly that the parables concealed Truth. Although they weren’t gibberish, the spiritual principles were not discernible by the multitudes. If you’d been around in Jesus’ day and gone to hear this new ‘rabbi’ speak, you may have come away with a handful of quaint stories but with very little spiritual teaching that you fully understood.

But Jesus did not tell parables to deliberately veil the Truth so that it would be difficult for anyone to be saved. The veiling of the Truth in parables was a result of the reaction of the people to His former unveiled teaching such as that contained in Matthew chapters 5-7. There can be no doubt when that passage is read that he spoke openly about the things concerning the Kingdom of Heaven (Mtw 7::28-29 speaks of ‘the crowds’ being astonished at His teaching, even though He had began His discourse addressing the disciples - 5:1-2).

b. From open teaching to hidden meaning

Why, then, the sudden change from open teaching to that which was veiled? Many of the people who had heard Jesus’ previous words had opposed His message and also His works (12:14, 12:24 - mainly the scribes and Pharisees). They had closed their eyes, deafened their ears and, by a choice of their own freewill, they had caused their hearts to become ‘dull’ or ‘hardened’ (13:15a).

i. Eyes
Those who had closed their eyes to His previous teaching couldn’t perceive the spiritual insight that His words contained.
Morris (unknown source) writes - ‘Gutzwiller draws attention to Augustine’s remarks about a man who looks at beautiful writing in a foreign tongue; he may admire the calligraphy, but the meaning he cannot appreciate. So when a person who rejects Jesus hears parables.’

ii. Ears
Those who had refused to accept and receive His previous teaching, heard the parables and understood what was said but they didn’t perceive the Truth. Although the story registered in their understanding, they could not interpret the passage correctly, having rejected the previous teachings, ultimately rejecting Jesus. He is the only Key that can unlock the Truth contained in His words.
As a brief aside, the interpretations of Matthew 24 amongst christian theologians are legion - in the 7 commentaries I have on the passage, there are eight views! - perhaps an adequate comment in itself that we are not close enough to the Key to unlock the door of our understanding.

Therefore, God responds to their hardness of heart by not giving them the capacity to be able to discern the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven. But it is not God who’s the primary cause of that inability - God wants all men to be saved (Acts 17:30), but those who harden themselves against Him risk the consequence that their freewill will blind and deafen them to the Truth of the Kingdom of Heaven.

There is a similar passage in Romans 1 where Paul writes that those who reject what is plain to them about God, God ‘gives up’ or ‘gives over’ to worse sin (1:24,26,28). God ‘takes the brakes off’ a life and lets them choose the way they want to live with all its consequences.

Over the years, I have heard many an MP and, sadly, many a nominally-saved (if saved at all) Church leader use Scripture to justify the teaching that they want to promote. Being blind and deaf to the things of God, it’s not surprising if they can’t perceive what is Truth and error and be able to distinguish between the two.

The reason for this blindness and deafness amongst listeners throughout time is that they do not want to be followers of Christ (13:15b). So, why listen in the first place? A good question and one that is unanswerable from this passage - indeed, individual people would have their own individual answers. But the inference from the passage is still that Jesus’ listeners had already decided that they didn’t want to be moved by the teaching they were coming to hear. They had put their spirits in straight-jackets so that they would never be able to respond.

But those who had been receptive to His previous teaching were open to the things that Jesus said and were in a position where they would seek after the correct interpretation until they found it. Parables only hid the Truth from people who were opposed to Christ, but revealed it to ones who were thirsty for more of God. (Cp 13:34-35 which is a quote from Ps 78:2. The disobedience of Israel and their rejection of God [Ps 78:8,10-11,17-19 etc.,] is paralleled in Jesus’ use of parables).

Hendriksen (source unknown) summarises both aspects of the use of parables well - ‘Jesus...begins to speak in parables in order a. to further reveal the Truth to those who accepted the mysterious [ie parables] and b. to conceal it from those who rejected the obvious [ie plain teaching].’

If a person rejects what is obvious, they will never be able to accept the mysterious.

A warning is here for us also - should we harden our hearts against what is plain to us about the Kingdom, that which is not as plain will become confusing and consequently rob us of what we thought we had in the first place (13:12). His listeners went away hearing and remembering the parables but it did them no good as they made no sense to them except in a purely superficial way. What they thought they had (the story) was, in fact, nonsensical and it robbed them of receiving the Truth that had been intended that they receive.

If we receive the ‘little’ that is obvious then more that is not so obvious will be added to us.

But if we reject the ‘little’ that is obvious by not living in its truth, then even that which we think we have grasped will not become a reality in our lives and will be wasted. We will end up with nothing because we have hardened our hearts against what is plain and open.

Notice that Jesus’ words about those who have receiving more (13:12) does not relate to the materially rich but to the spiritually rich. Jesus is not saying that His followers will become financially prosperous - though that may, at times, happen - but He is concerned to deal with their relationship with, and their understanding of the ways of, God.

c. Unperceptive disciples

Notice also that the disciples were very slow of learning but that they were still wanting to learn - therefore, Jesus helped them to understand the Truth once they asked Him for understanding and an interpretation (13:36-43).

As we go through this life, there are many things that either happen around us or to us but we often fail to ‘see God’ in it. Though some things may forever remain a mystery to us, a simple question to God about them certainly doesn’t fall on deaf ears. Besides, being His children, we should begin to receive the revelation we need as events occur.

To us it has been given to know the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven (13:11).